No, I’m not asking whether comics can be art — that’s a tired question that I think has been decisively answered in the affirmative. But if we look at Scott McCloud’s basic definition of comics, “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.” Does that include, for example, gallery exhibitions?
After all, what is an art gallery but a collection of juxtaposed pictorial images? Perhaps not all are in deliberate sequence, but at least some consideration is paid to how the pieces are arranged. And of course that’s to say nothing of paintings or other visual arts meant to be displayed in a sequence, such as the sequence of images in The Scrovegni Chapel and Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (to name the first two examples that spring to mind).
McCloud would seem to include art in his definition. He mentions hieroglyphs and Max Ernst’s “A Week of Kindness” in Understanding Comics. But overall fine art doesn’t get much attention. McCloud seems to imply throughout that comics is about storytelling, but his definition doesn’t include narrative, and surely there are examples of non-narrative comics.
Other definitions, such as David Kunzle’s would seem to exclude art (as well as hyroglyphs) like by definition. According to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Kunzle’s prerequisites for a comic strip include the following: “The medium in which the strip appears and for which it is originally intended must be reproductive in nature; that is, in printed form, a mass medium.”
That definition would toss gallery art right out then, since even though it may be reproduced on posters or in coffee table books, those aren’t the media for which it was originally intended.
But defining a medium by the intent of its creators is slippery, especially in an age in which artists may expect their work to be printed in some form. And what to do about the existence of art exhibitions that are deliberately created to be comics, such as Daniel Duford‘s Sleeping Giant (pictured below)?
It’s not a terribly important question — I’m not interested in seeking “legitimacy” from the arts establishment anyway. But I think it’s an interesting one.