Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Meredith Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steven Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jarod Rosello, Ph.D.


Graphic Novel, Symbols, Tattoos, Visual Rhetoric


This dissertation seeks to understand how an image becomes a meaning-making actant. By tracing the lifecycle of an image starting with its production, I analyze how the image changes and transforms as it circulates and enters into new and sometimes unexpected relationships. Specifically, I look at the NC logo, an image found in the popular comic book Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro. The NC logo, which stands for “non-compliant,” is a fictitious symbol used on prisoner uniforms in the science-fiction comic series, and marks women who have failed to conform to societal guidelines set by a patriarchal ruling class. The logo helped to create a thriving fandom consisting of members who proudly tattoo the NC logo permanently on their skin. Throughout this project I ask: 1) How did the NC logo become a meaning-making actant?; 2) What can we learn about the lifecycle of an image by witnessing its production?; and 3) What does the NC logo’s instantiation as a tattoo tell us about the rhetorical agency of images? In order to answer these questions, I conducted a series of interviews with the creator of the logo, Valentine de Landro, and nine fans who sport the logo as a tattoo. The participants in this study provided in-depth insight into how the NC logo moved from the pages of a comic to a transformative, agentive actant in the form of a tattoo. By studying the complete lifecycle of an image, from inception to reception, I am able to consider both the human and nonhuman actors that help to shape and, in some cases, even reconstitute and reimagine the image both in terms of its appearance and its meaning.

The conclusions drawn in this study have pedagogical and analytical implications for technical communication and visual rhetoric students and scholars.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons