Comics and Performance from emaki to DeeCAP

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper begins with an examination of the history of comics relationship to performance. It details early forms such as ‘emaki’ scrolls in eighth century Japan, through Russian ‘rayok’ and British music hall of the nineteenth century, and twentieth century Japanese kamishibai, to contemporary theatrical comics events such as Carousel, Radio With Pictures and DeeCAP. It will then analyse how the act of performance changes the way we experience comics storyworlds.
At a DeeCAP performance many presenters chose to show their strips one panel at a time, in a similar fashion to the ‘guided view’ reading method in digital comics apps such as Comixology. This allows the audience time to soak up the information in each panel, an effect helped by the vastly increased size of the panels on the screen. Crucially though, moving through the story panel by panel prevents the audience from seeing other panels at the same time, causing the design of the page to become irrelevant to the storytelling in a performance.
Another difference between watching such a presentation and reading a comic is this loss of control of the narrative for the reader. Eddie Campbell has noted how he always considered reading books to be an individual and private experience and compares a promotional ‘reading’ to a live concert: ‘if I was a jazz musician, I wouldn’t give you what was on the disc. I would do a completely new performance’.
Comics performances could be classified as performance art, multi-media performance, and transmedia storytelling. It is a truly hybrid form that demonstrates the playfulness that comes from the intermingling of the disparate elements. A comparison between web comics and a performance video will highlight the changes artists make to the way a story is told visually.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2019
EventInternational Graphic Novel and Comics Conference - Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jun 201928 Jun 2019
Conference number: 10th


ConferenceInternational Graphic Novel and Comics Conference
Abbreviated titleIGNCC
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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