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“Can one still laugh about everything?” by Eszter Szép

A report on the Symposium at the Ohio State University on Charlie Hebdo and the terrorist attacks of January 7th 2015

The Charles Schulz auditorium, just above the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at the Ohio State University (OSU), served as the venue of a mini-symposium on 19 February 2015 on the attack against Charlie Hebdo. This is a place where comics is in the air, and so is the need for dialogue: as event organizer Jared Gardner, professor at the Department of English & the Film Studies Program, highlighted, the symposium was called into being by the need to have a conversation and to share learned opinions on events that have stirred debates in society, in academia, and in the comics community. Conversation is what makes universities necessary, added Gardner, and it was in this spirit that he invited scholars with different perspectives and backgrounds to discuss the events of January 7th.

The symposium started with a lecture by Mark McKinney, professor of French at Miami University, co-editor of European Comic Art, and author of The Colonial Heritage of French Comics and Redrawing French Empire in Comics. The subsequent roundtable helped us to see the magazine and the terrorist attack as complex cultural phenomena that can be approached and interpreted very differently between disciplines. The participants were Daniele Marx-Scouras, from the Department of French and Italian, OSU; Youssef Yacoubi, from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, OSU; Erik Nisbet, School of Communication, OSU; and Caitlin McGurk, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library.

Mark McKinney’s lecture, entitled “Race, Religion and Charlie Hebdo,” served as a detailed and visually demonstrated defense of Charlie Hebdo against attacks of racism. McKinney argued for interpreting the magazine in the French, more closely in the Parisian, context where it came from; he introduced us to the history of the magazine, and showed us an array of works by various Charlie Hebdo cartoonists that demonstrate their sensitivity to issues of religion and race. McKinney showed that the main focus of the magazine’s satire was not religious; rather, it featured a vast array of social and political topics. From the various examples that McKinney showed us let me mention Luz’s (Rénald Luzier) anti-racist cartooning, and his satirizing the French far right and Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Charlie Hebdo’s stance towards religion is not easy to judge outside of context. One particularly ironic comic strip created by artists working for the magazine represents Catholic fundamentalists protesting against a certain blasphemous theatrical production and Muslim fundamentalists demonstrating in support of the Catholics. This strip allows insight into the magazine’s general view of religious fundamentalism, be it Christian or Muslim, as essentially similar, harmful and aggressive. McKinney claims that the magazine was a lot more disrespectful and harsher in its treatment of Catholicism than in its treatment of the Islam, its criticism forever backed by faith in the freedom of expression. In 2011, Charlie Hebdo was attacked; the office was firebombed, and the cartoonists received death threats. The spark for the attack was the magazine’s “Charia Hebdo” issue published on 2 November 2011, which listed Muhammed as one of its editors. In response to the Libyan politician Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s statement that Libya would adopt sharia as basis of its lawmaking, the cover, drawn by Luz, featured a cartoon of the prophet saying: “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing.” The magazine also had repeated lawsuits involving both Catholic and Muslim communities, yet a court ruled that Charlie Hebdo appears to be free of any deliberate attempt to offend Muslims as a group. Moreover, two editorials highlighted that Muslims themselves are the major victims of fundamentalism, while the cartoonist Cabu’s (Jean Cabut) works can clearly be inserted in the history of anti-racist cartooning in France. The fact that Cabu was aware of the touchiness of satirical cartooning is reflected by his question in his last publication: “Can one still laugh about everything?”

Finally, in a revealing twist, McKinney inserted Charlie Hebdo in the context of some explicitly racist far right French cartoons, shedding new light on the various images that have been introduced to us either by him or by any website in the past month. Attacking post-colonial minorities has been a favorite topic of far-right cartoonists since the 1980s. Political cartoonist Chard (Françoise Pichard), whose comics have been published in far-right weeklies, is a mouthpiece for homophobic ideologies. In the name of a homogenous white conservative society she racializes minorities in a way that lets her get away with it – and she never satirizes Catholics.

The roundtable that followed the lecture was a really productive and engaging discussion of cultural heritage, minorities, literary traditions and the exhibition commemorating the artists of Charlie Hebdo in Angoulême. Daniele Marx-Scouras argued that the attack against the French satirical magazine should not be discussed in isolation, but in relation to Western foreign policy in the Middle East. Her provocative question, why is it this event that got media coverage, and not others, was left unanswered. She also raised the issue of the French citizenship of Lassana Bathily, the Malian grocery worker who saved a great number of lives: in her interpretation the gesture of giving him citizenship on the 20th of January shows a model of how the majority imagines the successful integration of minorities: one has to risk one’s life to earn acceptance.

In his fascinating ten minutes Youssef Yacoubi was looking for manifestations of the incomprehensibility of Eastern and Western cultural traditions – the differences in conceptions about certain things – highlighting three fields of tension: humor, the understanding of violence (based on Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh’s Writing of Violence in the Middle East,) and the crisis of knowledge within the Islamic tradition. This crisis touches upon the most cardinal issues, such as authority, representation, and  freedom. As humor is an area where these issues meet and clash, Yacoubi asked if we are all equal before humor – and answered by drawing a distinction between satire, the humor of the elite of society; and the humor of the immigrant, which aims at mobilizing the energy of marginalization to satirize his/her own community as well as the broader society. Quoting the Syrian poet Adonis, Yacoubi went on to discuss differences in the Western, post-enlightened perceptions of violence and the heritage of Islam. “I am the hour of dreadful agitation and shaking loose of minds,” wrote Adonis. “This is what I am: Uniting strangeness with strangeness” – are the final lines of Adonis’s poem, giving voice to the degree of incomprehensibility involved in dialogues between East and West. At the end of his talk, Yacoubi argued for what he called intellectual patience in this present time of tension, the practice of resisting one’s first emotive response.

The next speaker, Erik Nisbet examined the media event of the attack and the phenomena of islamophobia and anti-Americanism from a social scientist’s perspective. In strong opposition to McKinney’s lecture, he argued that Charlie Hebdo was a victim of and a vehicle for the alienation and not the acculturation of minorities. Yet we should not forget that media provide a reflection of society, and Charlie Hebdo channeled the expectation existing in French society that anyone can be a Frenchman, but they have to accept French culture (even if French culture is criticizing one’s original culture.) Nisbet also called attention to the fact that Charlie Hebdo satirized all religion, in a country where the free expression of religion is limited for certain groups, for example the wearing of the headscarf in an educational setting is forbidden by law. He also highlighted the importance of considering the social status of Muslim minorities in France and in the EU: in France 5-10% of the population is Muslim, however, the proportion of them in prisons is much larger. Similarly, Nisbet problematized the ethos of satirizing all religion by stating that there exists a difference between satirizing the religion of power, i.e. Catholicism, and the religion of a minority (the history of racial tension and struggle was elaborated on by many speakers of the event.)

Caitlin McGurk, the last participant of the roundtable, talked about her personal experiences at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, where an exhibition was put up in just ten days to commemorate the dead cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo. McGurk had the luck to talk to one of the organizers of the exhibition, who told her that he was really frustrated by the hysteria over the magazine. Four weeks before the attack no one cared about Charlie Hebdo; they were on the outs, they were not considered stable and had serious financial problems, and now people seem to be too fond of it.

In his closing remarks Jared Gardner projected a Charlie Hebdo cover that shows a person with oil in one of his hands and fire in the other, while a textual insert labels the drawing as “The origins of humor.” As Gardner showed, putting the two together might be a good joke, but its first victim is bound to be the joker himself. The cover suggests that the artists of Charlie Hebdo understood that humor and satire are related to the Molotov cocktail in more than one ways. The cartoonists were aware that  their work could have the potential to blow things up, even themselves. Similarly, the cover the magazine appeared with after the 2011 attack, a cover showing a person in a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt kissing a Muslim person, can be interpreted as a hint at the relationship of mutualism between free speech and terrorism or violence. These covers and interpretations complicate some of the immediate and heated reactions articulated directly after the attack and call for a re-examination of the perception of the magazine as well as the attack against it.

Eszter Szép is a PhD student at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She earned her M.A.s at the same institution in English Language and Literature (2008) and in Hungarian Language and Literature (2010). Her research focuses on vulnerability, materiality and the role of touch in 21st century graphic narratives. Eszter is an active member of the really small yet devoted Hungarian comics community, is a board member of the Hungarian Comics Association, and is one of the organizers of the International Comics Festival Budapest. With her reviews, interviews and lectures she tries to raise the acceptance of comics in Hungary.

 
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Posted by on 2015/03/21 in Guest Writers

 

The International Bande Dessinée Society: February 2015 by Lisa Tannahill and Chris O’Neill

Welcome to the second edition of the International Bande Dessinée Society column, a look back at developments in the world of bande dessinée (francophone comics) scholarship and research.

No retrospective examination of the year in bande dessinée can overlook the tragic events of January 2015: the shooting at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The events and their ramifications have been discussed endlessly in the press, and discussion of the political or wider global effects of the attack is far beyond the remit of this column. However, the deaths of Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (Tignous) and Philippe Honoré represent a huge loss for not only Charlie Hebdo but the wider world of bande dessinée. Several of them were key figures in the development of post-war bande dessinée and wider visual culture in France. For example, Cabu and Wolinski’s work appeared in Charlie Hebdo from its beginnings in 1969 as well as its predecessor Hara-Kiri. Cabu and Charb, along with economist Bernard Maris, who was also killed, were instrumental in the resurrection of Charlie Hebdo in 1992 (publication had ceased in 1981). It is this incarnation which continues to the present day. Charlie Hebdo represents a particularly French tradition of satirical cartooning which lost many of its most important figures in the attacks. If you would like to know more about Charlie Hebdo and its place in French culture, Berghahn has published an informative blog post by Mark McKinney (University of Miami, Ohio) at their site, as well as making available two articles from European Comic Art: a history of the journal and its politics, as well as an interview with Cabu.

Festivals

This year, as every year, the biggest event in the bande dessinée calendar was the Angoulême festival, with 2015 marking its 42nd outing. Japanese artist Katsuhiro Otomo won the festival’s Grand Prix, the first manga cartoonist to win a lifetime achievement award, and prizes were also awarded to works by Riad Sattouf, Bastien Vivès and Chris Ware, amongst others. In remembrance of the attacks in Paris, the festival created a special award, the Prix Charlie Hebdo de la Liberté D’Expression. This special Grand Prix was given to Stéphane Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut, Bernard Verlhac and Philippe Honoré to commemorate their achievements in the field of bande dessinée.

There are so many bande dessinée fairs, conventions and festivals in France and Belgium that it becomes impossible to keep track of all of them. One interesting example is SoBD (Salon des Ouvrages sur la Bande Dessinée), a 3-day festival that has been organised for the past four years by the bande dessinée website Stripologie.com and the eponymous Association SoBD.

The main focus of SoBD is not works of bande dessinée, but rather literature about bande dessinée: theoretical works, monographs, technical manuals, books on the history of the medium, etc. Attendees are able to buy many bande dessinées and much associated literature, and also attend various exhibitions and talks by those involved in bande dessinée publication, conservation and analysis. The guest of honour for this latest event was David B., author of Epileptic. There were also exhibitions on the work of bande dessinée creators Vincent Pompetti (La Guerre des Gaulles) and Christian Maucler (Les Enquêtes du Commissaire Raffini).

Exhibitions

For the first time, the Archives Nationales in Paris are holding an exhibition on collaboration in France during the Second World War. The exhibition, which runs from the 26th November 2014 until the 5th April 2015, looks at the various economic, political, military and cultural aspects of Vichy France, the German Occupation and collaboration. This includes a focus upon the cartoonists producing work during the Occupation, particularly Ralph Soupault and Enem. The exhibition of cartoonists’ work published in the form of newspaper comics, leaflets and posters produced during les années noires is the first of its kind, and an excellent opportunity to understand how the medium survived and thrived during the period, as a tool for propaganda. The exhibition explores the authorised comics and bande dessinée published in France between 1940 and 1944, providing an important counterweight to the more prevalent examinations of resistance comics in the same period.

Research and Conferences

This summer will see the Sixth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference and the Ninth International Bande Dessinée Society Conference held at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). The conference theme is Voyages, analysing the link between sequential art and the voyage, as well as the broader notion of voyage, moving past the geographical definition into the metaphysical. The conference welcomes papers covering all forms of comics, the graphic novel, and bande dessinée. Fittingly, the conference extended its deadline for the submission of proposals in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in order to incorporate papers addressing these recent events and facilitate greater academic discussion of this difficult yet important event in French and bande dessinée history.

The second half of 2014 saw a number of new books published on various aspects of bande dessinée. Of particular interest is Leuven University Press’s new series, Studies in European Comics and Graphic Novels. Two books from the series have been published so far: The French Comic Theory Reader, edited by Ann Miller and Bart Beaty, and Sfar So Far: Identity, History, Fantasy and Mimesis in Joann Sfar’s Graphic Novels by Fabrice Leroy. The series, whose titles are to be published in English, will investigate comics within a variety of national and historical contexts: future publications include works on 19th Century graphic narratives and British girls’ comics. The two titles already published present an important step forward for bande dessinée scholarship in English. The French Comics Theory Reader gathers together several French texts on bande dessinée and translates them into English for the first time. Many major figures in bande dessinée scholarship are represented (including Thierry Groensteen, Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle, Jan Baetens, Pascal Lefèvre, and Francis Lacassin, amongst others). Some texts are ‘classics’, key texts in the study of French comics, while some are brand new and published here for the first time. The Reader is particularly valuable as an English-language resource on the francophone comic. It opens up the field of bande dessinée to those who do not speak French, presenting a wealth of information on graphic narratives and scholarship which remain obscure in the English-speaking world.

Sfar So Far is also an important work, as it is the first scholarly book published (in French or in English) on the work of Joann Sfar ( The Rabbi’s Cat, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life). It includes sections on Sfar’s portrayal of Jewish identity, his representations of history and memory, intertextuality and the use of archetypal figures (the devil, the wizard, etc), as well as an interview with the creator himself.

In terms of francophone scholarship, in 2014 Les Impressions Nouvelles published M. Töpffer invente la bande dessinée by Thierry Groensteen. The new book is an updated reworking of Groensteen’s work with Benoit Peeters, Töpffer: L’Invention de la Bande Dessinée (1994), with Peeters’ contribution replaced by a section on those influenced by Topffer’s work. Topffer has widely been argued to be the father of bande dessinée, so this examination of later works helps to explore the development of the bande dessineé medium from his work through the nineteenth and twentieth century.

In the 30 years since the death of Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, the secondary literature on his most famous creation, Tintin, has become mountainous. With both the amateur and the experienced tintinophile in mind, August 2014 witnessed the publication of Tintin, Bibliographie d’un Mythe by Dominique Cerbelaud and Olivier Roche. This work aims to categorise all the existing secondary literature surrounding Tintin, as well as studies into the author himself. The Bibliographie covers 400 individual works, chronicling their content, significance, strengths and weaknesses. This important bibliographical work is an excellent tool for academics new to the field as well as those looking to further explore the existing Tintin literature to date.

Until our next column in August, we would like to suggest ways of keeping on top of upcoming publications. Comicalité is an online journal which contains academic articles on francophone comics, exploring the medium in general as well as the links between anglophone and francophone sequential art. The journal includes important articles from luminaries like Thierry Crépin and Pascal Lefèvre.

Lisa Tannahill is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on representations of the peripheral French regions in francophone bande dessinée, particularly Brittany, Corsica, their respective regional identities, and France’s historical attitude towards its periphery. Other interests include gender and postcolonial issues in the bande dessinée and graphic representations of the World Wars.

Chris O’Neill is a PhD student at Aston University, Birmingham. His research focuses on the development of newspaper cartooning in France between 1920 and 1944, particularly the impact of Candide and Gringoire during this period. Other areas of interest include representations of political figures and conflict in bande dessinée, and right-wing French politics in the inter-war period.

 

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Experiments in Digital Comics: Somewhere between Comics and Multimedia Storytelling by Jakob F. Dittmar

This paper looks at a few experiments on comics-storytelling in digital comics. The paper starts with introducing aspects from media psychology and research on technical documentation to look into the narrative and graphic structure of comics and touches on the characteristics of digital media before focusing on specific examples in more detail.

It can be said that a lot of digital and analogue comics constantly experiment on formal and narrative options. This is most obvious where elements of other narrative media get included (see Dittmar 2012 for a more thorough discussion of digital comics). The growing spectrum of forms offers more and more areas to use comics for: not only fictional but also non-fictional issues are communicated increasingly often in comics. For instance, maintenance manuals and assembly instructions for all kinds of artefacts are provided in sequential images more and more (see Schwender 2007, also: Jüngst 2010) – they are much easier to read than descriptive texts, as no translation of text into visual information is done, but the artefact in question and its parts are depicted and can be recognised easily.

Digital Comics Experiments

Obviously, not only digital comics but also analogue forms constantly experiment on and expand formal and narrative options. But in digital comics elements of other narrative media can be included quite easily as long as they are available as digital information as well. Also, distinct presentation media can be employed, like smartphones with their specific screen formats and standard image resolutions.

Two screens taken from Tom Wallgren's "Urgent Delivery”

Dittmar2 Two screens taken from Tom Wallgren’s “Urgent Delivery”

 

Tom Wallgren wrote and produced “Urgent Delivery” during a comics-course at Malmö University specifically to be read on smart-phones. The format of the images is adjusted to make the most of these screens – and accordingly, their size limits options for juxtaposed pictorial sequence. The dramaturgical development is built around this peculiarity: Almost all images are placed one per screen and only a few double images are used in the story. These combine our experience of split-screen from film with the diagonal frames between images in mainstream action comics. The story makes the most of each individual stage – images use the options of light and colour-intensity that only a screen can guarantee. To achieve the same colour-qualities in print would be quite expensive (starting with the need for high quality glossy paper).

The example below by Oscar Lagerström Carlsson and Felix Strandberg, also from one of our comics-courses, allows the reader to choose the narrative perspective onto the story. In this example, it is not the visual plane that is changed but the textual content – the reader can select whether to read the story with accompanying narrator’s comments or with direct speech of the depicted figures included. A blend of the two is also possible, adding a more text-centred version to the two image-centred narrations. In the result, three different modes are offered: the first showing all dialogue and conversations of the figures with each other, the second being an internal monologue, in which the main figure’s perspective is used as the narrator’s voice for the story, and a third in which the previous two forms are added onto each other. Each results in quite a different experience of the narration, without using different images at all.

Oscar L. Carlsson & Felix Strandberg allow for different narrative settings for the same visual material – here: [selectable narrator:dialogue]

 

The second text-perspective offered by Oscar L. Carlsson & Felix Strandberg in their comic: <monologue: first-person narrator

The second text-perspective offered by Oscar L. Carlsson & Felix Strandberg in their comic: [monologue: first-person narrator]

 

The combination of the two previous text-layers by Oscar L. Carlsson & Felix Strandberg:

The combination of the two previous text-layers by Oscar L. Carlsson & Felix Strandberg: [first-person narrator & dialogue combined]

Beyond Comics Definitions

Experiments on narrative forms partly challenge and even change established definitions of what comics are and what might easiest be described as mixed media storytelling. It has to be asked whether the established definitions of comics are fitting for the various forms of digital and web-comics or whether we are witnessing the establishment of a new literary form, which is neither film nor comic nor audio storytelling. Computer-based forms of comics that allow for readers’ choices in the development of narration (i.e. interactivity) usually switch easily (and often) between push and pull aspects of the medium (readers have to choose actively to be able to read further).

If we describe comics in the abstract for a moment, we can describe images as a blend of para-social and socio-culturally coded information, while written texts consist only of socio-culturally coded visual information. Some signs are understood without having to learn their meaning; basic emotions (fear, happiness, anger and despair) for example are understood by all humans in all the world, while other codes and messages depend on cultural learning – languages and writing for example: The difference between pre-social and socio-cultural recognition (for details see e.g. Berghaus 1986 and Boehm 1994, esp. 325 ff.). The visual rhetoric of comics can use elements from all kinds of codes and other visual depictions, even empty spaces. For the reader these need to be de-codable, otherwise the story can get misunderstood – or is not understood at all.

The structural basis for comics-storytelling is rather simple, while the difficulties are given in the interweaving (“tressage”, Groensteen 1999). It turns out to be slightly more difficult to describe the way in which images relate to other images. The way relations are constructed between individual places in the narration (“la spatio-topie”) and between narrative elements and themes (“l’arthrologie”) (Groensteen 1999). As Helena Magnusson summarised: ‘The first is about spatial relations, the second about semantic relation’ (Magnusson 2005: 42) – within each specific comic. The linearity or non-linearity of relations between events is crucial: it gives structure to the story itself, this in turn causes decisions on how to interrelate scenes and figures’ appearances within the narration.

This might sound more complicated than it is, but keep in mind that every comic is constructed from elements that are placed on various structural layers that are overlaying each other. These are comparable to “cells” – transparent sheets – in analogue animation film, but do not separate into different stages within a movement (e.g., the different positions of the leg in movement). Instead, the different layers are separated according to their internal visibility, i.e. within the narration: the images themselves, images inserted into images, texts written into images (e.g. sound-words), texts in frames (comments by narrator) and as a different group which is visually related quite closely: texts in bubbles. These can be separated into representations of speech and into thoughts. And if we understand the elements of comics storytelling to be placed on separate layers, we can more easily understand the potential of each of these elements within the construction of a story.

The smallest unit in comics-storytelling is the individual image that is limited by its frame (see Dittmar 2011 for a more detailed discussion of units in comics storytelling). There always are frames, only some of them are not decorated – but each image stops somewhere in some specific manner or style. The narrative development – the dramaturgy – of each comic is built from sequencing frames: They allow for narrative punctuation of the story, for visualising rhythm and structure of events.

Accordingly, the composition of each image has to be analysed or planned. Also, the style of drawing (or other graphical production methods) is crucial for the narrative and the construction of atmosphere: The depicted lighting conditions, the colouring, the choice of tools and reproduction media. And of course the point of view (incl. tilted and other framings) chosen for each individual image and sequence. Each page is an image containing several images – all the different names for full pages relate to concepts of comics-structure: the page as “hyperframe” (or “hypercadre” in Peeters 2003), “meta panel” or “super panel” (Eisner 2004), etc.

The depiction of physical environment does of course offer all the pictorial information on the placement of figures in whatever surrounding, while sounds can become physical (figures are hurt by sound, sometimes), but usually are on a separate layer, close to the speech balloons that represent direct speech. Thoughts are separate from these again, readers understand them to be visualised for their benefit, they are usually not imagined to be readable by the other figures within the comic, just like narrator’s comments, which are rather textual information that is framing the image in question and relating it to other aspects of the narration (Dittmar 2011: 179-182). Each of these layers is representing specific aspects of the situation and all of them do have their specific properties – as can be seen in comics which leave out one of these layers to tell their story with a distinct reduction of information.

On a more media-specific level, it has become obvious that the boundaries between comics and multimedia or even games are blurring (see e.g. Goodbrey 2014 for a discussion of this development). Comics’ definitions so far (e.g. in Groensteen, Carrier, McCloud; see Dittmar 2011 for a detailed discussion of comics definitions) do allow for, but do not discuss the consequences of floating or flexible page layouts for the dramaturgy of stories. Digital comics can follow these conventions or break them by introducing a different pacing of story-arcs that would not fit on printed formats. Decisions about the number of images and their placing and style are crucial for the storytelling style of each comic as each new page works as a meta-panel (or meta-image) that consists of all its individual images and combination of their designs (“mise-en-page”). Digital comics can allow for floating images on the page and variability in image-sizes. As a result, content of a page no longer sets the narrative structure of comics for each reader, but each gets to see a different depiction of the page according to the individual settings of the browser. The discussion about the applicability of classes of page styles cannot be repeated here, but remember the basic forms of page styles as either regulated or constant, as decorative, as rhetoric, or as productive (cf. Peeters 2003). Defining styles helps to discuss the frame-structure not only of each page, but also of the full comic (strip or album alike). These can be seen as a multiframe (“multicadre”, “multicadre feuilleté”: van Lier 1988) which is the comic‘s skeleton (Magnusson 2005).

It might be necessary to point out that printed and similar comics do cause different comics definitions than digital comics do. Definitions for digital comics are deducted from and related to the “classic” definitions, of course, but as medial demands and options are distinctly different with digital media, definitions have to adjust. The ongoing debate on digital comics is doing just that: it is testing established theories (comics definitions amongst other issues) to adjust them to describe current practices in digital comics.

To include hidden text that is shown when the mouse-pointer is dragged over it (the “alt-function”) seems not to be a challenge to comics-definitions. But including sounds, spoken texts, and music as accoustic and not as visual information causes a problem, as non-visual information is added. Is a comic still a comic if it includes moving images or sound-bites? Can it be a film, if the reader determines her/his individual speed of reading – especially if the images are placed juxtaposed? Karl-Johan Thole suggested on the current course on “Digital Comics” at Malmö University the following condition to mark the boundary between digital comics (which possibly include animated images) and animation film: ‘The reader should be able to look at the picture at any time of the animation and take in the whole meaning of the picture. So that the reader can read the comic without having to stop to watch a longer animation play’.

This condition limits the extent to which animated content can get included into a comic without turning it into film. From looking at many of the comics that are published on the internet, it is obvious that animated sequences of up to a minute are quite popular with the makers of these stories. But does this turn them into comics with short film sequences – or rather into stories told in multimedia? From a film perspective, most of the information and action in these stories is given in the comics-sections, while the animated bits mostly add atmosphere to the story, but only limited story-development.

Advanced interactivity might turn digital comics into games

Not only digital but also analogue comic-formats constantly experiment on and expand formal and narrative options. New options arrive with our changing uses of all kinds of media. They all result in options to tell stories in new or different ways. Especially with digital comics, elements of other narrative media get included; moving images or sound effects are interlinked with the dramaturgical development of the story. Also, distinct presentation-media are employed, for example mobile phones that are used as computer-and-screen-units in connection with the internet (not as phones, obviously). Often, interactivity is a crucial quality, e.g. visual planes can be selectable, or perspectives onto the story and its development – this area is closely linked to developments of games and might be rather more than multi-medial storytelling or digital comics. With growing interactivity the intended narrative sequence and dramaturgy gets communicated less safely, as the reader turns into a user that decides on the sequence of events and even on what might happen and what not. And when that stage is reached, we no longer talk about literature, but about games.

Sources

Berghaus, Margot (1986): “Zur Theorie der Bildrezeption. Ein anthropologischer Erklärungsversuch für die Faszination des Fernsehens.” in: Publizistik Jg.31, Heft 3-4: 278-295.

Boehm, Gottfried (1994): Was ist ein Bild? München: Fink.

Carrier, David (2000): The Aesthetics of Comics. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Dittmar, Jakob F. (2011): Comic-Analyse. Konstanz: UVK.

Dittmar, Jakob F. (2012): “Digital Comics” in: Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art (SJoCA), Winter 2012; 82–91.

Eisner, Will (2004): Comics and Sequential Art. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press.

Goodbrey, Daniel Merlin (2014): “Game Comics: An Analysis of an Emergent Hybrid Form” in: Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, Vol 5, Issue 4.

Groensteen, Thierry (1999): Système de la Bande Dessinée. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Jüngst, Heike Elisabeth (2010): Information Comics. Frankfurt et al.: Peter Lang.

Magnusson, Helena (2005): Berättande Bilder. Göteborg & Stockholm: Makadam.

McCloud, Scott (1993): Understanding Comics. New York: Harper Collins.

Peeters, Benoît (2003): Lire la Bande Dessinnée. Paris: Flammarion.

Schwender, Clemens; Ulrich Bühring (2007): Lust auf Lesen. Die lesemotivierende Gestaltung von Technischer Dokumentation. Lübeck: Schmidt-Römhild.

Van Lier, Henri (1988): “La Bande Dessinée, une Cosmogénie Dure” in: Bande Dessinée, Récits et Modernité. Colloque de Cerisy. URL (16.09.2014): http://www.anthropogenie.com/anthropogenie_locale/semiotique/bande_dessinee.pdf

Jakob F. Dittmar studied British Studies, Religion, et al. in Oldenburg and Exeter. PhD in science of arts in Essen. Venia legendi and facultas docendi in media science on comics-analysis and on en-passant-media at TU Berlin. Assoc. prof. and senior lecturer at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University.

 
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Posted by on 2015/03/14 in Guest Writers

 

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Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach by Masafumi Monden

Shōjo manga varies in style and genre.[1] But despite this diversity, there is a certain conception of shōjo manga aesthetics, dominated by images of flowers, ribbons, fluttering hem skirts, and innocent-looking girls with large, staring eyes.[2] Traditionally, the beginning of shōjo manga has been equated with Tezuka Osamu’s Princess Knight (Ribon no kishi), but more recent studies have instead focused on prior texts,[3] namely the creations of Takahashi Macoto, who was influenced by the so-called lyrical illustrations (jojōga) of artists such as Nakahara Jun’ichi, Takabatake Kashō and Takehisa Yumeji.[4] Manga influenced by jojōga have arguably prioritized visual qualities.[5]

The importance of visual qualities has increasingly been recognized in shōjo manga studies.[6] However, most critical examinations of shōjo manga place emphasis on the role of narrative structure and representation of gender. This applies particularly to those who read shōjo manga as a medium to challenge conventional gender roles. As Iwashita Hōsei points out, female manga researchers especially have tended to focus on biological and socially constructed gender (2013a: 58). This column discusses two such works, Fujimoto Yukari’s Where is my place in the world? (1998, revised edition 2008) and Oshiyama Michiko’s Discussion of Gender Representation in Shōjo Manga: Forms of “Cross-dressed Girls” and Identity (2007, revised edition 2013).

While studies of shōjo manga have been around since the 1970s, it is still a new and developing discipline. However, on closer inspection, a pattern emerges. Studies of shōjo manga, both in Japanese and English, particularly but not exclusively by female scholars, examine the genre as a subversion of patriarchal order which is assumed to limit young women to a state of powerlessness due to their fixation on “female” gender.[7] As stated by Takeuchi (2010: 96), such reading of shōjo manga usually focuses on works published in the 1970s, notably gender bending narratives about boys in love with other boys (e.g. Hagio and Takemiya’s famous works), or cross-dressed heroines (as Ikeda Riyoko’s The Rose of Versailles). This discursive trajectory then leads to the “queer” genres of Boys’ Love (BL, or yaoi) or more recent fighting heroines in male attire.[8] Conversely, this leads to a lack of scholarly interest in “typical” or “conventional” shōjo manga, typified by flowers, ribbons, and innocent girls with large, staring eyes.

Remarkably enough, those who use shōjo manga to challenge conventional gender norms often revoke “girlish qualities,” and by implication (girlish) femininity. For example, shifting the focus from the specific 1970s titles to BL or cross-dressed fighting girls in the late 1990s, and from there to more recent shōjo manga, sidelines the majority of 1980s and 1990s shōjo manga. That period was predominated by so-called school-life narratives set in Japan, in continuation of the “maiden-esque” (otomechikku) style of the 1970s.[9] Perhaps because of their emphasis on girlish qualities, such mainstream shōjo manga like Honda Keiko’s Moon night, starry dawn (Tsuki no yoru hoshi no asa, 1983-5) have been perceived as less subversive than the ones which visually, and hence explicitly, blur the distinction between masculine and feminine.

The underlying perception of (girlish) femininity as unfavorable, is exemplified in the monographs by Fujimoto Yukari and Oshiyama Michiko. Fujimoto’s Where is my place in the world? (1998), one of the most frequently cited works in shōjo manga studies. Based on her extensive experience as a magazine editor, Fujimoto offers close readings of shōjo manga through the concept of gender. Her book illuminates changes in shōjo manga, and rather than merely following the usual trajectory of shōjo manga discourse (starting from the 1970s and jumping into the 2000s), she casts light on understudied artists such as Nishitani Yoshiko, Ichijō Yukari, Matsunae Akemi, and Shimizu Reiko. Moreover, her analysis of shōjo manga pursues not just one, but several representational issues, including romance, growing up, family, society, career, and female relationships. Fujimoto’s analysis is strongly influenced by her personal experiences as an informed reader “who has immersed herself in reading shōjo manga for 30 years”(190). In other words, her reading of manga is neither supported by solid social, cultural, or historical evidence, nor by a theoretical framework. Furthermore, due to her initial position as an editor and manga critic, her writings may be classed as journalism rather than scholarship. In addition, Fujimoto tends to describe her personal reading history as a shared experience among female readers, as distinct from male readers who supposedly do not read shōjo manga.

Fujimoto argues that shōjo manga represents girl readers’ fear of sexuality, and hence their perception of “femininity,” a word which she uses almost synonymously with “female sexuality” in a derogatory tone (50). For Fujimoto, shōjo manga is a medium for women, a text that reflects the values of women most accurately, including the ideology of romance, which teaches female readers to dedicate themselves to love, whether mutual or unrequited (14). Men, she writes, do not fall into that “trap” because they know romance is another name for lust (25). Her negative casting of “femininity” is also evident in her interpretation of Boys’ Love, where she endorses the view that “beautiful boys” in shōjo manga (and yaoi) are nothing more than girls without the female body, and are hence liberated from (unfavorable) feminine sexuality, which for her is synonymous with passivity and objectification in the beginning (142-3).

Takahashi rightly notes that critics like Fujimoto (and Yokomori Rika in a similar way) overestimate the power of shōjo manga narratives in influencing their readers while undervaluing their visual properties (2008: 134). In addition, as Takemiya Keiko states, manga is a popular media, aiming at appealing to a wider audience (2011: 96). This latter remark relates to the necessity for manga of staying sensitive to social trends and creating an affinity between the readership and its contents. It also illuminates the fundamental characteristic of manga, let alone shōjo manga: to entertain. Moreover, even among female readers, reading experiences of shōjo manga can differ depending on factors such as social status, generation, and taste. In this regard, Fujimoto’s almost fan-like approach actually indicates how readers make sense of shōjo manga differently.

Fujimoto mentions that the aim of her book is to trace changes in shōjo manga through the themes of romance, sexuality, family, and business, and she begins with the description of “genuine” shōjo manga works (by Nishitani Shōko and Ichijō Yukari) (4). However, in the chapter where career is concerned, she uses manga clearly not targeted at girls, but more precisely described as “women’s (josei) manga” – probably because she attempts to illustrate the deviation of shōjo manga from works where hetero-sexual romance was a quintessential tool to affirm the identity of the insecure and passive girl, to those where the girl has started to actively claim a “place for herself.” This raises questions about what shōjo manga, after all, is.

There seems to be a growing concern about this issue. Kan et al. (2012), Iwashita (2013a), and  Kuramochi (2013) offer the following definitions: Kuramochi, a curator at Kyoto International Manga Museum and specialist in shōjo manga, cites the museum’s criteria of: “works that are initially published in shōjo manga magazines” (2013: 203). This is based on a media studies approach with a special focus on readership, which Iwashita also utilizes. But manga are increasingly published without specific age and gender targets or format specifications (e.g. online). Correspondingly, Kuramochi suggests defining shōjo manga as graphic narratives that turn on the “maiden (otome) switch,” triggering dreamy, girlish imaginations (204). Visual properties are, quite obviously, essential for such imaginations.

Oshiyama Michiko’s study of cross-dressed heroines in shōjo manga (2007) takes a path similar to Fujimoto’s. Her work offers extensive data on shōjo manga featuring female characters in male attire from the 1950s to 2000s, with interviews with the artists (particularly Ikeda Riyoko) and reader comments published in magazines. Oshiyama’s numerous examples of manga works, most of which were initially published in such shōjo-targeted magazines like Nakayoshi, Margaret, LaLa, and Chao, correspond with Kuramochi’s general definition of shōjo manga and thus are more “typical” than Fujimoto’s. It is quite obvious, however, that Oshiyama, too, tends to perceive (girlish) femininity as a negative quality that restricts women. In such a view, “masculinity” equates to intelligence, agency, and independence while “femininity” equates to passivity, dependence, and oppression. For Oshiyama, Oscar in The Rose of Versailles (Berusaiyu no bara, 1972-3), a cross-dressed heroine who becomes the commander of the Royal Guard and is responsible for the safety of Marie Antoinette in France on the eve of the Revolution, is the “first” example of a cross-dressed young woman who truly possesses both masculine and feminine attributes, and is unrestricted by the conventional gender norms (209). Another manga to which Oshiyama pays particular attention is Saitō Chiho’s Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shōjo kakumei Utena, 1996-8) in which a teenage girl dressed in male school uniform engages in a series of sword duels whose winner will receive the “power to revolutionize the world.” According to Oshiyama (278), after Utena, the heroine in male attire that had challenged the established notions of gender became rare while the theme of cross-dressing continued to exist in manga such as Nakajo Hisaya’s Hana-Kimi (Hanazakari no kimitachi e, 1996-2004) and Hatori Bisco’s Ouran High School Host Club (Ouran kōkō hosuto kurabu, 2002-10). But here, the concept of cross-dressing has become a fashionable prop to make the narrative more dramatic. The loss of gender-subversive challenge is further highlighted in the 2013 revised edition of Oshiyama’s book where she provides a close analysis of Hatori’s work.

Although focusing on cross-dressing, Oshiyama does not pay much attention to dress (apart from the ribbons and dresses of Tezuka’s Princess Knight and Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles). Instead, she substantiates gender differences by means of differently depicted chins, eyes, and eyelashes. Eyes are important in shōjo manga [10], but as their rendering can vary between artists, they might not be the most reliable analytical tool for examining gender-related meanings. Moreover, Oshiyama seems to imply a one-dimensional appearance of femininity with Oscar being the only character able to assume both female and male traits according to context and partner. Her argument can be summarised thus: male attire indicates the female character is liberated and active, while female dress suggests she is oppressed and passive. This is particularly notable in Oshiyama’s analysis of The Rose of Versailles where she perceives the frill and lace-clad female characters as being “trapped” in conventional femininity (2007: 184). Both Fujimoto (134) and Oshiyama emphasize the importance of cross-dressed heroines in shōjo manga, and both argue that the history of shōjo manga begins with a princess in male attire. However, though cross-dressing has been vital, it has also been overemphasized. In fact, other genres have been likewise important, such as ballet manga, for example.

Ballet manga have been created since the early 1950s [11], and thus the history of ballet manga may correspond to the history of shōjo manga itself. But until recently, ballet manga has received almost no serious scholarly attention.[12] One reason for this lack is that ballet manga have been perceived as not “gender-transgressive” enough. This brings to mind the inclination of shōjo manga studies to perceive (girlish) femininity in a derogatory way.

Are other interpretations of femininity in shōjo manga possible? The concept of “feminine” beauty as conveyed visually in shōjo manga through a cascade of gauzy ballet costumes and fluttering dresses can indeed be a very powerful, and empowering, tool. The graphically voluminous decoration of women’s dresses as such can very well signify power through visibility. Full skirts, bodices, and sartorial decorations give substance to female claims of importance by increasing their physical size to at least double that of men. This idea applies to the depiction of Marie Antoinette, juxtaposed against the uniform-clad Oscar in The Rose of Versailles, for example in the scene at the ball where Oscar declines Marie Antoinette’s persuasion to dance like other court ladies because she is, first and foremost, a military person.[13] While the scene itself might be symbolic of Oscar’s “transgression”[14], visually, readers are drawn to the “feminine” presence of Marie Antoinette who, due to her dress, appears almost three times bigger than Oscar. Ikeda herself stated in an interview that in order to keep girl readers engaged in historical manga, she needed to use beautiful and glamorous props such as beautiful dresses.[32]

Indeed, the meanings ascribed to “feminine” or “girlish” dresses in shōjo manga can be far more complex, as ballet manga of celebrated artists like Takahashi Macoto and Maki Miyako have exemplified.[33] From the 1970s onwards, manga by artists such as Yamagishi Ryōko and Ariyoshi Kyōko increasingly used the romantic beauty of ballet as a means to offer more serious and realistic depictions of psychological complexity and sexuality. Takeuchi Naoko’s figure-skating manga The Cherry Project (1990-1) and Mizusawa Megumi’s Toe Shoes (1997-8), originally serialized in Nakayoshi and Ribbon (Ribon) both predominantly shōjo-targeted, are addressing such realities as the value of ambition, hard work, and daily practice, while confronting also the negative effects of training like injury, however lightly. The highly romantic art of Yamagishi, Ariyoshi, Takeuchi and Mizusawa, which manifests itself in the flowing full skirts of tulle, ribbons and scattering flowers, undoubtedly helped such underlying themes to be comfortably communicated to the reader. Therefore, highly “girlish” visual qualities materialized in the use of dresses, flowers, and romantic narratives should not be missed.

The above survey of shōjo manga studies is intended to show that attention to qualities other than explicitly gender-subversive narratives can be equally important for advancing the genre as a scholarly topic. Paying more attention to visual and fashion aspects as well as less known works and thematic sub-genres can further illuminate the cultural uniqueness of shōjo manga.

References

Dollase, Hitomi. T. 2010. “Shōjo Spirits in Horror Manga.” U.S. –Japan Women’s Journal, no. 38, pp. 59-80.

Fujimoto, Yukari. 1998 [2008]. Watashi no ibasho wa doko ni aru no? Shōjo manga

ga utsusu kokoro no katachi (Where is my place in the world? The Shape of the

Heart as Reflected in Girls’ Comic Books). Tokyo: Gakuyō Shobō.

— 2012 [2007]. “Takahashi Macoto: The Origin of Shōjo Manga Style” (trans. Matt Thorn). Mechademia 7(1): 24–55.

Honda, Masuko. 2010. “The Genealogy of Hirahira: Liminality and the Girl” (trans. T. Aoyama and B. Hartley). In T. Aoyama and B. Hartley, eds, Girl Reading Girl in Japan. New York: Routledge, pp. 19-37.

Ikeda, Riyoko. 1994[1972]. Berusaiyu no bara (The Rose of Versailles), vol. 1. Tokyo: Chūōkōron-sha.

Iwashita, Hōsei. 2013a. Shōjo manga no hyōgen kikō : hirakareta manga hyōgenshi to Tezuka Osamu (Aesthetic mechanisms of shōjo manga: An open-minded history of manga aesthetics, related to the imagined role of Tezuka Osamu). Tokyo: NTT Shuppan.

— 2013b. “Sutairu-ga to sutairu” (Style illustration and Styles), Eureka, Vol. 45-16, pp. 195-202.

Kan, Satoko, Hitomi Dollase, and Kayo Takeuchi, eds, 2012. Shōjo manga wandārando (Shōjo Manga Wonderland). Tokyo: Meiji shoten.

Kuramochi, Kayoko. 2013. “Nakahara Jun’ichi to shōjo manga (Nakahara Jun’ichi and shōjo manga),” Eureka, Vol. 45-16, pp. 203-210.

Kyoto International Manga Museum, ed., 2013. Baree manga: eien naru utsukushisa (Ballet Manga: An Everlasting Beauty). Tokyo: Ōta shuppan.

Monden, Masafumi. 2014. “Layers of the Ethereal: a cultural investigation of beauty, girlhood and ballet in Japanese shōjo manga.” Fashion Theory, Vol. 18, Issue 3, pp. 251-296.

Ogi, Fusami. 2001. “Gender insubordination in Japanese comics (manga) for girls.” In John A. Lent, ed., Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines and Picture Books. Richmond, UK: Curzon, pp. 171-186.

Oshiyama, Michiko. 2007 [2013]. Shōjo manga jendā hyōshōron: “dansō no shōjo” no zōkei to aidentiti (Discussion of Gender Representation in Shōjo Manga: Forms of “Cross-dressed Girls” and Identity). Tokyo: Seiryūsha.

Prough, Jennifer. 2011. Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shōjo Manga. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Schodt, Frederik L. 1983. Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International.

Shamoon, Deborah. 2012. Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girl’s Culture in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Suter, Rebecca. 2012. “Orientalism, Self-Orientalism, and Occidentalism in the Visual-Verbal Medium of Japanese Girls’ Comics.” Literature & Aesthetics 22.2., pp. 50-71.

Takahashi, Mizuki. 2008. “Opening the Closed World of Shojo Manga.” In

Mark MacWilliams, ed., Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime,. New York: M. E. Sharpe, pp. 114–36.

Takemiya, Keiko. 2011. “1970 nendai no shōjo manga ni okeru geijutsusei e no shikō to sono mokuteki” (1970s Shōjo Manga’s Aspiration to Art and Its Purpose). Bijutsu Forum 21, No. 24, pp. 96-98.

Takeuchi, Kayo. 2010. “The Genealogy of Japanese Shōjo Manga (Girls’ Comics) Studies.” U.S. –Japan Women’s Journal, No. 38, pp. 81-112.

Welker, James. 2006. “Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: “Boys’ Love” as Girls’

Love in Shojo manga.” Signs 31(3), pp. 841–870.

Yamada, Tomoko. 2013. “The Emergence of Ballet Manga; and the Role of

this Exhibition and Catalogue.” In Kyoto International Manga Museum, ed., Ballet Manga. Tokyo: Ōta shuppan, pp. 32-35.

Masafumi Monden is a fashion and cultural studies researcher affiliated with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). He earned a PhD from UTS in 2012. His growing publication record includes a book chapter on the history of ballet and clothing in Japan (edited by Valerie Steele, 2014) and a research article on ballet manga and dress (Fashion Theory, 2014). His first monograph Japanese Fashion Cultures: Dress and Gender in Contemporary Japan will be published in 2015 (Bloomsbury Academic). Particular research interests include transnational cultural flows, beauty and the role of fashion in the periodical press, ballet, opera, music video, cinema and manga culture.

[1] Iwashita 2013a: 11; Schodt, 1983: 101

[2] Honda 2010 [1980]; Kan et al 2012: 7

[3] Iwashita 2013b: 196-7

[4] Fujimoto 2012 [2007]; Kuramochi 2013; Takahashi 2008

[5] Kuramochi 2013: 208

[6] See Welker 2006, Takahashi 2008, Fujimoto 2012[2007], Suter 2012, Iwashita 2013a

[7] Ogi 2001; Kan et al. 2012: 14; Dollase 2010: 74

[8] See Ogi 2001; Oshiyama 2007; Shamoon 2012

[9] Kan et al. 2012: 17-8; Prough 2011: 51

[10] Iwashita 2013b: 195

[11] Yamada 2013: 32-5

[12] See Monden 2014

[13] Ikeda 1994 [1972]: 89

[14] Oshiyama 2007: 168

[15] 1980 cited in Oshiyama 2007: 241

[16] Kyoto International Museum 2013: 11; Monden 2014: 274-8

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News Review: February 2015

Americas

United States

Culture

The New-York Historical Society has awarded its annual American History Book Prize to Jill Lepore’s  The Secret History of Wonder WomanLink (17/02/2015, English, WG)

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum will celebrate women’s history month and their international holdings with the opening of World of Shojo Manga! Mirrors of Girls’ Desires. The exhibition takes place between the 28th March and the 5th July. Link (English, WG)

Research

The MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives has published a call for papers for three panels at next year’s MLA Convention in Austin, Texas (7th to the 10th January 2016). The panels are Satire and the Editorial Cartoon, Latina/o Comics, and Charlie Hebdo and its Publics. Link (14/02/2015, English, WG)

Scholars Kathryn La Barre, Carol Tilley, and John Walsh are collaborating on a digital archive analysing comics readership from 1961-1973. Link (03/02/2015, English, WG)

Asia

Japan

Culture

Yonezawa Yoshihiro Memorial Library is showing the exhibition “Mihara Jun, Revival Festival” between the 8th February and the 31st May. Link (Japanese, JBS)

Education

The works of students graduating from Kyoto Seika University’s Faculty of Manga and Graduate School of Manga will be exhibited at the Kyoto International Manga Museum during Anime Week (18th to the 22nd February). During this period, access to the museum is free. Link (Japanese, JBS)

Europe

Austria

Culture

Nextcomic Festival is going to take place in Linz from the 19th until the 27th March; guests include Anke Feuchtenberger and Nicolas Mahler. Link (19/02/2015, German, MdlI)

Belgium

Obituary

Belgian artist Géri, known for his work on Tintin magazine, has died aged 80. Link 1 (05/02/2015, French, LTa), Link 2 (05/02/2015, French, LTa)

France

Culture

Joann Sfar, creator of The Rabbi’s Cat, has began publishing columns and illustrations in the French edition of the Huffington Post. Link 1 (05/02/2015, French, LTa), Link 2 (05/02/2015, French, LTa)

Obituary

Jacques Kamb, cartoonist for the newspaper L’Humanité and bande dessinée artist for Pif Gadget, has died at 81. Link (06/02/2015, French, LTa)

Germany

Culture

Scott McCloud is going to present his latest comic, The Sculptor, in Berlin and Leipzig from the 11th-13th March. Link (05/02/2015, German, MdlI)

Guests at Leipzig Book Fair and the simultaneous comic festival, The Millionaires Club, from the 12th until the 15th March, include Achdé, Judith Park, and Sascha Hommer. Link (12/02/2015, German, MdlI)

Comicfestival München is going to take place from the 4th until the 7th June 2015. Guest country is the UK; guest artists include Frank Quitely, Don Rosa, and Bryan Talbot. Link (19/02/2015, German, MdlI)

An exhibition on Atze and Mosaik is shown in Leipzig from the 24th February until the 18th March. Link (23/02/2015, German, MdlI)

Brigitte Helbling and Sarah Burrini are going to talk about contemporary comics and their production in Stuttgart on the 14th April. Link (26/02/2015, German, MdlI)

Research

There is a Call for Papers for the second issue of Closure. Kieler e-Journal für Comicforschung; the deadline is the 11th March. Link (08/02/2015, German, MdlI)

Greece

Culture

The Athens Comics Library, the first comics library in Athens Greece, is now open. Link (15/02/2015, Greek, LTs)

Hungary

Culture

The Hungarian comic artist and designer Zorro the Bianco’s exhibition, Are You In Our Story?, was opened as part of the LGBT History Month on the 18th February at Roham Bár, Budapest. Zorro’s work was featured in the 2014 campaign film of the LGBT History Month. Link 1 (Hungarian, ES), Link 2 (Hungarian, ES)

Netherlands

Research

The inaugural Amsterdam Comics international conference, Comics Interaction, will take place between the 1st and 3rd July in Amsterdam. Abstracts are due by the 17th April. Link (English, WG)

Portugal

Culture

On the 19th February the Latvian magazine S! published an issue inspired by the book Livro do Desassossego by Fernando Pessoa. The issue includes some comic works from 17 portuguese authors and an introduction by Marcos Farrajota. Link (26/02/2015, English, RR)

Spain

Culture

The winners of the 2015 prizes of the AACE (Asociación de autores de comic de España -Spanish Comics Authors Association) have been announced. Link (11/02/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

The third edition of KBOOM!, an event about comics and self-publishing, will take place in Espai Jove La Fontana (Barcelona) on the 14th and 15th March. Link (24/02/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

The IVAM (Institut Valencià d’Art Modern -The Valencian Institute of Modern Art) is hosting an exhibition by Francesc Ruiz about Valencian comics, from the 19th February until the 30th August. The Universitat Politécnica de Valéncia will also celebrate a seminar parallel to the exhibition from the 4th to the 6th March. Link (22/02/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

A crowfunding project is looking for contributions to produce a documentary about the comics industry in Spain. Link (20/02/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

Sweden

Research

There is a call for papers for a conference regarding the Future in Comics. The event will take place in Stockholm between the 3rd and 5th September, and abstracts are due by the 15th April. Link (English, WG)

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  News Editor: Will Grady (comicsforumnews@hotmail.co.uk)

Correspondents: Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto (JBS, Japan),  Enrique del Rey Cabero (EdRC, Spain), Martin de la Iglesia (MdlI, Austria & Germany), Renatta Rafaella (RR, Portugal), Eszter Szép (ES, Hungary), Lise Tannahill (LTa, Belgium & France), Lida Tsene (LTs, Greece).

Click here for News Review correspondent biographies.

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Suggestions for articles to be included in the News Review can be sent to Will Grady at the email address above.

 
 
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