Photo of Nicola Plowman

Nicola Plowman
Doctoral Tutor (Media and Film)
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Research

A Cultural History of British Feminist Cartoons and Comics from 1970-2010.

My doctoral research makes an original contribution to knowledge by showing that, since the 1970s, British feminist cartoons and comics have played an important part in the Women’s Movement in Britain. A key component of this has been humour. This aspect of feminist history in Britain has not previously been documented. My doctoral thesis questions why and how British feminists have used humour in comics form to present serious political messages. It also interrogates what the implications have been for the development of feminist cartoons and for the popularising of feminism in Britain. My work responds to recent North American feminist comics scholarship that concentrates on North American autobiographical comics of trauma by women. My thesis highlights the relevance of humour and provides a comparative British perspective.

The timeframe of my research is 1970 to 2010, chosen as representative of a significant historical period for the development of feminist cartoon and comics activity and of feminist theory and practice. My research methods included archival data collection, complemented by interviews with selected cartoonists. I also conducted close visual and textual analysis of specific examples, drawing on literature from humour theory, comics studies and feminist theory. The examples I selected were considered as responses to the economic, social and political contexts in which they were produced. My main finding is that the increased visibility of feminist cartoons and comics today, often in the form of the graphic novel, is a result of structures built and consolidated by feminist activity since the 1970s. These structures include those created around the means of production, distribution and reception of feminist cartoons and comics, such as feminist publishing companies. This finding suggests that feminist activity continues to be crucial in ensuring gender parity in all aspects of the industry.