Children in European comics from 1938 to today. Constructions, functions and transformations

Start - End 
2017 - 2018 (ongoing)



Although comics and children are closely linked in the popular imagination, little is known about the functioning and significance of child characters in comics. This project examines children in comics to show how they reflect changing conceptualizations of childhood over time and across cultures while also channeling adult anxieties and questioning social order and categories. The popular essence and distinctive visual styles of comics makes them a source of valuable insight into the collective consciousness and its transformations. Focusing on successful works from four major hubs of European comics productions - Belgium, France, Britain and Germany - the project takes as its starting point the boom in comics production in the late 1930s and traces the representation of children in long-running, understudied comics magazines such as The Beano and Spirou as well as contemporary graphic novels.

The project combines the two hitherto separated but closely linked fields of comics studies with childhood studies. It also incorporates insights from cultural studies, especially histories of the body and family life, the carnivalesque and affect theory. This original, interdisciplinary methodology enables an extensive analysis of the changing conceptualizations of children, child-adult power relations and liberty, visualizations of the body, family life and school, as well as the role of affects such as happiness, desires and nostalgia in comics featuring children.