Authored by: Roy T Cook

The Routledge Companion to Comics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415729000
eBook ISBN: 9781315851334
Adobe ISBN: 9781317915386


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A metacomic (or reflexive, self-referential, self-conscious, self-aware, or narcissistic comic) is an instance of the more general category of metafiction. Before examining exactly what is meant by “metafiction” and “metacomics,” however, an unfortunate terminological complication needs to be addressed. In this chapter, we will be concerned with both fictional metacomics such as John Byrne’s run on The Sensational She-Hulk, and nonfictional metacomics such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus. But, given the terminology just introduced, this seems to imply that Maus is both an instance of nonfiction, since a nonfiction metacomic, and an instance of fiction, since metacomics are instances of metafiction. The problem, of course, is that the term “metafiction,” although originally aimed at a particular kind of fictional work, is now used in a wider sense to refer to any narrative that involves “meta” effects of the appropriate sort, regardless of whether the narrative in question is fictional or not. It would be ideal if we had a wider, alternative term covering both metafiction and meta-nonfiction, but none seems forthcoming: “metanarrative” has a different, familiar, and specialized meaning, and “meta-storytelling” is a bit too awkward. Thus, here we shall just ride the trend, continuing to use the term “metafiction” while explicitly noting that metafiction need not be fictional.

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