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July Questions - Metafiction

This month's discussion will focus on metafiction, a narrative form aware of its own status as contained within a narrative, using this as a tool in telling the story. This can be seen through a wide variety of literary genres and formats, and comics is no different.

As usual we have three suggested readings this month, but even if you haven't had the opportunity to read them we encourage you to join the discussion, especially if you've read other metafictional comics that you can share. The suggested titles are:

  • Ex Libris by Matt Madden (Uncivilized Books)
  • Enigma by Milligan and Duncan Preitano (Dark Horse)
  • Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings (Marvel)

Some questions to get the discussion going

  • By allowing characters to know they are the creation of an author, metafiction often explores ideas about how in control of our lives we are. How can we use this when developing library activities, events, and programs?
  • What are the similarities and differences in how comics incorporate metafictional elements compared to text only books? What can this tell us about the format and why?
  • How does a character being aware of being in a story impact the message of the book and how it is delivered?

And some extra questions to think about if you've read the suggested graphic novels for the month:

  • Why do you think Ex Libris makes the point that every book on the bookshelf in the story is a comic, not just the books the protagonist reads? Would the story have been any different if there had been a mix of traditional books on the shelves? What about if one of the books the protagonist read only included text?
  • Part way into Enigma, new villains appear who never appeared in the in-universe comic 'The Enigma' but the in-universe writer, Titus Bird, says they are exactly the sort of thing he would have written. What does this imply about the relation betwen an author and their work?
  • Gwenpool's knowledge of the tropes of the medium is described as a superpower in the comic, but her awareness also leads to an awareness of her limitations as a comic character and the impending end to her 'life' at the conclusion of her series. How does this inevitable and inescapable existential obstacle for her compare to the villains and ethical conundrums of most other superheroes?
  • Both Enigma and Gwenpool deal with the interplay of superheroes and the real world, but Enigma brings the comic characters to the 'real' world while Gwenpool puts a character from the 'real' world into superhero comics. What differences to the metafictional elements and the symbolism behind them does this require?

An extra bonus question just for fun. To invert the idea of metafiction, if you were the main character of a comic, what genre would it be and why?

This is a bit of an unusual theme for libraries to think about like this, so I'm really looking forward to the discussion on this, but also please let us know what you think of the themes we explore in these discussions.