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Children’s Drawings in Comics

Dessins d’enfance dans la bande dessinée

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Published on Wednesday, October 20, 2021


Commonly drawn for children, comics have a particular link to children’s drawings. The diversity and multiplicity of interactions between comics (as a cultural object produced for children) and children's drawings (both as objects of adult discourses and as children’s productions) offer a vast field of inquiry. This thematic issue of Comicalités invites to open up this field by examining different ways of looking at and thinking about children's drawings in the history of comics.



Commonly considered for children, comics have a particular link to children’s drawings. Since at least Rodolphe Töpffer, who in 1848 praised the "liveliness of movement" of the little men doodled in the margins, children’s drawings have often been admired by cartoonists. As Thierry Smolderen suggests, a deep tradition of caricature and satirical drawing made a place for “clumsy, childish, spontaneous drawing” (2009: 33) long before its lasting integration into the artistic avant-gardes. At the turn of the twentieth century, children’s drawings became the object of new attention and new discourses (Higonnet 2009). Caught between pedagogues, psychologists, painters and writers, the child is shrouded in adult knowledge, as Emmanuel Pernoud argues in a masterful inquiry into understandings of children’s drawings at the dawn of the avant-gardes: “children’s drawings are not looked at for themselves: they are known before they are seen, and childhood is pinned onto a common notion” (Pernoud 2003: 214).

This special issue examines different ways of looking at and thinking about children's drawings in the history of comics. The diversity and multiplicity of interactions between comics (as a cultural object produced for children) and children's drawings (both as objects of adult discourses and as children’s productions) offer a vast field of inquiry. This thematic issue of Comicalités invites contributions along three interlocking angles.

Childish Polygraphy

A first angle explores children’s drawings as a stylistic, aesthetic and iconographic register. The “childishness” associated with comics affects its graphic design, sometimes in a completely self-conscious manner (Ahmed 2020), as well as the criteria of competence, of what makes “good” or “bad” drawing. These aspects have been treated in different ways throughout comics history, relative to specific contexts of publication and circulation.

Children’s drawings have quickly emerged in comics as a quotable graphic vocabulary. It is indeed common to find “clumsy” drawings attributed to children; this pseudographic technique is already found in Cham’s Un génie incompris (1841) and has remained in use to generate a variety of effects already outlined by Thierry Groensteen (2003). In this “play of delegated graphiators“ (Berthou & Dürrenmatt 2019 : 226), children’s drawings are rarely autonomous images and their reading is framed by other images and texts that accompany their interpretation.

Which ideas of childhood are established in these imitations and on what conceptions and models of children’s drawings are they based? How are children’s drawing practices imagined? What mediations accompany such uses depending on their editorial contexts? Which issues are raised by these stylistic ruptures and these techniques of quotation and appropriation?

Drawing Pedagogy

A second angle will focus on the editorial and pedagogical frameworks that structure young readers’ interactions and “school” them into drawing. Jessica Kohn (2018: 426-438) has already described the implicit constructions of the cartoonist profession present in the various technical and stylistic lessons found in comics periodicals. Contests, publications of submitted drawings, didactic exercises, and games regularly invite readers to pick up the pen, scribble in their magazines, or trim them into small graphic objects.

These modes of playful and pedagogical interaction, where reading extends into an initiation to drawing, are still by and large unknown in comics studies, in contrast to the widespread interest in the active participation of the reader at a cognitive level. In which ways do such rubrics connect comics reading and drawing practice? Which conceptions of drawing are conveyed?

The invitation to drawing, emanating from an editorial project, sustains a complicity with the reader while conveying images of the profession and particular drawing conventions. What are these images? How do these forms of interaction through drawing vary depending on different periodicals, formats, and cultures? How have they evolved over the history of comics? How do they relate to old or new ways of segmenting life into ages and thinking about children’s cultural production? According to which criteria are children’s drawings looked at and evaluated and how can they be compared to the place of drawing and images in education?

Children’s Own Comics

If the first two angles are mainly concerned with adult perspectives on children’s drawings, this third section invites us to study children’s own productions. These are ephemeral objects, difficult to access and poorly preserved bodies of work, but such archives raise new questions about children’s creation and the history of reading practices in comics.

In making their own comics, children extend their reading experience and rework those images by means of imitation, copying, adaptation; or by scribbling and coloring in their magazines and books. These children’s comics are traces of individual lives and of a shared culture, witnesses of children’s social worlds that are partly sustained and organized by forms of editorial interaction in periodicals. Beyond the editorial frameworks that guide children’s drawings, it is necessary to distinguish between authorized and unauthorized practices: the gestures of cutting out, coloring, and scribbling go beyond the sanctioned forms of interaction and put the medium to different uses and other purposes.

How does the practice of drawing and the making of comics extend a serial reading experience? How do children integrate and replay encyclopedias or architexts of popular genres1? What is the influence of childhood drawings on the professional practice of adult cartoonists? Children’s and teenagers’ fanzines are also intriguing in this respect: in which contexts are they produced and how do they circulate? How do they replay the editorial codes of comics magazines and newspapers?

Based on these three interlocking angles, this special issue seeks to describe and understand the role played by drawing in the relationship between comics and children audiences, following distinct logics of appropriation, interaction and incorporation. The scope of the issue is of course not strictly limited to these main lines of inquiry and also seeks out contributions that engage more broadly with the theme of children’s drawings and comics. Similarly, there are no restrictions on chronological and geographical scales. The issue hopes to foster a diversity of methods and approaches: iconographic analyses and visual studies, close-readings and case studies, narratology, discourse analyses, anthropological approaches and ethnographic observations, cultural history of childhood, cognitive sciences and cultural psychology.


Maaheen Ahmed and Benoît Crucifix *

Submission guidelines

This call for papers is open to all researchers, regardless of their status and origins. Abstract submissions should include two separate documents :

  • A short bio-bibliographical notice.

  • An anonymized abstract in French or English of no more than 3000 characters (with spaces). The abstract will present the theoretical positioning and the corpus, as well as the main conclusions that are expected.

We are also open to formats other than the standard scientific article and welcome shorter forms : interviews, short articles, presentations of archival items, etc.

Abstracts will be evaluated anonymously by the editorial board of Comicalités: after acceptance, and with possible suggestions, the article will be written for a total size varying between 15 000 (for shorter forms) and 50 0000 (for standard articles) characters, with spaces. Abstracts should be sent before December 15, 2021 to: maaheen.ahmed@ugent.be / benoit.crucifix@ugent.be

Completed articles will be sent by June 1, 2022.

Suggested bibliography

Ahmed, Maaheen, 2020. « Children in Graphic Novels: Intermedial Encounters and Mnemonic Layers. » Études francophones. Vol. 32, pp. 129–148.

Baudry, Julien, 2014. La bande dessinée entre dessin de presse et culture enfantine. Relecture de l’œuvre d’Alain Saint-Ogan (1895-1974). Paris : Université Paris Diderot.

Becchi, Egle, 1998. « Écritures enfantines, lectures adultes. » In : Becchi, Egle et Julia, Dominique (dir.), Histoire de l’enfance en Occident. Tome 2: du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours. Traduction de BARDOS, Jean-Pierre. Paris : Seuil. pp. 461–485.

Berthou, Benoît et Dürrenmatt, Jacques (dir.). 2019. Style(s) de (la) bande dessinée. Paris : Garnier.

Blanchard, Véronique et Gardet, Mathias, 2020. La parole est aux accusés. Histoire d’une jeunesse sous surveillance, 1950-1960. Paris : Textuel.

Boissel, Jessica, 1990. « Quand les enfants se mirent à dessiner. 1880-1914, un fragment de l’histoire des idées. » Les Cahiers du musée national d’Art moderne. N° 31, pp. 14–43.

Crépin, Thierry, 2001. « Haro sur le gangster ! » La moralisation de la presse enfantine, 1934-1954. Paris : CNRS Editions.

Crucifix, Benoît, 2017. « Mémoire de la bande dessinée dans Au travail d’Olivier Josso Hamel. Cases remémorées, redessinées. » Comicalités [en ligne]. 29 novembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/comicalites/2415.

————, 2020. « Jojo, Jimmy and Marie Chairne : What Scribbled Comics Can (Not) Tell Us », Studies in Comics. Vol. 11, n° 2, pp. 259-269.

Dyson, Anne Haas, 1997. Writing Superheroes: Contemporary Childhood, Popular Culture, and Classroom Literacy. New York : Teachers College Press.

Fabre, Daniel (dir.). 2009. « Arts de l’enfance, enfances de l’art », Gradhiva. N° 9.

Fineberg, Jonathan, 1997. The Innocent Eye: Children’s Art and the Modern Artist. Princeton : Princeton University Press.

Gardner, Jared, 2012. Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling. Stanford : Stanford University Press.

Groensteen, Thierry, 2003. « L’Enfance de l’art. » Neuvième Art. N° 9, pp. 72–84.

Guibert, Emmanuel et Guibert, Cécilia, 2006. « Le dessin, petit. » In : Monographie prématurée. Angoulême : L’An 2. pp. 20–33.

Hague, Ian, 2014. Comics and the Senses: a Multisensory Approach to Comics and Graphic Novels. New York : Routledge.

Higonnet, Margaret R., 2009. « Modernism and Childhood: Violence and Renovation », The Comparatist. Vol. 33, pp. 86-108.

Joubert, Bernard, 2007. « Le petit Joubert continue la guerre. » L’Éprouvette. N° 3, pp. 194‑210.

Kohn, Jessica, 2018. Travailler dans les Petits Mickeys: Les dessinateurs-illustrateurs en France et en Belgique de 1945 à 1968. Thèse de doctorat. Paris : Université Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Lerer, Seth, 2012. « Devotion and defacement: Reading children’s Marginalia. » Representations. Vol. 118, N° 1, pp. 126–43.

Letourneux, Matthieu, 2017. Fictions à la chaîne: littératures sérielles et culture médiatique. Paris : Seuil.

Marion, Philippe, 1993. Traces en cases: travail graphique, figuration narrative et participation du lecteur. Louvain-la-Neuve : Academia.

Pernoud, Emmanuel, 2003. L’Invention du dessin d’enfant en France, à l’aube des avant-gardes. Paris : Hazan.

Pignot, Manon, 2004. La Guerre des crayons. Quand les petits Parisiens dessinaient la Grande Guerre. Paris : Parigramme.

Smolderen, Thierry, 2009. Naissances de la bande dessinée: de William Hogarth à Winsor McCay. Bruxelles : Les Impressions Nouvelles.

Tilley, Carol L., 2015. « Children and the Comics: Young Readers Take on the Critics. » In: Baughman, James L., Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer et Danky, James P. (dir.), Protest on the Page: Essays on Print and the Culture of Dissent since 1865. Madison : The University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 161–179.

Töpffer, Rodolphe, 1848. Réflexions et menus-propos d’un peintre genevois. Tome second. Paris : Dubochet.


1 On “encyclopedia of popular genres,“ see Matthieu Letourneux (2017).

* Ghent University, ERC project « Children in Comics: An Intercultural History » (grant agreement no. 758502).


  • Wednesday, December 15, 2021


  • enfance, dessin d'enfant, bande dessinée, presse, réception, matérialité


  • Benoît Crucifix
    courriel : benoit [dot] crucifix [at] kuleuven [dot] be
  • Maaheen Ahmed
    courriel : maaheen [dot] ahmed [at] ugent [dot] be

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Benoît Crucifix
    courriel : benoit [dot] crucifix [at] kuleuven [dot] be


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Children’s Drawings in Comics », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, https://doi.org/10.58079/17gi

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