Dale JacobsEnglish professor Dale Jacobs will launch his new book, On Comics and Grief, April 17 at Biblioasis.

Author pushes boundaries of comics studies

Dale Jacobs hopes his new book pushes the boundaries of what academic writing can be.

A professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing, he will launch On Comics and Grief with a reading Wednesday, April 17, at Biblioasis Bookshop.

The book combines an examination of comic books published in 1976 with a memoir about Dr. Jacobs’ grief surrounding the 2013 death of his mother.

“When I first started this project, I planned to read all the Marvel comics published in the year I was 10,” he recalls. “It grew into reading all the comics from all publishers — around 2,200 comics.”

As he read, he tried to figure out the shape of the resulting work and the hook he would use to engage readers.

“It brought on nostalgia for that age, and then I realized that in a weird way, this collection of comics and that project is about my mother,” Jacobs says. “The book is, in a sense, the eulogy I couldn’t bring myself to deliver at her funeral.”

He embraced a fragmentary style that veers from creative non-fiction to personal history to academic theory. The structure is meant to echo the way that comics themselves are an art of fragments, challenging readers to piece them together.

Jacobs calls the process both the best and the hardest writing experience he’s ever had.

“It triggered areas of inquiry that were useful but that I might not have got to otherwise,” he says.

Combining disparate elements serves to demonstrate how comics studies can be truly inter-disciplinary.

“Part of it is pulling back the curtain to show the mechanics of academic writing, and part of what I’m trying to get at is why we as individuals study what we study,” says Jacobs. “Part of it is also trying to show multiple ways we can do academic and creative work.”

Wednesday’s launch is free and open to the public; it begins at 7 p.m. at the bookshop, 1520 Wyandotte St. East.

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