UK Digital Comics: Extra of the identical however completely different? [1]

Antibody squad at the scene of explosion
Antibody squad at the scene of explosion


This can be a visitor submit by Linda Berube, an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership pupil primarily based on the British Library and Metropolis, College of London. If you want to know extra about Linda’s analysis, please do e mail her at

Once I final wrote a submit for the Digital Scholarship weblog in 2020 (Berube, 2020), I used to be a reasonably new PhD pupil, recent out of the beginning blocks, taking up the problem of UK digital comics analysis.  My analysis entails an evaluation of the methods and processes of UK digital comics publishing as a method of understanding how digital expertise has affected, perhaps remodeled them. For this work, I’ve the appreciable help of supervisors Ian Cooke and Stella Knowledge (British Library) and Ernesto Priego and Stephann Makri (Human-Pc Interplay Design Centre, Metropolis, College of London).

Little did I, or the remainder world for that matter, know the transformations to every day life introduced on by pandemic that had been to return. There was no much less of an impression felt within the publishing sector, and definitely in comics publishing. Nonetheless, regardless of all of the obstacles to conferences, individuals from conventional massive and small press publishers, media and online game firms publishing comics, in addition to creators and self-publishers gave generously of their time to debate comics with me. I’m presently talking with comics readers and observing their studying practices, once more all through distant conferences. To all these individuals, this PhD pupil owes a debt of gratitude for his or her enthusiastic participation.

British Comics Publishing: It’s the place we’re at

Digital expertise has had a big impression on British comics publishing, however not as pervasively as anticipated from preliminary prognostications by students and the comics press. Again in 2020, I noticed:

  This specific cut-off date provides a superb alternative to contemplate the digital comics, and particularly UK, panorama. We appear to be previous the preliminary enthusiasm for digital applied sciences when infants and bathwater had been ejected with abandon (see McCloud 2000, for instance), and possibly nonetheless in the midst of a retrenchment, so to talk, of that enthusiasm (see Priego 2011 pp278-280, for instance). (Berube, 2020).

However ‘retrenchment’ is likely to be a powerful phrase. Based on my analysis findings so far, and consistent with these of the broader publishing sector (Thompson, 2010; 2021), the comics publishing course of has most positively been ‘revolutionized’ by digital expertise. All comics start life as digital information till they’re printed in print. Even these creators who nonetheless draw by hand should convert their work to digital variations that may be despatched to a writer or uploaded to a web site or publishing platform. And, whereas print comics have on no account been fully supplanted by digital comics (actually a big variety of these interviewed voiced a desire for print), studying on digital devices-laptops, tablets, smartphones-has grow to be in style sufficient for publishers to supply entry via e-book and app expertise. Even these publishers I interviewed who had been most immune to digital felt compelled ‘to dabble in digital comics’ (in accordance with one small press writer) by at the least offering pdf variations on Gumroad or another storefront. The restrictions on print distribution and gross sales via bookstores ensuing from Covid lockdown compelled a few of the publishers not solely to supply extra entry to digital variations, however some went as far to promote digital-exclusive variations, in different phrases comics solely provided digitally.

In every single place you look, a comic book

The visibility of digital comics throughout sectors together with well being, economics, schooling, literacy and even the exhausting sciences was instantly apparent from a mapping train of UK comics publishers, producers and platforms in addition to via interviews. What this implies is that comics-the creation and studying of them-are used to show and to study a number of matters, together with archiving (particularly UK Authorized Deposit) (Determine 1) and Anthropology (particularly Smartphones and Sensible Ageing) (Determine 2):

Cartoon drawing of two people surrounded by comics and zines

Determine 1: Panel from ‘The Authorized Deposit and You’, by Olivia Hicks (British Library, 2018). Reproduced with permission from the British Library.


Cartoon drawing of two women sitting on a sofa looking at and discussing content on a smartphone

Furthermore, comics of their incarnation as graphic novels have grabbed literary prizes, for instance Jimmy Corrigan: the neatest child on earth (Jonathan Cape, 2001) by Chris Ware received the Guardian First Guide Award in 2001, and Sabrina (Granta, 2018) by Nick Drnaso was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018 (considerably controversially, see Nally, 2018).

Simply Like Studying a Guide, However Not…

However by extending the definition of digital comics to incorporate graphic novels principally produced as ebooks, the ‘same-ness” of studying in print turned evident over the course of interviews with publishers and creators. Publishing a comic book in pdf format, whether or not that be on a web site, on a publishing platform, or as a ebook is simply the best, most cost-effective solution to do it:

  We’re print first in our digital workflow—Outdoors of graphic novels, with different varieties of books we often have the chance to work with the digital model as a consideration on the outset, by which case the tagging/courses are a factored in at first levels (a very good instance can be a latest straight -to-digital reflowable e-book). That is the exception although, and likewise doesn’t apply to graphic novels, that are all print-led. (Interview with writer, December 2020)

Conventional ebook publishers haven’t been the one ones taking over comics – gaming and media firms have acquired the rights to comics, comics manufacturers beforehand printed in print. For extra and completely different sectors, comics more and more have grow to be a horny possibility particularly for his or her multimedia enchantment. Nonetheless, what they do with the comics is a combination of the identical, for example being print-led as described within the above remark, and completely different, for instance via conversion to digital interactive variations in addition to offering apps with extra performance than the e-book format.

It is How You Learn Them

Comics formatted particularly for studying on apps, reminiscent of 2000 AD, ComiXology, and Marvel Limitless, might be variable within the varieties of studying experiences they provide to readers. Whereas some have retained the ‘multi-panel show’ expertise of studying a print comedian ebook, others have gone past the ‘reads like a ebook’ expertise. ComiXology, a digital distribution platform for comics owned by Amazon, pioneered the “guided view” expertise now utilized by the likes of Marvel and DC, the place readers view one panel at a time. A number of the comics readers I’ve interviewed consult with this studying expertise as ‘the cinematic expertise’. Readers web page via the comedian one panel or scene at a time, sure, as if watching it on movie or TV.

These studying applied sciences do are inclined to work higher on a pill than on a smartphone. The act of scrolling required to learn webcomics on the WEBTOON app (and others, reminiscent of Tapas), designed to be learn on smartphones, produces that very same sort of ‘cinematic’ impact: readers of comics on each the ComiXology and Internet Toon apps I’ve interviewed describe the very same expertise: the build-up of “anticipation”, “stress”,  “on the sting of my seat” as they web page or scroll all the way down to the subsequent scene/panel. WEBTOON creators make use of sure strategies so as to create that stress within the vertical format, for instance the usage of white area between panels: the extra space, the extra scrolling, the extra “fringe of the seat” expertise. Main comics publishers have began creating ‘vertical’ (scrolling on telephones) comics: Marvel launched its Infinity Comics to enchantment to the smartphone webcomics reader.

So, it could appear that good old style comics pacing mixed with publishing via apps designed for digital gadgets present a special, however identical studying expertise:  a uniquely digital studying expertise.

Identical However Totally different: I’m nonetheless right here

So, right here I’m, nonetheless a PhD pupil presently conducting analysis with comics readers, as a part of my analysis and as a part of a secondment with the BL supported by AHRC Further Scholar Growth funding. This extra funding has afforded me the chance to make use of UX (consumer behaviour/expertise) strategies with readers, primarily via conducting studying statement classes and actions. I will likely be following up this weblog with an replace on this analysis in addition to an invitation into extra reader analysis.


Berube, L. (2020) ‘Not Only for Children: UK Digital Comics, from creation to consumption’, British Library Digital Scholarship Weblog”, 24 August 2020. Obtainable at:

Drnaso, N. (2018) Sabrina. London, England: Granta Books.

McCloud, Scott (2000) Reinventing Comics: How Creativeness and Expertise Are Revolutionizing an Artwork Kind.  New York, N.Y: Paradox Press. 

Nally, C. (2018) ‘Graphic Novels Are Novels: Why the Booker Prize Judges Have been Proper to Select One for Its Longlist’, The Dialog, 26 July. Obtainable at:

Priego, E. (2011) The Comedian Guide within the Age of Digital Copy. [Thesis] College Faculty London. Obtainable at: pp278-280.

Ware, C. (2001) Jimmy Corrigan: the neatest child on earth. London, England: Jonathan Cape.


[1] “Extra of the identical however completely different”, a phrase utilized by a comics creator I interviewed in reference to what comics readers wish to learn↩︎

[2] By ‘conventional’, I’m referring to publishers who contract with comics creators to undertake the manufacturing, publishing, distribution, promoting of a comic book, retaining rights for a sure time frame and paying the creator royalties. In my analysis, publishers who transacted enterprise on this manner included multinational and small press publishers. Self-publishing is the place the creator owns all of the rights and royalties, but in addition performs the manufacturing, publishing, distribution work, or pays for a third-party to take action.

[3] For this analysis, digital comics embrace a various choice of what’s produced electronically or on-line: webcomics, manga, utilized comics, experimental comics, in addition to graphic novels [ebooks].  I’ve omitted animation.


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