Sequential Art in the Age of Postcolonial Production
‘I was frequently upbraided for reading books I shouldn’t have,’ Edward Said notes in his memoirs, but it was precisely these private papers, popular books and comics that made the budding postcolonial critic aware of reading as an act that could push against the rules and boundaries of the world in which he grew up. 1 Comics, as the illicit and illegitimate sources of pleasure, have a long history of encouraging reading as a transgressive, potentially dangerous act. They have often been accused of perverting their readers’ ‘taste for the finer influences of education, for art, for literature and for the decent and constructive relationships between human beings,’ as Fredric Wertham’s now infamous Seduction of the Innocent (1955) demonstrates. 2 However, it is by flouting that which is considered civilised – in literature and society – that comics have not only exposed the pedagogical and ideological pressures that determine what and how we read, as Said argues, but also guided many readers, like Said, to an awareness of the power dynamics imbued in subcultures. 3 Through the graphic medium of comics, zines and serials, artists say what can’t otherwise be said, render explicit what is barely imagined and invite a different understanding of the lines that define collective identity. Comics are not just a popular art form but also an alternative, radical one.