Comics and the Senses: A Multisensory Approach to Comics and Graphic Novels

Comics and the Senses is not just a highly original work within Cultural Studies, it also develops a framework of wide significance for all of the Humanities.
— Paulo Cardullo, Visual Studies.

Attempts to define what comics are and explain how they work have not always been successful because they are premised upon the idea that comic strips, comic books and graphic novels are inherently and almost exclusively visual. This book challenges that premise, and asserts that comics is not just a visual medium. The book outlines the multisensory aspects of comics: the visual, audible, tactile, olfactory and gustatory elements of the medium. It rejects a synaesthetic approach (by which all the senses are engaged through visual stimuli) and instead argues for a truly multisensory model by which the direct stimulation of the reader’s physical senses can be understood. A wide range of examples demonstrates how multisensory communication systems work in both commercial and more experimental contexts. The book concludes with a case study that looks at the works of Alan Moore and indicates areas of interest that multisensory analysis can draw out, but which are overlooked by more conventional approaches. 


1. Eye Like Comics, or, Ocularcentrism in Comics Scholarship
2. Sight, or, the Ideal Perspective and the Physicality of Seeing
3. Hearing, or, Visible Sounds and Seeing With the Ears
4. Touch, or, the Taboo/Fetish Character of Comics and Tactile Performance
5. Smell and Taste, or, the Scent of Nostalgia and the Flavour of Advertising
6. Multisensory Aspects of the Comics of Alan Moore


Routledge webpage for Comics and the Senses.

To recommend Comics and the Senses to your librarian, click here.

Want a free look at a few of the ideas from the book? Why not read the open access article 'Beyond the Visual: The Roles of the Senses in Contemporary Comics'? Read the full article for free in the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art here. For more articles, click here.


Review by Maheen Ahmed in European Comic Art

Review by Brian Bates in ImageText

Review by Paolo Cardullo in Visual Studies.

Review by Ivan Lima Gomes in História, Histórias (Portuguese).

Review by Pedro Moura at Ler BD (Portuguese).

Review by Pedro Moura at Image [&] Narrative

If you review the book, please contact Ian to have a link to your review added to this page. If you would like to receive a copy of the book to review, please fill in this request form and Routledge will arrange to have one sent to you.


'Interview with Ian Hague' by Pedro Moura in Studies in Comics. 

'Entrevista a Ian Hague' by Pedro Moura at Ler BD (Portuguese).

Comics and the Senses was included in the NYU Libraries Graphic Novels and Comics: Finding Books Research Guide.