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Conference Report: Joint Conference of The International Graphic Novels and Comics and The International Bande Dessinée Societies

by Joe Sutliff Sanders and Laurence Grove

Although the 2021 joint conference of the International Graphic Novels and Comics and the International Bande Dessinée societies, to be held in Cambridge, was advertised as an in-person-only event that would be cancelled if the pandemic interfered, such was the response to the call for proposals that we moved the conference online. The result was five full days (21-25 June) of papers, keynotes, and online socialisation.

The four keynotes targeted the conference theme of “Comics and Their Audiences / Audiences and Their Comics.” Sara W. Duke (Library of Congress) gave an overview of European comics and caricatures in the Library onwards from the purchase of material from Windsor Castle a century ago. Kate Charlesworth (Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide and many more) took us through her personal journey to becoming an artist, coming out as a lesbian, and creating the much-lauded autobiographical account that is Sensible Footwear. Lara Saguisag (City University of New York-College of Staten Island) provided a compelling history of the petrocultural, the ways in which global society is an oil society, in physical and material ways, shaping values, practices, habits, and even feelings, infusing comics and communities with a narrative that naturalises high energy consumption. Kazumi Nagaike (Oita University) explored depictions of sexuality in Japanese ‘essay manga’, essentially slice-of-life narratives in comic form.

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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 2/2

by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall

Gert Meesters chaired Panel 4: A Space for Girls. Early research into the relationship between comics and their readers was central to Sylvain Lesage’s presentation. Through a study of reader correspondences he analysed the reception of and discourse provoked by the comics strip “Corinne et Jeannot” in the communist comics magazine for children Pif Gadget (1969- 1993/2004-2009). The serial performance of Jeannot, a boy in love being pranked by Corinne, the girl he adores, sparked a feedback loop between publishers, creators and readers and was also referred to within the comic. The curiosity of the readers’ letters is their desire to negotiate the morality of a fictional character, to communicate ideologies such as the extent of acceptable meanness for girls and suitable levels of temperance and kindness. It speaks to readers’ genuine investment in these comics, showing that fictional characters in humour strips are subject to such socially normative constraints. Aswathy Senan’s research on the childhood of Malayalis considered the extent to which the context of publication shapes the comics themselves. This notion was explored through a comparison of the comics strip “Bobanum Moliyum” as published in the women’s magazine Malayala Manorama and in Kalakaumudi, a literary magazine. Whilst the characters and the concept of their strip remained constant, the humour, the interests and the agency of the characters adapted to the flavour of the different magazines.

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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 1/2

by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall

The digital symposium Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood was launched on 22 April 2021 with a profound and personal keynote by Mel Gibson. Using herself as a case study she reflected on being a reader, a librarian, a scholar and an individual who, in a variety of fields, has represented non-standard notions of ‘girl’. In workshops for librarians, teachers and scholars, Gibson uses comics for object elicitation, allowing her to encourage others to reconsider themselves as child comics readers and the complex ideologies knotted up in this experience. Gibson’s work provokes the notion of the individual as a role model, a unique and precise representation with particular qualities, interests and passions. Using restorative nostalgia entails not just reflecting back on but, also, resisting shame and embarrassment, forgiving and accepting ourselves as the child readers we were. Gibson shows a respect for the powerful and evocative materiality of comics and offers a compassionate model for identity. Whilst speaking personally about comics reading, Gibson engaged with discourses of hierarchy, child development and affect, interrogating the simple truth that what we read is part of making us who we are.

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CSSC/SCEBD Virtual Symposium Report

by Erika Chung

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Society for the Study of Comics/La Société canadienne pour l’étude de la bande dessinée 2020 conference was cancelled. In its place, a series of online symposiums were organised to bring comic scholars together throughout the 2020/2021 academic year. Participants accepted to the conference and CSSC/SCEBD members in good standing were welcomed to participate in the online symposiums. In an effort to maximise the flexibility of the online Zoom space, the symposiums did not replicate in-person panel presentations. Instead, panellists’ research was shared with spectators in advance of the scheduled symposium session and, on the day of the symposium, researchers participated in a roundtable discussion. The goal was for panelists to engage in greater dialogue with their research and each other. Panelists and spectators met on Zoom and a moderator helped guide the roundtable discussion. Moderators introduced each speaker and prepared discussion questions. Panelists were also welcome to ask one another questions. In total, the online symposium series consisted of four sessions and featured researchers from the UK, India and across Canada.

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The Comics Patrimonialisation of Woodcut Novels

Turning an Entre-deux Situation into a Third Position – Part 3/3[1]

by Jean-Matthieu Méon

 

Woodcut novels form a genre of graphic narratives that emerged in Europe at the end of the 1910s with the works of the Belgian Frans Masereel. It was later explored and expanded by several European and Northern American artists, among whom the American Lynd Ward was one of the most influential (Beronä). If the genre waned in the 1950s, its influence has been claimed by diverse artists, especially in the comics field. In recent years, key works of the genre were reprinted in France and they are considered important elements of comics’ heritage.
The three parts of this article analyse this current comics valorisation of decades-old woodcut novels. The theoretical model of patrimonialisation (Davallon) helps to shed light on this process, which relies on a specific relationship with the past, made of both rediscovery and reinvention (part I). The editorial paratext of the current reprints plays here a central role. It’s a means to equate “woodcut novels” and “graphic novels” and to bring together distinct fields of artistic creations (part II). The symbolic stakes of this patrimonialising process are important: for comics and for their publishers, it’s part of a quest for legitimacy and for an artistic autonomy that Masereel and Ward could embody (part III).

 

The terminological instability in designing Masereel’s and Ward’s books in their current paratext—and the ambivalences it produces— [see part II] can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, this instability reflects the processual nature of this patrimonialisation, consisting in the collective production of an equivalence between woodcut books, and graphic novels and comics. The equivalence is initiated by the publishers, reinforced by its critical reception and then re-appropriated by the publishers. On the other hand, the instability also reflects the symbolic tensions that the editorial paratext tries to manage and to overcome. According to these paratextual indications, the woodcut books are to be seen as comics without being comics, as graphic novels without being ordinary graphic novels, as “wordless novels” but not only, as past works but “modern” and, as such, still relevant. What is at stake here is distinction—within or without the comics field.

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Posted by on 2021/05/24 in Guest Writers

 

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