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Proposals due: June 21, 2019


This special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly engages comics, graphic storytelling, and creative methods of research and production in technical communication. Comics are defined as image and text conveyed in a deliberate sequence, and can be represented in physical, digital, and mobile media (see McCloud; Samanci). Comics and graphic storytelling offer one set of many creative approaches to technical communication practices, including infographics, poetry, wordless instructions and other visual and multimodal forms that work to bridge what William J. White calls, in a recent TCQ article (26.2; 2017), “the persistence of the gap between science and the arts [that] remains a chief feature of efforts to incorporate visual information and argumentation in” science (and technical) communication (p. 113).

TCQ 5.1 (1996) was the last special issue devoted to visual elements of document design, and visual information technologies and practices have continued to expand since its publication over two decades ago. This special issue invites an investigation of visual-verbal information design through the lens of comics and graphic storytelling in technical communication. In particular, this issue aims to develop a better and broader understanding of the relationship between comics and technical communication, from data comics and wordless comics to the production of digital comics. This issue also contributes to the growing interest among technical communication scholars in better understanding how the creative industries promote innovation through storytelling technologies, evidenced by Technical Communication Quarterly’s 2016 special issue on “Games in Technical Communication” (25.3), edited by Stephanie Vie and Jennifer deWinter.

The purpose of this special issue is also to better understand the extent to which comics and creative storytelling practices are viable, accessible, and even impractical forms of technical communication. This special issue places practitioners and scholars in conversation, reframing questions of creativity, accessibility, and digital media in the field of technical communication (see Boyle & Rivers, “A Version of Access” in TCQ 25.1, 2016). To this end, the guest editors invite works that approach comics and technical communication in ways that foreground marginalized voices and perspectives.

This special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly makes use of a feature to enhance articles with supplemental materials (e.g., author-created comics): Figshare. Authors interested in producing supplemental or digital materials should consult Taylor & Francis’ Author Services website for compatibility guidelines.

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We aim to make publishing with Taylor & Francis a rewarding experience for all our authors. Please visit our Author Services website for more information and guidance, and do contact us if there is anything we can help with!

Special Issue Themes and Questions

The guest editors invite contributors to explore histories, audiences, methods, and industries at the intersections of comics and technical communication. There is a long history of overlap between the two areas of comics and technical communication: from Rudolphe Töpffer’s 19th-century physiognomy diagrams (Töpffer & Figueiredo, 2017), to Will Eisner’s (1969) “M16A1 Operation and Preventative Maintenance” manual for the US Army, to Scott McCloud’s (2008) comic on the inner workings of Google Chrome, and to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s comic, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” (2012).

Comics address multiple audiences, from readers of instruction manuals to fans who then perform uptake of work in various technical environments. Comics represent complex data in engaging ways but also raise new ethical questions on visual representation and accessibility. These questions have led to a series of recent experiments in the design, purpose, and production of graphic storytelling, such as Andre Berg’s 3D app-based interactive comic, Protanopia; Ozge Samanci and Anuj Tewari’s 2010 place-based mobile comic, GPS Comics; Phillip Meyer’s braille-based tactile comic for people who are blind, Life; and Guy Hasson’s Comics Empower, an online store offering audio comics for visually impaired audiences. Moreover, comics industries and production processes provide rich data sources for expanding technical communication research and practice (see Woo, 2018).

In particular, this special issue investigates the following questions grounded in the following four themes. We specify “comics” for the sake of brevity but extend the inquiry to include other forms of graphic storytelling. We invite submissions that address how comics and technical communication can foreground marginalized voices and perspectives. Graphic approaches to any of the following are encouraged:

Histories, Theories, and Contexts
  • What are the historical relationships between comics and technical communication?
  • What theoretical approaches help us understand relationships between comics and technical communication?
  • What are the contexts in which comics and technical communication overlap?
Audiences, Users, and Perspectives
  • How do technical communicators use comics to engage with audiences?
  • How do users engage comics in navigating their information environments?
  • In what ways do comics and technical communication foreground marginalized voices and perspectives? In what ways have they failed to do so?
Data, Methods, and Ethics
  • How do comics effectively or ineffectively represent complex data in a variety of contexts?
  • How can technical communicators think through issues of human data representation in comics form?
  • How do comics increase information access and/or raise new accessibility challenges?
Industries, Applications, and Production
  • Where does technical communication take place in the comics industries?
  • What is the role of technical communication in comics production?
  • What technologies do readers use to engage digital comics?
Possible topics include (but are not limited to):
  • Visual data and accessibility
  • Visual storytelling and narrative methods
  • Technical communication practices in the comics industries
  • Histories of comics in technical communication
  • Comics’ potential to facilitate inclusion, legitimate marginalized knowledge, and support social justice in technical communication
  • The role of comics in facilitating user experience
  • Audience engagement with technical comics
  • Affordances and constraints of comics as information design tools
  • Ethics of visual representation
  • Digital technologies and experimental narrative

Proposal Length: 500 words


Call for Proposals released: April 21, 2019
Proposals due: June 21, 2019
Proposal acceptances by: July 15, 2019
Manuscripts due: October 1, 2019
Reviewer feedback sent by: December 1, 2019
Revised manuscripts due: March 1, 2020
Publication: July 2020 

Please direct all questions and submissions to:



Guidelines for Submitting Comics and Graphics

As noted in the call, graphic approaches are encouraged. Contributors will adhere to the following guidelines:

  • For contributors submitting work in full color, comics and graphics will appear in grayscale in the print journal but in full color when readers access the journal digitally. Contributors need only submit one manuscript but should ensure graphics are suitable for grayscale as well as full color.
  • TCQ is able to host image, audio, and video files in full color through Figshare in collaboration with Taylor & Francis. We invite authors to consider how supplementary media files might enhance their submissions. Please see Taylor & Francis’ guidelines on hosting supplementary material.
  • Authors are responsible for obtaining permissions for any images or media files included in their submissions. Please see Taylor & Francis’ guidelines on using third-party materials.
  • Images and supplementary media files must include alt-text and/or transcripts. Please see the following techniques at the Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) website. We encourage authors to consult Horton and Quesenbery’s A Web for Everyone and Bryon Gould’s “DIAGRAM Image Description Guidelines” for how to make rhetorical accessibility decisions.

View the Full Text PDF here.


Boyle, C. & Rivers, N. (2016) A Version of Access. Technical Communication Quarterly 25(1), 29-47. Retrieved from doi:10.1080/10572252.2016.1113702

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Preparedness 101: Zombie pandemic.

Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/cpr/zombie/novel.htm

Department of the Army. (1969). The M16A1 rifle: Operation and preventative maintenance.

Retrieved from http://www.astrotx.com/M-16A1%20Rifle.pdf

McCloud, S., & Google Chrome. (2008). Google Chrome: Behind the open

source browser project. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/small_00.html

Töpffer, R., & Figueiredo, S. C. (2017). Inventing comics: A new translation of Rodolphe Töpffer’s reflections on graphic storytelling, media rhetorics, and aesthetic practice. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Vie, S., & deWinter, J. (2016). Special issue on games in technical communication. Technical Communication Quarterly 25(3).

White, W. J. (2017). Optical solutions: Reception of an NSF-funded science comic book on the biology of the eye. Technical Communication Quarterly,26(2), 101-115. Retrieved from doi:10.1080/10572252.2017.1285962

Wickliff, G., & Bosley, D. S. (1996). Special issue on visual rhetoric and document design.

Technical Communication Quarterly 5(1).Woo, Benjamin. (2018). Is there a comic book industry? Media Industries 5(1), 27-46. Retrieved from doi:10.3998/mij.15031809.0005.102

Editorial Information

Guest Editors:
Rick Shivener
Erin Kathleen Bahl
Sergio Figueiredo

Rebecca Walton, Utah State University

Managing Editor:
Beth J. Shirley, Utah State University
Associate Editors: 
Jared Colton, Utah State University
Ann Shivers-McNair, University of Arizona
Book Review Editor:
Scott Mogull, Texas State University

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