Mattia Arioli

Panel 1B: Comics and Sequential Narrative/1
Session 1 – July 1, 11:00 – 13:00

Framing memories: intercode adaptation of iconic photographs of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the first conflict to be fully televised. The images that appeared on the screen were particularly shocking for the American spectators because they showed explicit violence in a quantity and with an immediacy lacking in the coverage of World War II and the Korean War. The (tele)visual elements were so pervasive that this conflict was defined “living-room war” (Hallin, 189). This saturation of media coverage helped turning the narration of the war into an “iconic event” (Leavy, 2007). In particular, the memory of this event has been immortalized by three Pulitzer Prize winning photographs: Nick Ut’s Napalm Girl, Michael Brown’s Burning Monk, and Eddie Adam’s Saigon Execution. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the adaptation of these shots in contemporary graphic novels and comics, as they function as “point of memory” (Hirsh, 2012) for the recollection of the event.

These intercode adaptations help us problematize the construction and perception of the Vietnam War narrative as objective. Indeed, comics can be seen as a medium that appropriates these images, and their embedded narrative, in order to subvert them by ‘framing these shots’ into a broader (set of) picture(s). Indeed, the framing of photograph into a sequential graphic narrative opens up new interpretative opportunities, raising questions about the role of the “industry of memory” (Nguyen, 2016), the framing gaze of the (American) photographer, the racial body of the Vietnamese subject, the ethics of memory, and the osmosis between personal and public images.


Mattia Arioli is a PhD Candidate in Modern Languages, Literatures, and Culture at the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna; his doctoral project focuses on the remembrance of the Vietnam war in post-conflictual graphic narratives. He presented a paper on “Deconstructing Vietnam War Memories in Graphic Form” at the 8th Congress of the European Society of Comparative Literature (ESCL), Lille 2019, and on “Framing a Shoot: Towards an Ethical Remembrance of the Vietnam War” at the COMICS/POLITICS 2nd Annual Conference of the Comics Studies Society, Toronto 2019. He is a member of the Comics Studies Society.