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date: 10 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The art form of comics has been at center of heated global free speech debates, which remain among the defining issues of our time, particularly as they map onto cultural and religious difference. In the past ten years, the hybrid word-and-image medium of comics has also entered the legal arena through comics-form amicus briefs and comics-form contracts, to name a few examples. The examples suggest that comics is understood today not only as a medium with the potential to be sophisticated, literary, and entertaining but further as one with the concision and clarity that legal discourse values. The growing international energy around the intersection of comics and law, evident in the emergence of comics-form documents and comics as a mode of legal pedagogy, is also reflected in the academy, where there has been a large recent increase in legal academic attention to comics. Other comics genres, particularly nonfiction genres (e.g., comics journalism and graphic memoir), have also proven to be richly engaged with the juridical. Comics that address complicated ethical and material realities through content and form alike model productive ways of engaging with aesthetics and the juridical imaginary, including compelling but fraught legal discourses like that of human rights. This chapter focuses in particular on the non-fiction work of Malta-born cartoonist Joe Sacco, suggesting that Sacco, perhaps more than any other cartoonist, helps readers to see how the comics form can reveal the law-driven focus on “rights” differently than in traditional accounts, especially through the medium’s approach to layered temporalities.

Keywords: comics, human rights, comics journalism, international law, testimony, witness, formalism, framing, temporality, haunting

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