Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

McGowan, Abigail


At just under thirty years the serious academic study of American comic books is relatively young. Over the course of three decades most historians familiar with the medium have recognized that American comics, since becoming a mass-cultural product in 1939, have matured beyond their humble beginnings as a monthly publication for children. However, historians are not yet in agreement as to when the medium became mature. This thesis proposes that the medium’s maturity was cemented between 1985 and 2000, a much later point in time than existing texts postulate. The project involves the analysis of how an American mass medium, in this case the comic book, matured in the last two decades of the twentieth century. The goal is to show the interconnected relationships and factors that facilitated the maturation of the American sequential art, specifically a focus on a group of British writers working at DC Comics and Vertigo, an alternative imprint under the financial control of DC. The project consulted the major works of British comic scriptwriters, Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, and Garth Ennis. These works include Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Shade: the Changing Man, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Animal Man, Sandman, Transmetropolitan, Preacher and several other important works. Following a chronological organization, the work tracks major changes taking place in the American comic book industry in the commercial, corporate, and creative sectors to show the processes through which the medium matured in this time period. This is accomplished by combining textual analysis of the comics with industry specific records and a focus on major cultural shifts in US society and culture