Ensuring readers’/viewers’ continued interest in a story requires that they are aware of the goals of one or more protagonists, and make an emotional investment in their success or failure; we hope that the hero or heroine will succeed, and fear that the villain will. We thus empathize with the story’s good guy(s)/girl(s) and antipathize with its bad ones. Of course goodness and badness can be complicated affairs, and we may end up having mixed feelings about characters.
Empathizing and antipathizing inevitably involve our awareness of the emotions felt by the characters themselves. We co-suffer in the sense of the luxurious substitute emotion evoked by fiction that Noel Carroll calls “art-emotion” (1991: 143 et passim) when the hero is wounded or loses his best friend; we rejoice if the heroine is proud to have saved the prince or the planet.
Comics have means for conveying characters’ emotions that partly overlap with those of other media and that are partly unique to the medium. In this short paper I will review some studies I have done on the representation of anger in comics (see also my students’ work as summarized in Forceville 2011a). My original framework was conceptual metaphor theory/CMT (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; for the current state of affairs, see Gibbs 2008, Kövecses 2010). Within this framework Zoltán Kövecses (1986, 2000, 2005) has systematically discussed the way emotions are metaphorically conveyed in language. Since anger is the emotion he has written about most extensively, this has become the paradigm emotion that others in CMT have decided to focus on. That is what I did when I tried to apply Kövecses’ theories to the visual realm, more specifically to comics (Forceville 2005). But this practical reason for privileging anger should ideally serve as a launching pad for broadening the discussion to the representation of emotion in comics in general.