The fourth chapter, “Alien Overtures: Speculating about Nonhuman Experiences with Comic Book Characters”, continues the experiential line of inquiry introduced in the previous chapter but recombines it with the multimodal storytelling of comics and the tricky, anthropomorphizing concept of the fictional character. More specifically, the article penned by Essi Varis explores – first theoretically and then through a cognitive analysis of Neil Gaiman and J. H. Williams III’s fantastical graphic novel The Sandman: Overture (2015) – whether markedly nonhuman comic book characters are able to convey, or at least gesture toward, nonhuman experiences.
On the one hand, cognitive narrative theory has repeatedly underlined that the ways we think and speak about narratives in general – and characters in particular – are highly subjective and, thus, heavy with human bias. On the other hand, the interactions between reading minds and experimental or imaginative texts can make these limits of our human subjectivity more visible, and even counteract our automatic human-centric assumptions through different techniques of defamiliarization and speculation. The verbal-pictorial hybridity of comics, which enables displaying countless different amalgamations of human and nonhuman traits and viewpoints, is an especially flexible tool for such explorations.