The Representation of War Trauma in Graphic Novels
In recent decades, comic sections in bookstores have moved beyond the usual selection of superhero and children’s narratives. The plethora of fictional and non-fictional graphic novels on the market engages with deeply unsettling issues. This research aims to uncover how sequences of text/image combinations are effective in generating a distinct understanding of the complex and difficult subject of war trauma. Access to this topic is obstructed because war impacts whole communities; it is re-experienced by multiple generations and disrupts the memory and self-narratives of its victims. These three axes of fragmentation can be addressed particularly well by the medium of comics: comics are themselves fragmented into pictures and written language, as well as into separate panels. This article gives exemplary close-readings of graphic novels relating to individual trauma, communal trauma and intergenerational trauma in order to illustrate the connection between form and content. The analysis focusses on works by Carol Tyler, Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Keiji Nakazawa, Igort and Ari Folman. This study demonstrates the insight to be gained if we accept that unconventional narrative forms, such as comics, can give us a relevant perspective on contemporary problems that news, science and history may not be able to show.