The Bi-Monthly ComFor Update for June 2015 by Laura Oehme

As Stephan Packard stated in his last update, the abundance of comics-related events, publications, and exhibitions has become overwhelming. As a member of the ComFor online editing board, I know first-hand how much we are struggling to keep up with the numerous announcements of upcoming events that are received almost daily. This, of course, is not only a good sign for the future of comics studies, but also hints at the fact that the public perception of comics continues to grow.

I would like to start off this month’s column by congratulating Stephan Packard for receiving the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2015. The prize is awarded each year by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The ComFor’s much-valued President received the prize on May 5th in Berlin and is, after Daniel Stein, only the second comics scholar to receive it yet.

With the summer semester well underway, the last two months have been busy for German comics scholars. In May, the University of Bonn invited two ComFor members to give guest lectures on autobiographical comics: Joachim Trinkwitz talked in general about self-portrayal in the comics medium and Rolf Lohse introduced the audience to the tradition of autobiographical comics in France. This year’s comics symposium in Saarbrücken focused on “Comics in Space” and invited many German and French comic authors to talk about their works. The research colloquium “Literature and Illustration” at the University of Hannover, which is still short of two guest lectures on comics, will take place on June 24th and July 15th. Similarly, the workshop series “Comics als Metageschichte” at the University of Cologne will put on its third and final workshop on June 26th, focusing on the circulation of comics and featuring presentations by Christina Meyer and Jeff Thoss. The series will be topped off by a comics reading with Christina Plaka and Barbara Yelin on July 15th.

Most notably, since April, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced funding a research cooperation between the University of Paderborn and the University of Potsdam on the subject of “Hybrid Narrativity”. By combining methods from the cognitive sciences and digital humanities with narratology and literary history, this project “aims at a richer and empirically robust understanding of graphic literature” and thus presents an intrinsically interdisciplinary approach to comics studies.

This month, the ComFor’s 14th Publication Monitor was published and I would like to emphasize the two German publications it lists: Graphisches Erzählen von Adoleszenz: Deutschsprachige Autorencomics nach 2000 by Felix Giesa (publisher: Peter Lang) and Die Kunst des Comic-Sammelns by Alex Jakubowski and Sandra Mann (publisher: Edition Lammerhuber). Felix Giesa’s study of comics dealing with the subject of adolescence traces the historical development of the genre and provides close readings of six contemporary German comics. Alex Jakubowski’s and Sandra Mann’s edited volume of portraits and photographs provides insight into 15 unique comic collections and their owners.

Summertime is festival-time! First and foremost, the Comic Festival in Munich took place from June 4th to 7th, which Stephan Packard has already dealt with it at length in the last column. A video of the ComFor’s panel discussion on the state of German comics studies is now available on Splashcomics’ website (in German). Apart from the second largest comic event in Germany, comics were also a topic at this year’s Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (May 5th to 10th), featuring a panel discussion asking “After Charlie?”, a one-day symposium on “Color in Animation, Comics and Literature”, a two-day comic workshop with Davor Bakara, and presentations by Harri Römpötti about comics and animation. Also, the Hamburg Graphic Novel Days took place at the Literaturhaus from May 18th to 22nd for the fourth time.

Beyond the many ongoing exhibitions that were listed in the last update, some more have opened in the past two months. In cooperation with Cross Cult publishing house, the city of Asperg presented the art exhibition “Comic made in Germany” in May. The traveling exhibition “Going West!” has moved to Dortmund and will be on tour until June 2016, also stopping off in Hannover and Saarbrücken. In Bad Wildungen, an exhibition of the Caricatura Kassel shows the works of the cartoonist Burkhard Fritsche, alias BURKH, until August. From June 6th to October 4th, the Sommerpalais in Greiz hosts the eighth Caricatures Triennial, entitled “Everything under Control.” On June 12th an exhibtion series on “Abstract Comics” opened in Bremen, with the first showing the works of the Swiss collective Hecatombe.

I would also like to mention that the online magazine Bookster has published a comprehensive portrait of Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, co-founder of the ComFor and organizer of this year’s annual ComFor conference at the University of Frankfurt (September 4–6, 2015). Finally, I would like to join my predecessor in predicting an equally well-filled column in August and hope that the exciting interest in the German comics studies scene continues.

Laura Oehme, M.A. is currently writing her dissertation on “Risk Technologies and Global Catastrophe in Contemporary Science Fiction Comics” in the field of American Studies at the University of Bayreuth, where she also works as a research assistant in a DFG-funded project on “Contemporary American Risk Fiction.” She is a member of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor), as well as the AG Comicforschung, and is part of the editorial team of the ComFor website. Together with Jeanne Cortiel, she has written an article on “The Dark Knight’s Dystopian Vision: Batman, Risk, and American National Identity,” which is forthcoming in the European Journal of American Studies.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 2015/06/26 in ComFor Updates


Comics Forum 2015

Comics Forum CFP

Click here to download a PDF of the call for papers.

Comics Forum 2015 is supported by: Thought Bubble, the University of Chichester, Dr Mel Gibson, the Applied Comics Network and Molakoe.


Inequality and Adversity, in Content and Form: The Indian Graphic Novel Bhimayana by E. Dawson Varughese

The Indian graphic novel Bhimayana: experiences of untouchability was published in 2012 by a New Delhi-based company called Navayana. The book charts the life of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891 – 1956) who campaigned for equal rights and an end to social discrimination in particular towards ‘untouchables’ or ‘casteless people’ in India. He was the principal architect of the Indian Constitution. The graphic novel blends biography, Indian legislation, letters penned by Gandhi and primary source material in the form of newspaper clippings of the post-millennial period; the clippings sadly underscoring how important issues of untouchabilty remain in today’s India. Untouchability in contemporary India, like earlier eras, ostracises groups of people by depriving them of their legal mandate and excluding them from social customs and cultures. Ambedkar, one of India’s ‘foremost revolutionaries’ (Bhimayana 2012 – back cover) grew up as an untouchable and faced discrimination throughout his life; this graphic novel explores such instances as he is refused water, accommodation and his right to education.

My most recent work [1] is interested in visuality and ‘new ways of seeing’ in post-millennial India and for me Bhimayana (2012) is part of a larger body of work which invokes new ways of seeing in New India. These new ways of seeing correspond to post-millennial trends in visual cultures and creativity which in turn, often depict India in challenging and inauspicious ways. Much of life in New India today involves new forms of cultural consumption and much of that cultural consumption has to do with ‘seeing’. Lutgendorf (2006) tells us that ‘…‘‘seeing’’ was (and continues to be) understood as a tangible encounter in which sight reaches out to ‘‘touch’’ objects and ‘‘take’’ them back into the seer’ (2006: 231). It has been argued that the role of visuality in Indian culture is defining, given the concepts of darshan and drishti which are usually translated as ideas of ‘seeing’ or ‘gazing’ and are at the heart of Hindu modes of visuality (see Ramaswamy, 2003: xxv). Freitag (2003) argues that the visual realm is a critical component in South Asian modernity because: ‘[A]cts of seeing become acts of knowing as viewers/consumers impute new meanings to familiar images. Such agency enables a civil society to grapple with change through indigenous sociologies of knowledge so that it can be naturalised and accommodated.’ (2003: 366) Lutgendorf (2006) reminds us of the power of darshan/darśan when he writes that ‘darśan is a ‘‘gaze’’ that is returned’ (2006: 233, original emphasis) and in his work, he has translated darśan as both ‘visual dialog’ and ‘visual intercourse’ (2006: 233) in order to emphasise the idea of communication between the gazer and the gazed upon.

Post-millennial India’s immense socio-cultural change has to date involved learning new ways of ‘seeing’, which in turn have been linked with consumption and markets (Asendorf, 1993: 47). Media, advertising, domestic book cover design, television and satellite are all sites of the new ways India is involved in ‘seeing’. The importance of the pictorial within Indian cultures that Pinto (2004: 28) writes of is evidently as significant today as in older Indias; the use of pictorial communications, in particular in advertisements, warnings, social activism, and matters of public health are all commonplace elements of Indian public life. Appadurai and Breckenridge (1998) write of this interaction between people and their ocular experiences saying: ‘The interweaving of ocular experiences, which also subsumes the substantive transfer of meanings, scripts, and symbols from one site to another (in surprising ways), is a critical feature of public culture in contemporary India.’ (1998: 12)

This idea of new ways of looking, seeing and consumerism certainly speaks to the post-millennial body of graphic fiction within the literary scene in English as this ‘new’ form of literary expression which evidently involves ‘seeing’ is becoming ever more popular. In her review of Ghosh’s graphic novel Delhi Calm (2010) Nandini Chandra (2010) writes: ‘Graphic novels typically characterised as cool and edgy, have emerged as niche pop culture in the youth market.’ (2010: 12) This youth market that Chandra speaks of has been particularly evident in activity such as the Comic Con which took place in India for the first time in 2011, or the launch events around newly established comic/graphic novel publishers in urban centres around the country. Such graphic novel publishers are often engaged in narrating challenging and inauspicious Indias; themes of rape, abuse and terrorism often contest a more ‘dignified’ history of Indian comic culture. This history is notably the series which celebrated Indian culture through its depictions of India’s brave hearts, revolutionaries and Hindu epics. Despite the recent growth in the graphic novel publishing scene, the reception of graphic novels within India remains fractured and uneven. For some, this nascent strand of literary expression is seen as lacking in mastery. For others though, the idea of a visual narrative speaks to much more established notions of Indian storytelling. Pinto (2004) reminds us of the deep connection India has with the pictorial when he writes that ‘[S]equential art is not a cutting-edge medium; it’s been with us since the first patachitras [2] were drawn and then explained in villages.’ (2004: 28)

Bhimayana (2012) talks to this idea of a ‘deep connection’ with the pictorial as its artwork is in the Pardhan Gond style and this type of artwork and painting is referred to as being adivasi or ‘tribal’ art. The Gond style of artwork can be traced back to Bharat Bhawan, a state-sponsored institution of art and culture (see Chatterji, 2012: 15). This artwork is therefore relatively recent in its inception and yet is deeply connected to the land through its adivasi (tribal) roots. It was through the institution of Bharat Bhawan that the founder of the Gond art tradition, Jangarh Singh Shyam became established. Jangarh is a Pardhan Gond and his work is strongly influenced by the religious and narrative traditions of the Pardhan Gonds, notably cosmology and the ‘mythic universe’. On this artwork Chatterji (2012) writes: ‘It was the exposure to new media – brush, paint and paper – that gave the Pardhan-Gonds a new vision. It gave faces to their gods and allowed an iconography to emerge, an iconography that was flexible and unhampered by rigid codification.’ (2012: 41)

What is particularly interesting, if not curious about the production of Bhimayana (2012) is the choice to use Gond art to visualise and narrate the story of Ambedkar, an untouchable. In one respect, the choice is a precarious one as it might suggest to those new to Gond art that the artists are, like Ambedkar, belonging to an untouchable caste or more worryingly, that all ‘tribal’ or adivasi peoples are ‘untouchable’. In another respect, the choice to tell Ambedkar’s story through tribal art makes sense, it carries impact as a unique piece of collaboration and moreover, rides of the back of the Gond art wave of the post-millennial years. Bhimayana (2012) began in 2008 when Navayana’s S. Anand first approached two Pardhan Gond artists; Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam. The narrative of Ambedkar – his move from marginal and peripheral socio-cultural positions to empowered and central positions of power and influence – is captured in the artwork of the graphic novel and in turn, this transition echoes the struggle of Gond artists in their move from tribal lifestyles to urban, even international ways of living. Jangarh, the founder of Pardhan Gond art exhibited in cities in India, in Paris at the Pompidou Centre and most latterly Japan. Treated unfairly in Japan whilst on a residency – his paintings fetched a handsome price of which he saw little – with his passport kept by the authorities, Jangarh became depressed. He committed suicide in 2001; he was not even 40 years old.

© Navayana Publishing Pvt Ltd. p.48

© Navayana Publishing Pvt Ltd. p.48

© Navayana Publishing Pvt Ltd. p.49

© Navayana Publishing Pvt Ltd. p.49

In this extract from the graphic novel (a double page spread), Ambedkar is lobbying for the untouchables to take water from a public body of water in a place called Mahad. The colours used here are natural and earth-inspired colours. These colours are taken from clay or matti which is traditionally gathered by the Gond people at different seasons as each season yields a different coloured clay from areas around the Narmada river. At this point the high caste Hindus were preventing the untouchables from having access to the water and the situation was very tense. The artwork on this page also shows the Gond’s association of peace with the fish motif. Ambedkar is shown on the right hand-side reaching into a body of water which is kept safe by a fish. No matter how difficult situations became, Ambedkar always looked to resolve the situation peacefully.

Curiously, Navayana’s graphic novel Bhimayana (2012) does not only speak of the struggles that Ambedkar faced as an untouchable in Indian society, it also narrates the struggle for equality that Gond artists and adivasi artists more generally have faced in recent times. In the afterword of Bhimayana (2012), we are told by one of the artists – Durgabai – that on her arrival at Navayana’s office in New Delhi, the landlady of the building would not allow her and her husband in; the landlady could not believe that they were artists and called the couple ‘yokels’. Durgabai states in the afterword – visually and narratively – that this incident was abusive and hurtful, and that it reminded the couple of Ambedkar’s plight.

Navayana’s Bhimayana (2012) interrogates new ways of seeing and telling contemporary Indian history. It foregrounds an India of inequality whilst simultaneously celebrating the artwork of the Pardhan Gonds who, like Ambedkar have faced discrimination and maltreatment. This work plays to New India’s markets and consumer cultures whilst simultaneously narrating the challenging but maybe more significantly, Bhimayana (2012) allows certain ‘acts of seeing’ that subsequently translate into ‘acts of knowing’ as the consumers of Bhimayana (2012) are involved in producing new (more relevant) meanings for the life narratives of one of India’s most famous figures: Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.


Appadurai, A. and Breckenridge, C.A. (1998) ‘Public Modernity in India’ in C.A. Breckenridge (ed) Consuming Modernity: public culture in a South Asian World Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press

Asendorf, C. (1993) Batteries of Life: On the history of things and the perception in modernity (Tr. Don Reneau), Berkeley: University of California

Chandra, N. (2010) ‘Powerpolis’ Biblio September-October [accessed April 2013]

Chatterji, R. (2012) Speaking with Pictures: folk art and the narrative tradition in India New Delhi: Routledge India

Dawson Varughese, E. and Lau, L. (2015) Indian Writing in English and Issues of Representation: Judging More than a Book by its Cover Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan UK

Dawson Varughese (2014) ‘New ways of seeing in New India’: interview with Studio Kokaachi South Asian Popular Culture Routledge July 2014; 12(2)

Freitag, S.B. (2003) ‘The Realm of the Visual: Agency and modern civil society’ in S. Ramaswamy, (ed) Beyond Appearances?: Visual practices and ideologies in Modern India New Delhi: SAGE

Lutgendorf, P. (2006) ‘Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ in International Journal of Hindu Studies Vol. 10, No. 3 (Dec), pp. 227-256

Pinto, J. (2004) ‘Thinking Out of the Box’ Biblio July/August [accessed 11/04/13]

Ramaswamy, S. (ed) (2003) Beyond Appearances?: Visual practices and ideologies in Modern India New Delhi: SAGE

Vyam, D., Vyam, S., Natarajan, S. and Anand, S. Bhimayana: experiences of untouchablity (2012) New Delhi: Navayana

[1] See Dawson Varughese (2015) Indian Writing in English and Issues of Representation: Judging More than a Book by its Cover (co-authored with Lisa Lau).

[2] Cloth-based scroll paintings.

Elements of this blog were shared at Lancaster University’s (UK) Writing for Liberty conference in April 2015. The author E. Dawson Varughese is a global cultural studies scholar whose specialism is India. See her work at

1 Comment

Posted by on 2015/06/15 in Guest Writers


Tags: , , ,

Manga Studies #8: Shōjo Manga History: The Obscured Decades by Dalma Kálovics

Previously on Comics Forum, Monden Masafumi shed light on the fact that Japanese shōjo manga discourse tends to prioritize a gender-related perspective, disregarding the majority of graphic narratives which do not fit a subversive reading of the genre, or even dismissing them for their allegedly conservative representation of femininity. But this is not the only one-sided approach to shōjo manga, there is also a historical bias at play. Shōjo manga of the 1970s, notably works by the so-called Magnificent 49ers (see below), have been the main focus of discussion, overshadowing other eras, both before and after. In the following overview, I will outline how the 70s and especially the 49ers ended up as the center of attention, how this favoritism has obscured other periods, and finally how views on shōjo manga history are beginning to change.

Before the 70s, girls’ comics were only rarely mentioned in articles. While recognized as distinct from comics for boys, the differences between the two were not dwelled upon.[1] One of the first critics to actually consider shōjo manga was Ishiko Junzō, a central figure of manga criticism in the late 60s. In his book Notes on Postwar Manga (1975) Ishiko dedicates a few pages to girls’ comics, describing the genre as unique to Japan and conceding also that it has been considered sub-par to shōnen manga and thus barely researched.[2] In his short historical overview, he dismisses the shōjo manga of the 50s, and underlines the birth of weekly shōjo magazines in the early 60s, which, in his opinion, signaled the emergence of a mature kind of shōjo manga marked by female artists like Watanabe Masako, Mizuno Hideko and Maki Miyako.[3] In an attempt to explain the Western-looking doll-like character designs, the fascination with princesses, pianists and ballerinas, and the popularity of the so-called ‘haha-mono’ (mother-and-daughter) topos inherited by the magazines from rental (kashihon) shōjo manga, he elaborates on the despair of blue-collar workers and their dream of a ‘second–fictional–homeland’.[4] In relation to the 70s, however, Ishiko laments the dominance of romance, which seems to overshadow any other theme, such as history (for example, the French revolution in The Rose of Versailles) or sports (as in Aim for the Ace!).[5] Apart from the exaggeration, it is noteworthy that Ishiko’s preferences apparently lie with pre-70s shōjo manga. However, these views did not take root in shōjo manga discourse.

Ishiko’s views were quickly marginalized with the arrival of new critics and the actual start of shōjo manga criticism in the mid-70s. Due to the immense success of some shōjo manga titles even outside of the manga scene, such as Ikeda Riyoko’s The Rose of Versailles, and the then innovative works of artists like Hagio Moto, Ōshima Yumiko, Takemiya Keiko and Yamagishi Ryōko—collectively called the Magnificent 49ers[6]—the genre suddenly found itself the center of attention[7]. Although previously considered inferior, even in the socially disdained field of manga[8], newspapers and magazines articles about shōjo manga grew abundant, making the genre a social and cultural phenomenon.[9] Magazines dedicated to manga like Dachs and Puff ran specials about the 49ers, and Eureka released a whole issue about shōjo manga in 1981, concentrating mainly on the 49ers. Shōjo manga as such had been popular among girl readers before: the magazine Shūkan Margaret achieved an unbroken record in circulation among the shōjo weeklies with 1.17 million copies in 1969[10], a growing number of magazines were founded in the second half of the 60s, and the market flourished. What changed in the mid-70s, however, was that shōjo manga broke out of the closed world of teenage girls. Not only adult women, but also men started to read these works, and they were finally deemed worthy of criticism.[11]

The critics who highlighted the shōjo manga of the 70s, and in particular the 49ers, were part of a new generation who—in stark contrast to Ishiko’s focus on the social dimension—wanted to discuss manga as manga, without recourse to external factors or other media. The main representatives of this approach, like Murakami Tomohiko, Yonezawa Yoshihiro and Nakajima Azusa, were born in the 50s, and as such belonged to the first generation which grew up reading manga.[12] They believed manga should be discussed from the personal perspective of the individual reader or even creator[13], which came to be called “watashi-gatari” in Japanese.[14] These critics had ‘discovered’ shōjo manga through the 49ers and tended to concentrate on their favorites, like Hagio Moto, Takemiya Keiko, and Ōshima Yumiko.[15] Although these artists were rather exceptional, in that they were neither representative of the genre’s majority nor among the most commercially successful ones, they were regarded as the peak of shōjo manga history, the taken as the evaluative standard for the whole genre.[16] According to Fujimoto Yukari, this privileging of the 49ers tempted critics to turn their back to everything before this era, deeming it worthless and mere ‘pre-history’.[17]

Hashimoto Osamu, belonging to the then new generation of critics, discussed the female manga artists of the 70s, and not only 49ers, in his monograph Fried burdock for maidens in full bloom, one of the very first books on shōjo manga; however, due to the extremely subjective and personal tone, the two volumes of the book (1979, 1981) are hardly usable for solid research. The most detailed shōjo manga history was written by a central figure in this generation of critics, Yonezawa Yoshihiro. His A history of postwar shōjo manga (1980) remains a must-read for any student of shōjo manga to this day. Interestingly enough, in the foreword of his book, even Yonezawa, although previously representative of the critical preference for the 49ers, reflects on this bias and calls for a holistic approach to shōjo manga history, including the consideration of highly popular artists of the 60s-70s such as Satonaka Machiko, Shōji Yōko and Igarashi Yumiko.[18]

Yonezawa’s monograph is an enormous work: after a short introduction to prewar shōjo magazines he pursues the postwar history of shōjo manga up to the end of the 70s, describing trends through representative artists and works, and contextualizing them with respect to changes in media, readership and—to a lesser degree—social history. But as Yonezawa himself admits in the afterword, his book is neither meant as a critical discussion of shōjo manga nor does it attempt to define shōjo manga; it is neither a personal recollection nor a proper historical analysis[19]—yet, in part, it is both of these. The book can appear challenging for those without at least some basic knowledge about shōjo manga, largely due to lacking years of publication and occasional jumps in time, as well as to the huge amount of data collected. Still, Yonezawa’s work remains the most detailed monograph about the history of shōjo manga, including little-studied periods. Although Iwashita Hōsei spots a certain inclination to the 49ers, which features as the Golden Age of shōjo manga in the book, Yonezawa was clearly one of the few advocates of researching the overlooked early decades of the genre.

Ten years after A history of postwar shōjo manga, Yonezawa approached the topic again, albeit in a different form. In the A children’s history of the Shōwa-era series he edited two volumes about shōjo manga subtitled The world of shōjo manga I-II (1991). The two volumes introduce girls’ comics from 1945 to 1989 based mostly on Yonezawa’s previous book, with additional essays by prominent artists and critics. Unlike the text-heavy A history of postwar shōjo manga, however, the two volumes are richly illustrated and therefore should be treated as an addition to the previous monograph rather than a substitute.

Remarkably, in the foreword to the second volume Yonezawa notes how he realized that most manga titles, even ‘classics’ published before the second half of the 70s, were not available anymore.[20] This sheds light upon the other important factor in ensuring a focus on the 70s at the expense of previous eras: accessibility. Regular publishing of shōjo manga in collected volumes (tankōbon) under a specific label started in 1967[21], but unlike today, when almost everything is available in paperback, only selected, highly popular series were released. Thus, the majority of graphic narratives disappeared with their magazine issues. In contrast, every title popular in the 70s was published in tankōbon format back then, and due to the constant attention of fans and critics, these manga have been regularly reprinted. Nowadays the majority of pre-70s shōjo manga is only accessible through the shōjo magazines they were initially published in and these can only be found—with issues missing from most series—in some libraries or over-priced auction and collector shops. This fact contributes significantly to these periods falling into oblivion, while the 70s maintains a central position in shōjo manga discourse.

Despite Yonezawa’s books, critics of shōjo manga continued to concentrate on the 70s, clinging to it as the standard of the genre, and rendering not only the shōjo manga preceding the 49ers, but even works that came after, invisible.[22] While there is no denying their achievements, the Magnificent 49ers were in reality a side branch of shōjo manga development: the complex, literary narratives and the ornate visual style were not maintained; shōjo manga took up a lighter tone with simpler designs. This, however, remains unreflected in shōjo manga research. Even in the 90s, when the expressive tools and ‘grammar’ of the medium drew attention in manga discourse, the 49ers were once again singled out. Ōtsuka Eiji, for example, identified the particularity of shōjo manga as the portrayal of the characters’ inner world by means of monologues (and thus a significant amount of text outside the speech balloons), which, he argues, were discovered and explored by the 49ers.[23] The monologue, however, had already appeared and spread in shōjo manga in the 60s, as did many other traits, such as the huge eyes, the curly locks and the fashion, the flowery backgrounds and the multi-layered paneling.

At the end of the 90s—as Monden introduced in his article—Fujimoto Yukari set the trend of gender-based shōjo manga discourse with her first book, Where is my place in the world? The shape of the heart as reflected in girls’ comic books (1998), and she continues to be the main advocate of such a reading. However, this new approach did not alter the focus on the 70s in shōjo manga discourse. On the contrary, aside from a handful of representations of cross-dressing heroines in the 50s and 60s, the artists of the 70s—mainly the 49ers—were the first to examine gender and sexuality in shōjo manga.[24] Hence it does not come as a surprise that the gender-based approach pioneered in Fujimoto’s book focuses on this period. But as Monden pointed out, Fujimoto’s book is strongly influenced by her own personal experiences.[25] Still, in recent years, Fujimoto turned to earlier artists, examining the stylistic beginnings of the genre. In her essay, Takahashi Macoto: The Origin of Shōjo Manga Style she identifies Takahashi as the ‘source’ of shōjo manga, mainly with respect to seemingly unrelated full-body shots stretching across the whole page (so-called sutairu-ga), which are rarely seen nowadays.[26] While it is undeniable that Takahashi’s dreamy illustrations inspired many shōjo manga artists, it must not be forgotten that he is an illustrator rather than a mangaka proper (despite creating several graphic narratives in the 50s), and designs alone do not make a genre. Nevertheless, Fujimoto’s attention to the 50s induces a welcome change to the seemingly unshakeable focus of shōjo manga discourse.

Following Fujimoto, in the 2000s, new female researchers offered gender-oriented theories with a soft spot for the 70s. Oshiyama Michiko, in her book Discussion of gender representation in shōjo manga: Forms of ‘cross-dressed girls’ and identity (2007, revised 2013), pursued cross-dressing heroines through the history of shōjo manga[27], and Ōgi Fusami examined shōjo manga’s stylistic Westernization from the perspective of gender, concentrating mainly on works of the 70s. She argued that westernized designs allowed girls to free themselves from the fixed gender roles of mothers and daughters in patriarchal Japanese culture.[28] Relatedly, she stated that the style of shōjo manga was established in the 70s and has not changed much ever since.[29] This can be easily refuted by taking a look at the simple paneling or pared-down design of current mainstream titles such as From Me to You or Blue Spring Ride, which indicate once again that the 70s cannot serve as the standard against which to measure everything else in the genre.

In recent years new researchers have started to question the established shōjo manga discourse, rediscovering the so-called pre-history of the genre. In his book Aesthetic mechanisms of shōjo manga: An open-minded history of manga aesthetics, related to the imagined role of Tezuka Osamu (2013) Iwashita Hōsei explores why Tezuka Osamu’s shōjo manga works—aside from Princess Knight—have been neglected in scholarly discussions. According to Iwashita, it is precisely these dominant views on shōjo manga—the positioning of Princess Knight as the ‘origin’ and of the 49ers as the ‘standard’—that make it hard to address these manga, as they do not fit into the norm.[30] Although Iwashita considers shōjo manga history only in relation to Tezuka’s works, his points are equally valid for all pre-70s shōjo manga which have been ignored due the same levelling. Iwashita himself notes the neglect of 50s-60s shōjo manga, calls for their reconsideration, and pleads for a re-appraisal of shōjo manga history.[31]

The bias towards the 70s in shōjo manga discourse has left undone many tasks for those who want to explore the genre’s history. Starting from the male-dominated monthly magazines and the very first female artists of the 50s to the shōjo weeklies in the 60s and the rental scene, there are still many stylistic and thematic facets of shōjo manga left to discover, and additional avenues to explore, such as the media of shōjo magazines, including other contents like novels, illustrated short stories and articles.


Eshita, Masayuki, 2006. Manga kosho mania (Second-hand manga mania). Tokyo: Nagasaki Shuppan

Fujimoto, Yukari, 2009. Shōjo manga to jendā (Shōjo manga and gender). In: Natsume Fusanosuke & Takeuchi Osamu, eds. Mangagaku nyūmon (An Introduction to Manga Studies). Kyoto: Minerva Shobō, pp. 168-172

Fujimoto, Yukari, 2012 [2007]. Takahashi Macoto: The Origin of Shōjo Manga Style (trans. Matt Thorn). In: Frenchy Lunning, ed. Mechademia 7. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 24–55

Ishiko, Junzō, 2011 [1976]. Aa, shōjo manga yo, omae wa doko e? (Oh, shōjo manga, where are you heading?). In: Ishiko Junzō, Manga/Kicchu: Ishiko Junzō sabukaruchā-ron shūsei (Manga/Kitsch: A collection of Ishiko Junzō’s theory on subculture). Tokyo: Shogakukan, pp. 212-217

Ishiko, Junzō, 1994 [1975]. Sengo Manga Nōto (Notes on Postwar Manga). Tokyo: Kinokuniya Shoten

Iwashita, Hōsei, 2013. 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

Konagai, Nobumasa, 2001. Watashi no shōjo manga-shi (My history of shōjo manga). Tokyo: Nishida Shoten

Monden, Masafumi, 2015. Manga Studies #7: Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach, (accessed 2015/05/31)

Nakajima, Azusa, 1995 [1991]. Mizō no jidai (The era of the unprecedented). In: Yonezawa Yoshihiro, ed. Kodomo no Shōwa-shi—Shōjo manga no sekai II (A children’s history of the Shōwa-era—The world of shōjo manga II). Tokyo: Heibonsha, pp. 88-89

Ōgi, Fusami, 2004. Shōjo manga to ‘seiyō’—shōjo manga ni okeru ‘Nihon’ no fuzai to seiyōteki imēji no hanran ni tsuite (Shōjo manga and the ‘Occident’—About the absence of ‘Japan’ and the abundance of westernized designs). In: Tsukuba Daigaku Bunka Hihyō Kenkyūkai, ed. ‘Honyaku’ no keniki: bunka – shokuminchi – aidentitī (The realms of ‘translation’: culture – colonialism – identity). Tsukuba: Isebu, pp. 525-554

Ōgi, Fusami, 2010. ‘Ekkyō suru’ shōjo manga to jendā (Transgressing shōjo manga and gender). In: Ichiki Masashi, Motohama Hidehiko & Ōgi Fusami, eds. Manga wa ekkyō suru! (Manga beyond borders). Kyoto: Sekai Shisōsha, pp. 110-134

Ōtsuka, Eiji, 1996. Shōjo manga no shōhi shakaishi—‘24-nen gumi’ no hassei to shūen (A history of shōjo manga from the perspective of consumerism—The rise and fall of the ‘24-nen gumi’). In: Inoue Shun, ed. Design – Mode – Fashion. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, pp. 177-192

Takahashi, Mizuki, 2008. Opening the Closed World of Shōjo Manga. In: Mark MacWilliams, ed. Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime. New York: M. E. Sharpe, pp. 114–36.

Uryū, Yoshimitsu, 2009. Shōnen manga no hakken (The discovery of shōnen manga). In: Iwasaki Minoru, Kitada Akihiro, Komori Yōichi, Narita Ryūichiu & Ueno Chizuko, eds. Sengo Nihon sutadīzu 2—60-70-nendai (Postwar Japanese Studies 2—60s-70s). Tokyo: Kinokuniya Shoten, pp. 223-237

Yonezawa, Yoshihiro, 1995 [1991]a. Kodomo no Shōwa-shi—Shōjo manga no sekai I (A children’s history of the Shōwa-era—The world of shōjo manga I). Tokyo: Heibonsha

Yonezawa, Yoshihiro, 1995 [1991]b. Kodomo no Shōwa-shi—Shōjo manga no sekai II (A children’s history of the Shōwa-era—The world of shōjo manga II). Tokyo: Heibonsha

Yonezawa, Yoshihiro, 2007 [1980]. Sengo shōjo manga-shi (A history of postwar shōjo manga). Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō

Dalma Kálovics is a PhD student at Kyoto Seika University, Japan. She earned her M.A.s at Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Budapest in German Language and Literature and Communication specialized in mass communication in 2007. During her studies she co-hosted a radio show about manga and anime, and after graduation she started to work as a translator for Asian comics and as the editor of Mondo, a magazine dedicated to Japanese popular culture. Dalma is researching the changes in shōjo manga of the 60s focusing on female artists, with an additional accent on shōjo magazines as media for girls’ comics.

[1] Iwashita 2013: 47-48

[2] Ishiko 1994 [1975]: 116

[3] Ishiko 1994 [1975]: 120

[4] Ishiko 1994 [1975]: 124

[5] Ishiko 2011 [1976]: 212-217

[6] There is no official membership and sometimes even Ikeda Riyoko is counted among them, though her works were quite different from the literary style of the others. Nakajima Azusa mentions Ikeda as part of the group (Nakajima 1995 [1991]: 88) while Yonezawa does not include her. Members are recognized according to how the 49ers are defined, and those who count Ikeda to the group seem to focus on artists who brought something new to shōjo manga at the time.

[7] Yonezawa 1995 [1991]a: 4

[8] Yonezawa 2007 [1980]: 18

[9] Yonezawa 2007 [1980]: 263

[10] Konagai 2011: 38

[11] Yonezawa 1995 [1991]a: 4

[12] Uryū 2009: 236

[13] Uryū 2009: 236

[14] Uryū 2009: 236

[15] Takahashi 2008: 130

[16] Iwashita 2013: 48-52

[17] Fujimoto 2009: 170

[18] Yonezawa 2007 [1980]: 18

[19] Yonezawa 2007 [1980]: 333

[20] Yonezawa 1995 [1991]b: 6

[21] Eshita 2006: 98-99

[22] Iwashita 2013: 49-52 and Fujimoto 2009: 170

[23] Ōtsuka 1996: 183

[24] Yonezawa 1995 [1991]b: 80-86

[25] Monden 2015

[26] Fujimoto 2012

[27] Monden 2015

[28] Ōgi 2004: 550

[29] Ōgi 2010: 111

[30] Iwashita 2013: 44

[31] Iwashita 2013: 273

Leave a comment

Posted by on 2015/06/11 in Manga Studies


Tags: , ,

News Review: May 2015


South Africa


The current exhibition at Erdmann Contemporary is Speechless, a comic art exhibition. Link (English, WG)


United States


The University of Massachusetts Boston has recently acquired a collection of comic books, called the Allan D. MacDougall Popular Culture Archive. A list of comics can be found via the link, and is grouped by publisher. Link (English, WG)


David Beronä, a comics scholar and librarian, has recently passed away. He authored Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels (2008). Link (English, WG)


A special issue of the journal, Composition Studies, on Comics, Multimodality, and Composition has been published. Link (English, WG)

There is an extended deadline of 30th June for submissions to the edited collection, The Canadian Alternative, which focuses on  Canadian graphic novelists and cartoonists. Link (02/05/2015, English, WG)

The Northeast Popular/American Culture Association (NEPCA) is seeking paper proposals on comics and graphic novels for its fall conference to be held at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire on the 30th and 31st October.The deadline to submit proposals is the 15th June. Link (12/04/2015, English, WG)

There is a call for papers for an edited collection entitled The Comics of Art Spiegelman. Abstracts are due by the 15th June. Link (04/05/2015, English, WG)

Penn State University Press has published the Graphic Medicine Manifesto, co authored by MK Czerwiec, Ian Williams, Susan Squier, Michael Green, Kimberley Myers, and Scott Smith. Link (English, WG)

The Comics Journal has a report on Queers & Comics: The LGBTQ Cartoonists and Comics Conference. Link (18/05/2015, English, WG)

Drawn from the Classics: Essays on Graphic Adaptations of Literary Works, edited by Stephen E. Tabachnick and Esther Bendit Saltzman has been published through McFarland. Link (English, WG)




The 1st Vienna Comic Con is going to take place on the 21st and 22nd November. Link (14/05/2015, German, MdlI)

Ben Katchor is going to teach a course on ‘Comics and Performance’ in Salzburg from the 20th-25th July. Link (28/05/2015, German, MdlI)



The programme, and other details for the Sixth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference / Ninth International Bande Dessinée Society Conference, which takes place in Paris between the 22nd and 27th June, can be found via the link. Link (English, WG)



The exhibition on Western comics, Going West!, is now shown in Dortmund. Link (04/05/2015, German, MdlI)

An exhibition of recent German comics was shown in Asperg until the 29th May. Link (04/05/2015, German, MdlI)

Munich Comic Festival is going to take place from the 4th until the 7th June this year; guests include Dave McKean, Mike Perkins, and Jock. Link (13/05/2015, German, MdlI)

A roundtable on reading of webcomics took place at the re:publica web 2.0 conference in Berlin on the 5th May; a video recording is available. Link (German, MdlI)

Publisher Tokyopop and website Animando have founded a new award for dōjinshi. Link (13/05/2015, German, MdlI)

Several comic authors are going to participate in Comic Symposium in Saarbrücken on the 9th June, including Barbara Yelin and Marijpol. Link (21/05/2015, MdlI)

A series of exhibitions of abstract comics is going to be shown in Bremen from the 13th June until the 8th November. Link (25/05/2015, German, MdlI)


Stephan Packard has been awarded one of this year’s Heinz Maier Leibnitz awards of the German Research Foundation (DFG). Link (07/05/2015, German, MdlI)

A roundtable organised by the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor) is going to take place on the 7th June as part of Munich Comic Festival. Link (14/05/2015, German, MdlI)

Two talks on autobiographical comics were given in Bonn on the 20th May. Link (18/05/2015, German, MdlI)



From the 29th May until the 14th June, the Casa da Cultura of Beja will host the annual International Festival of Comics (XI Festival Internacional de Banda Desenhada de Beja). This festival is usually composed by some exhibitions, book/magazine launches, author events, workshops, concerts, and much more. Link (Portuguese, English and French, RR)



An exhibition about the work of Japanese author Yuichi Yokohama can be seen at Centro Centro, Madrid, from the 27th May to the 6th September. Link (25/05/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

An exhibition about the creation of Las Meninas, best Spanish work at the Barcelona International Comic Fair, can be seen at Libreria Gil, Santander, from the 6th May to the 4th June. Link (06/05/2015, Spanish, EdRC)


The international conference, Comics y Compromiso social (Comics and social commitment), will be celebrated at Valencia from the 18th to the 20th November. Abstracts are due by the 15th July. Link (16/02/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

The summer course, Imágenes y migraciones del cómic y la novela gráfica (Images and migrations from comics and graphic novels), will be celebrated at the University of Alcalá from the 23rd to the 26th June. Link (16/05/2015, Spanish, EdRC)



The exhibition, La Magie du Western dans la Bande Dessinée Franco-Belge, which focuses upon Franco-Belgian Western comics will be at the château de St-Maurice from the 22nd May until the 15th November. Link (French, WG)



The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium will be held at The University of Hertfordshire on the 14th October. Abstracts are due by the 27th July. Link (29/05/2015, English, WG)

Reports on the Applied Comics Network meetup which took place on the 9th May can be found via the link (scroll down). Link (English, WG)

There is a call for papers for, TRANSITIONS 6 – New Directions in Comics Studies 2015 Symposium, which will take place on 31st October at Birkbeck, University of London. Link (01/06/2015, English, WG)

*                    *                    *

 News Editor: Will Grady (

Correspondents: Enrique del Rey Cabero (EdRC, Spain), William Grady (WG, UK), Martin de la Iglesia (MdlI, Austria & Germany), Renatta Rafaella (RR, Portugal).

Click here for News Review correspondent biographies.

Click here to see the News Review archive.

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

Leave a comment

Posted by on 2015/06/04 in News Review


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 315 other followers

%d bloggers like this: