COVID-19, Comics, and the Visual Culture of Contagion

The Lancet

One cultural response to the disruption and uncertainty during an infectious disease outbreak is the construction of what is sometimes called the “outbreak narrative”, a formulaic plot that serves to shape our collective understanding of a pandemic.

This narrative traces the emergence and spread of a novel pathogen and the scientific, social, and political responses to the outbreak. In doing so, the outbreak narrative emphasises the breakdown of boundaries, the sites of infection, the social interactions that are disrupted and enacted, and the efforts of science to contain the spread and find a cure. In our increasingly visual society, images are a vital component of the outbreak narrative and more broadly contribute to the visual culture of contagion.

Comics, as both a visual medium and cultural product, are important contributions to the visual culture of the COVID-19 pandemic.