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The Intermittent ComFor Update, as of October 2020

by Natalie Veith

Generally speaking, not too much has changed since Stephan’s update in July. Obviously. Most of us are still working from home and we feel the walls slowly closing in on us. Many comic-related events that had been planned for the summer were cancelled or rescheduled. Under different circumstances, the teaching period of the winter semester would start right about now, but most German universities have postponed it for another few weeks to accommodate for the delayed beginning of classes during the summer semester and the difficulties related to scheduling exams. During countless hours on Zoom and other video conference tools over the past months, we have all had ample opportunity to satisfy our voyeuristic drives and take a peek at the interior of our colleagues’ and students’ homes; say hello to various pets, parents and friends interrupting the calls; and realise that there are some students whose name we only know but whose face we have never seen because they do not own a webcam (as opposed to remembering their faces, but not having a clue what their names are, as is usually the case). Maybe it is the knowledge that we are all in this together – though spatially apart – or it is because, given enough time, people get used to anything, but in one way or another, we are all settling into this crazy situation and accepting it as the new normal.

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Posted by on 2020/10/10 in ComFor Updates

 

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Comics Forum 2020 Cancelled

Unfortunately, we have decided not to run a Comics Forum conference this year. The cancellation of Comics Forum, an event series that has run for ten instalments without interruption is not something we take lightly. In brief, the reasons we have made this decision are as follows:

  • The original theme proposal and CFP text were produced early in 2020, before a wide range of globally significant events took place. We are not confident that the focus of the event as written is adequate to respond to these events in a meaningful way. The questions were being asked in a very different context to that in which answers would have been given.
  • Recent events in the field of comics-scholarship specifically have compounded this problem and made clear that any attempt to respond to deep-rooted structural problems in the field would need to proceed from a broader base than was incorporated into the CFP as written.
  • Given that some of these recent events have highlighted the ways in which (in particular) more junior academics might be penalised for speaking out about structural inequalities, we have a responsibility to ensure that the spaces we create for discussion do not perpetuate such harms. Our plans for digital presentations do not do enough to ensure this type of safeguarding is possible, and we are not prepared to rush through an alternative approach.
  • Similarly, although the move to a digital context presents many opportunities, it also creates more general areas of risk around safeguarding and moderation. Given the theme of the conference and the possibility of harm coming from these areas, we are not confident that we could adequately protect participants from or prepare participants for adverse consequences arising from the event (we are including the organising team as participants here). To be clear: this is not an indication that we regard any of the proposals we received as particularly problematic, but we are aware that interpretations vary widely in online interactions and this presents some risk.

Comics Forum has always sought to offer an open and productive space to start and continue conversations on important topics, but its greatest impact has been outside the event itself in the relationships that persist. We have no doubt that these relationships will continue to prosper without an event this year.

Over the next year, we will be keeping a close eye on events both within Comics Studies and beyond and considering how we can best engage with the important work of developing the field in future.

The Comics Forum 2020 Organising Committee
Harriet Kennedy, Ian Hague, Maggie Gray, Olivia Hicks

 
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Posted by on 2020/09/14 in Comics Forum 2020, News

 

Allies and Disability Representation in Contemporary Russian Comics

José Alaniz

University of Washington, Seattle

Note: all translations are the author’s own.

 

Corrections Class (Klass korrektsii, d. Ivan Tverdovsky, 2015) is a hard-hitting film about disability in Russia. In one scene, a mother, Svetlana Viktorovna (Natalya Pavlenkova), struggles to push her paraplegic teen daughter Lena (Maria Poyezhayeva) in her wheelchair up a two-track cement ramp outside her high school. But the ramp, which we had seen in the process of construction earlier in the movie, has a fatal flaw: a gap of several inches between it and the sidewalk – too wide for a wheelchair to overcome. Worse than useless, the ramp is a spit in the face, a bureaucratic nod to inclusivity with no actual follow-through. It drives Svetlana Viktorovna, who has more than enough troubles in her life, to hiss with rage: “Thank you very much, my dears. Great job.”[1] Equal parts maudlin melodrama, documentary exposé and black farce, the scene is not exactly fiction (though the film is). It had a real-life basis.

In the fall of 2012, a popular series of memes emerged on the Runet (Russian internet): pictures of the many inaccessible spaces for wheelchair-users in Russian cities, turned into absurdist set decoration by ramps built impossibly steep; ramps with trees and other objects blocking the way; broken ramps with wide cracks; and ramps leading to/from nowhere (e.g., into walls). “The inaccessible-ramps meme gained popularity not as [a] representation of the problem of disability inclusion in Russia,” wrote anthropologist Cassandra Hartblay, “but as a joke about the country’s infrastructure, ironic evidence of dysfunction in Russian daily life” (“Good”: 3).[2] Hartblay goes on to call the ramps “an overdetermined symbol, or a red herring for access” in postsocialism (“Good”: 4).

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The Intermittent ComFor Update, as of July 2020

by Stephan Packard

 

This update was originally planned for May. It would have chronicled a number of spring-time conferences and publications in the German-speaking worlds of comics studies; outlined further plans for this year’s annual ComFor conference; pointed out various courses and lectures on comics in university curricula throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland; and announced a newly elected Executive Board for the German Society for Comics Studies.

And then, of course, a pandemic happened. The ComFor website turned into a chronicle of cancellations and deferments, listing these casualties on a new landing page (but accompanying this with a laconically titled but encouraging international list of comic projects that respond to the pandemic: Comics und Corona). Compromises abound. Leipzig’s Manga Comic Con and the Comiciade at Aachen were both cancelled altogether, as were too many conferences. The joint Bremen and Bydgoszcz conference on empirical studies into language and images in public communication, once planned for May, has been postponed for the fall; organized by Anna Kapuścińska and John Bateman, it is set to continue the first Sprache und Bild in der öffentlichen Kommunikation conference from April 2019. The NEXTCOMIC Festival in Austria originally had to close down most of its events, moving on to planning for 2021; but it did uphold the basic elements of its exhibition – and by now, several new and deferred events have begun to populate its 2020 programme. Stuttgart’s International Trick Film Festival on animation went virtual, as did the Erlangen Comic Salon, Germany’s largest comic convention and conference. It has moved completely online and has now begun a virtual salon on July 10th. Other special events have gone the same route; perhaps most notably, comic artist Ulli Lust presents a ‘coronavirus-safe’ version of her seminar on drawing comics on YouTube.

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Posted by on 2020/07/24 in ComFor Updates

 

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Lev Gleason Publications and Pre-Code PR:

Attracting Mature Readers[1]

By Peter W. Y. Lee

Among the 1954 Comics Magazine Association of America’s Comic Code’s many regulations was a directive to company admen: “Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable” (Nyberg 168). The ubiquity of alcohol in mainstream media certainly concerned social guardians in post-war America (Rotskoff). However, liquor manufacturers did not solicit to minors in the comics, but another demographic group: their parents.

The first part of my article looked at how Lev Gleason Publications responded to the public alarm over comic books. Gleason and his chief editor, Charles Biro, pushed comics as a progressive medium with educational and artistic merit. This second part explores their second strategy: courting adults. Gleason hoped that an expanded readership would bolster support and offset rising production costs. However, critics rejected comic books’ potential beyond that of disposable children’s entertainment. The Comics Code sanitised comic books and stigmatised readers beyond middle-school age.

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Posted by on 2020/07/17 in Guest Writers

 

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