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Monstrous Imaginaries - The Legacy of Romanticism in Comics

Monstrous Imaginaries

The Legacy of Romanticism in Comics

By Maaheen Ahmed
Hardcover : 9781496825261, 264 pages, 27 b&w illustrations, November 2019
Paperback : 9781496825278, 264 pages, 27 b&w illustrations, November 2019

The first book to explore the lasting influence of Romanticism on contemporary comics monsters


Monsters seem inevitably linked to humans and not always as mere opposites. Maaheen Ahmed examines good monsters in comics to show how Romantic themes from the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries persist in today’s popular culture. Comics monsters, questioning the distinction between human and monster, self and other, are valuable conduits of Romantic inclinations.

Engaging with Romanticism and the many monsters created by Romantic writers and artists such as Mary Shelley, Victor Hugo, and Goya, Ahmed maps the heritage, functions, and effects of monsters in contemporary comics and graphic novels. She highlights the persistence of recurrent Romantic features through monstrous protagonists in English- and French-language comics and draws out their implications. Aspects covered include the dark Romantic predilection for ruins and the sordid, the solitary protagonist and his quest, nostalgia, the prominence of the spectacle as well as excessive emotions, and above all, the monster’s ambiguity and rebelliousness.

Ahmed highlights each Romantic theme through close readings of well-known but often overlooked comics, including Enki Bilal's Monstre tetralogy, Jim O'Barr's The Crow, and Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, as well as the iconic comics series Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Mike Mignola's Hellboy. In blurring the otherness of the monster, these protagonists retain the exaggeration and uncontrollability of all monsters while incorporating Romantic characteristics.


"An invaluable text for scholars working in contemporary comics and/or the field of Romanticism. "

- Alisia Chase, Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society

"Ahmed’s Monstrous Imaginaries offers one of the few sustained analyses of the Romantic legacy in the popular visual arts of the late-twentieth century. The monograph will doubtless make a significant contribution to the scholarly understanding of comic books and graphic novels, as part of an enduring and influential Romantic cultural heritage. "

- Will Kitchen, Romance, Revolution & Reform