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14 | 2023 - Comics and graphic novels at work

Deadline for articles submission: May 31, 2021

Issue coordinated by Jean-Paul Géhin, Françoise F. Laot and Pierre Nocérino

Comics is a cultural asset that is particularly appreciated all around the world. Moreover, it also leads its readers to question the work in many ways.

First, comics are used to propose a visual representation of work: today, numerous publications describe various social realities, including many professional practices (Géhin, 2018-2019). This phenomenon is accentuated by the emergence of a specific genre: komtech2021-01-29T15:15:00knon-fiction comics. This genre, also called "comics journalism" or "bande dessinée du réel [comics about reality]", aims to report various facts in order to make a testimony about any kind of experiences (Lesage, 2017). Non-fiction comics became popular when Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, and later in the wake of the success of Joe Sacco's books. The popularity of the genre has grown so much that several publishers dedicated specific collections to this type of production, or even created magazines of comics journalism (i.e. komtech2021-01-29T15:16:00kThe Nib, La revue dessinée and Topo).

  • 1 These collectives can take the form of unions (such as the SNAC-BD created in 2007), associations ( (...)

However, if comics question work by picturing it, it also - and above all does it as a social activity. Indeed, the production of these comic books requires a whole set of actors involved in different steps of creation and/or execution in the publishing process. While authors or publishers can highlight the pleasure they derive from their activity, they also point out the many difficulties in the field: economic precariousness, pressure to meet deadlines, omnipresent gender discrimination and invisibility of women's work, lack of recognition from the public or the government, etc. These pleasures and sufferings in the work of professionals have led to social movements and the creation of collectives1. But they also are a source of inspiration, whether they are treated head-on (Désœuvré by Lewis Trondheim, A drifting life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Cases Blanches by Olivier Martin and Sylvain Runberg...) or indirectly (The initiates by Étienne Davodeau, Le roi des bourdons by David de Thuin, the series l'Atelier Mastodonte published in Le Journal de Spirou...).

Once again, the evolution of the medium reinforces this phenomenon. Indeed, there has been a growing interest in autobiographical comics, allowing the komtech2021-01-29T15:33:00kaFrançoise Laot2021-01-21T22:16:00FLuthor to put his or her life at the heart of the story. This way, authors activate what Charles Wright Mills (1961) called a sociological information, allowing themselves to situate their biography in the great history. Born in the 1960s in Japan and the United States, autobiographical comics is a genre which strongly increased from the end of the 20th century, whether in fanzines, traditional publishing or webcomics. From this ongoing rise resulted many remarkable productions, especially in Europe, such as books from Marguerite Abouet, Antonio Altarriba, Manu Larcenet, Catherine Meurisse, Marjane Satrapi or Riad Sattouf, among many others.

  • 2 According to Jan Baetens (2012), the graphic novel is distinguished by its production (it is the wo (...)

These two heavy tendencies observed in the comic books market - documentary concern and autobiographical inspiration - come together within a broader genre: the graphic novel. Although this expression may appear problematic due to a vague and allusive definition2, it allows us to insist on the deep reflexivity developed along the production of these works. Indeed, whether they are political or not, these publications often relied on thoughts about the approach and the possibilities of the medium, referring to the development of so-called "non-fiction" literature (Groensteen, 2016). Such an approach thrives on three major sources: the investigative techniques of the social sciences, the narrative of the self, and the journalistic approach.

This raises the following question: In what way is the work put into images affected and oriented by the organization and modalities of the comics work?

This thematic issue of ITTI will examine the articulation between two complementary dimensions:

  • The first addresses the actors of the sector, their social characteristics, their professional paths, the division of labor, the social relations of production, the modalities of learning and vocational integration, the difficulties encountered to make one's place, the existence of glass ceilings according to social groups, cultural origins or gender...

  • The second refers to the very content of the productions: what place does the work takes in it? What aspects of contemporary work and its evolution are retained/shown and in what way? How does the representation of work in comics mirror the way work is organized in the publishing world?

The articulation between these two poles will serve as a common thread in the construction of the issue of the journal, but it could also, centrally or peripherally, be treated in itself in each contribution.

The issue aims to continue the analysis by offering contributors the opportunity to make proposals for articles in comic forms, particularly in the "Images en chantier [Images under construction]" section of the journal, which aims to publish works that mobilize images in an innovative way. Writing social science in comics indeed reveals the troubles and routines of research work, whether during the collection, the analysis or the restitution of data (Nocérino, 2016; Kuttner, Sousanis and Weaver-Hightower, 2017). In addition to graphic proposals, researchers can also question how the ways in which work is organized allows or, on the contrary, limits the presentation of their own work.

Proposals may come from the various social sciences. They are based on the analysis and/or production of a corpus of images (including, of course, comics). These images must be reproduced in the article. Please notice that Images du travail, Travail des images is an entirely digital, free and open scientific journal. As such, the author must ensure that the rights of image use and distribution are available. The full text will be 30,000 to 50,000 characters maximum. At a first stage, are expected proposals of 2000 to 3000 characters, taking into account the following schedule:

  • May 31, 2021: deadline for receipt of proposals by e-mail to the following addresses (proposals may be written in French or English).

  • December 15, 2021: sending of articles for submission to the journal's editorial board (publications must be written in French).

Contacts for any further information and for the sending of documents:

  • Jean-Paul Géhin, University of Poitiers, GRESCO : jpgehin[at]

  • Françoise F. Laot, University Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, EXPERICE, francoise.laot[at]

  • Pierre Nocérino, EHESS, LIER-FYT : pierre.nocerino[at]

  • La revue Image du travail, travail des images: imagesdutravail[at]


Baetens J. (2012), « Le roman graphique », dans É. Maigret et M. Stefanelli (eds.), La bande dessinée: une médiaculture, Paris, A. Colin, p. 200‑216.

Géhin J.-P. (2018-2019), « La bande dessinée montre le travail de l’intérieur. 1. Un regard à la fois documenté et intimiste. 2. Le point de vue des dominés 3. Un point de vue renouvelé sur le travail et les professions. », Images du travail [En ligne] (url : ; ; )

Groensteen T. (2016), « Extension du domaine de la non-fiction », neuvième art 2.0 [En ligne] (url :

Kuttner, P. J., Sousanis N. et Weaver-Hightower M. B. (2017), « How to Draw Comics the Scholarly Way: Creating Comics-Based Research in the Academy » dans P. Leavy (ed.), Handbook of Arts-Based Research, New York, The Guilford Press, p. 398‑422.

Lesage S. (2017), « La bande dessinée, une nouvelle écriture de l’info », La revue des médias [En ligne] (url :

Mills C. W. (2006 [1961]), L’imagination sociologique, Paris, La Découverte.

Nocérino P. (2016), « Ce que la bande dessinée nous apprend de l’écriture sociologique », Sociologie et sociétés, vol. 48, n°2, p. 169‑193.

Nocérino P. (2020), Les auteurs et autrices de bande dessinée. La formation contrariée d’un groupe social, Thèse de sociologie, sous la direction de C. Lemieux, Paris, ehess.

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1 These collectives can take the form of unions (such as the SNAC-BD created in 2007), associations (Artémisia founded in 2007 by Jeanne Puchol and Chantal Montellier to promote the visibility of women's work in comics) but also informal groups (such as the Collective of Comic Book Creators Against Sexism created in 2016 or the collective Auteurs et Autrices en Action created in 2019). The constitution and actions of some of these collectives were analyzed in Pierre Nocérino's thesis (2020).

2 According to Jan Baetens (2012), the graphic novel is distinguished by its production (it is the work of an author, not of an external publisher or producer), its content (it deals with themes intended for an adult audience, with a graphic design often distinct from publications intended for young people), its materiality (black and white one-shot with extensive paginations) and its reception (it is usually distributed in the in the traditional literary book circuit).

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