Open Access Research: Perpetrators in Comics (JPR Vol. 4, Issue 2)

For those of you interested in reading academic research about a growing corpus of comics that deal with genocide and mass violence, many of which include increasingly nuanced and complex depictions of the figure of the perpetrator.

Click here for access to the entire volume.

in ‘t Veld, L., 2022. Familial Complicity in Peter Pontiac’s Kraut, Nora Krug’s Belonging, and Serena Katt’s Sunday’s Child. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:

This article explores the stylistic possibilities of the comics medium to address questions of familial complicity during World War II. Focusing on Peter Pontiac’s Kraut: Biografiek (2000), Nora Krug’s Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (2018), and Serena Katt’s Sunday’s Child (2019), it argues that these (auto)biographical comics move away from traditional formats and instead offer postmemorial visual and textual collages that bring together different (archival, documentary) sources with more imaginative scenes, which allows for a nuanced and critical exploration of the involvement of their families in the Nazi system. The article explores how these artists question, prod, and hypothesize to uncover the historical facts of their family’s complicit pasts, while also reflecting on their own emotional investment in the family (hi)story. In presenting an assemblage of sources and voices alongside each other, these comics offer no final, fixed narrative. Instead, they highlight the process of meaning-making—an act that counters a definitive reading and leaves space for interpretation. The article shows that this interpretative dimension is also made possible through the absence of a ‘major offender’, which offers more potential to approach the issue of perpetration with nuance and complexity.

Konrad, T., 2022. The Legacy of American Slavery: Contesting Blackness and Re-envisioning Nationhood in Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:

This article analyses Damian Duffy and John Jennings’ adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred (1979), Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (2017). It focuses on the graphic novel’s explorations of the American past and present to examine the legacy of slavery today. Touching upon issues of interracial relationships, biracial children, and sexual abuse, the graphic novel discusses the complexity of being Black in the U.S., from the times of slavery to the present day, and demonstrates how generations of Americans are bonded together through the tragic history of slavery – a history through which racism has challenged the American nation and continues to do so. The article specifically focuses on how the graphic novel explores the relationship between the perpetrators and victims of slavery, the immediate and long-lasting effects thereof, as well as the responsibility borne by both the perpetrator and the passive observer (or the ‘implicated subject’, to borrow Michael Rothberg’s term) in the formation of institutionalised oppression. The graphic novel functions on various layers: making perpetrators and victims visible (in the antebellum temporal context), complicating and deconstructing the perpetrator-victim binary in the contemporary context, and exploring implication through time. This article examines the potential of the graphic novel as a genre (in particular, its visual and verbal aspects) and of the motif of time travel to address the difficult legacy of slavery, the question of implication across time, and systemic/institutional racism.

Michael, O., 2022. Looking at the Perpetrator in Nina Bunjevac’s Fatherland. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:

Nina Bunjevac’s graphic memoir, Fatherland (2014), tells the story of her father, Peter Bunjevac, who died when she was a year old while preparing a bomb to attack the Yugoslavian Consulate in Toronto as part of his activities as a member of the Serbian terrorist group ‘Freedom for the Serbian Fatherland’. This man is depicted as a distant, elusive father, through an account that is marked by gaps and aporias, and which is based on historical and newspaper accounts, portrait photographs, and testimonies told primarily by Nina’s mother and maternal grandmother. In this article, I take Fatherland as a case study to explore the perpetrator portrayals that are enabled by the comics form. I investigate how the figure of the perpetrator becomes structured through the perspective of a daughter who did not know him, and I demonstrate that the technique of braiding, bird-related imagery, and visual as well as textual circles become instrumental in foregrounding inter-generational traumatic bonds that seem to have triggered abusive and violent behaviours. Furthermore, I argue that the narrative’s oscillation between the macro-level of the nation and the micro-level of the family, on the one hand, and between public and private histories, on the other, enriches and complicates the graphic display of this otherwise elusive, ‘monstrous’ perpetrator. In so doing, I showcase the value of graphic perpetrator narratives in facilitating more nuanced understandings of the figure of the terrorist, particularly in the post-09/11 context.

Schmid, J.C.P., 2022. Cultural Genocide in Joe Sacco’s Paying the Land. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:

This article explores the representation of cultural genocide in the case of Canada’s Indigenous peoples in Joe Sacco’s documentary graphic narrative Paying the Land, which focuses on the Indigenous Dene peoples in the Canadian Northwest Territories. Specifically, the article discusses Sacco’s depiction of perpetrators of the so-called Indian Residential School System (IRSS), which is contrasted with portrayals of intracommunal violence and Indigenous perpetrators. Through graphic narrative means, Paying the Land presents the latter as an aftereffect of the former and extensively explores how cycles of domestic violence and substance abuse were initiated through the attempted destruction of Indigenous peoples as a group, a process in which the residential schools played an important role. In doing so, Sacco specifically addresses a North American audience as implicated subjects who, like himself, are entangled in settler-colonial histories. He investigates the complexities of perpetratorship and accountability that involves not only the policymakers and residential school staff but also North American society at large. In respect to intracommunal violence among the Dene, Paying the Land seeks to shift public perception from inherently ‘deficient’ Indigenous culprits toward an understanding of the colonial policies that have purposefully eroded social cohesion among Indigenous peoples.

Precup, M. and Manea, D., 2022. The Perpetrator as Punch-line: Hipster Hitler and the Ambiguity of Controversial Humor. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:

This article examines Hipster Hitler, a 2011 webcomic by James Carr and Archana Kumar, where the figure of Adolf Hitler is amalgamated with a generic version of a contemporary hipster, with the apparent purpose of turning both Hitler and hipsters into targets of ridicule. We engage with contemporary scholarship on the representation of Holocaust perpetrators—particularly Adolf Hitler—to examine the implications of a perpetrator of such magnitude becoming so familiar that a few strokes of the pen make him not only immediately recognizable, but also a usable go-to villain whose utilization as a means of generating humorous reactions runs the risk of separating him from his deeds. As the comic appears to emphasize the randomness and shallowness of Hipster Hitler’s horrifying deeds, we ask whether this particular comedic angle can produce valuable engagement with the mechanisms that enabled the relentless and precise work of annihilation orchestrated during Hitler’s regime.

in ‘t Veld, L., Gundermann, C., Ribbens, K. and Stańczyk, E., 2022. World War II and Holocaust Comics, Perpetrators, and Education. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:

In this roundtable conversation, historians Christine Gundermann, Ewa Stańczyk, and Kees Ribbens discuss various aspects of World War II and Holocaust comics, including the (historical) depiction of perpetrators, the use of victim sources, and narrative structures. Different national contexts of graphic narratives are considered, and the contributors discuss how national frames and politics of memory affect the content and reception of World War II and Holocaust comics. Furthermore, attention is given to the educational frameworks in which these comics can be distributed and taught. Graphic narratives that are discussed include, among others, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Nora Krug’s Belonging, and Episodes from Auschwitz by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Other sources are also considered, including the drawings by Holocaust survivor Kalman Landau.