Reading Facsimile Reproductions of Original Artwork: The Comics Fan as Connoisseur

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Jean-Paul Gabilliet


By focusing on the recent French and American phenomenon of “classic” comics reprinted in actual-size facsimile reproductions of original artwork instead of the traditional reduced four-color format, this paper addresses the diversity of practices among “comics readers,” from the most casual to the most sophisticated. Unlike individual relationships to the medium emphasizing bibliophily, academic interpretation, or sketchhunting, the appreciation of volumes of original comic art exemplifies a connoisseurship combining archaeological and esthetic aspirations. Its agenda is to experience a reading that enables one to get as close as possible to the past actuality and, ideally, the authenticity of the cartoonist’s creative process before it was altered by the cultural industry.

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Jean-Paul Gabilliet, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France

Dr. Jean-Paul Gabilliet is a professor of North American Studies with the Department of English at Université
Bordeaux Montaigne, France. He specializes in the cultural history of comics in North America and Europe
since the 19th century. He has authored Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books
(UP Mississippi, 2010) and the biography of a famous underground cartoonist simply titled R. Crumb (Presses
Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2012). He is now more specifically documenting the transformation of comics,
reading into a mainstream cultural practice in Europe and North America in the last few decades of the 20th century.