This research was conducted at the Archeology and Anthropology department of CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) in Barcelona during 2018 and 2019. We studied how gender roles in prehistoric times have been treated, explained and researched through comics that are set in that era.
Comics only started having an academic value in the past few decades. Therefore, what they explain and mirror stopped being a banality. Their dissemination and value increased, and if we add to this that the ones we studied combine a “historic” or “scientific” perspective with fiction, the discourse they present can become quite risky.
We analyzed the visual narrative of the comics, understanding it as a means of transmitting knowledge to a community. Some things can only be explained graphically. This brings us back to the idea that any part of a page has a meaning, even those elements that we would not give too much significance at a first glance. All the images and decisions made are no less important than words. It is here where we see how crucial it is to analyze images and structures in order to find and understand the discourse that lies behind.
We focused on a gender-based perspective. What happens when the main characters are only men? What about when 90% of the characters are men? What is the relevance of the character’s actions in relation to their gender? In how many comic strips can we see women? And where are they positioned, in the front or in the background? How much dialogue does a character have depending on its gender? But, above all, what happens when all these issues seem to be “scientific”?
We decided to focus our analysis on the bestselling comic “Il était une fois… L’Homme” (Once upon a time, the Neanderthal man – And the earth was…”), which had a big impact among readers. The methodology we designed consisted of, first, analyzing each strip (image/ quantitative analysis), then analyzing different sequences (narrative and image/quantitative and qualitative analysis), and finally, the comic (narrative/qualitative analysis).
This research leads to experimental publications that we are still working on, modifying this comic directly.