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In this presentation, held at the Comic Studies Conference at University of Amsterdam (2015), I show how online comics can be made sense of as literature. Webcomics use many literary devices to experiment with their form and content. This also means that literary concepts will help us understand these comics better. I focus on the concept of metafiction which sheds light on a new wave of webcomics. Metafiction is fiction that draws attention to its own artificiality. There are many ways in which a text can do that, for instance through parody, through intertextuality, or by experimenting with authorial voice. For instance, through self-insertions or commentary by an author. Comics, however, can also do something more. Webcomics also tend to reflect on media technology and experiment with interactivity.
In this paper, I provide a close-reading of the webcomics Homestuck (Hussie, 2009-) and The Property of Hate (Jolley, 2012-). Both comics question the relationship of the reader with the fiction itself, as well as the technology used to read it. I argue that in an age of digital media and culture, metafiction has evolved as a storytelling technique. By posing questions about technology, and the nature of interactivity and agency, both comics urge their readers to reflect on their structure and possibilities.