Conference Review: The International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference by Matthew Screech

07 Sep

The Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels, Comics and the International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference

July 5-8 2011

Manchester Metropolitan University

The bande dessinée part of the joint conference took up the baton after two very stimulating days with GNAC and SIC. We too were pleased by the quantity and quality of papers and we ran parallel sessions. The morning of 7th July began with panels comprising two distinct strands: bandes dessinées and Francophone Africa, and BDs drawing upon the European Classics. The first strand began with Laurike in’t Veld’s insights into how the Rwandan genocide was represented in comics, and continued with Michel Bumatay’s study of Sub-Saharan African Francophone BDs. The focus on Africa continued with Mark Mckinney, who drew upon (post) colonial strips to argue that autobiography began in BDs earlier than is generally recognised. This was followed by Cathal Kilcline’s analysis of Boudjellal, who depicts an immigrant family in Toulon. The European Classics strand began with papers by Linda Rabea-Heyden and Matthew Screech on comic strip adaptations of canonical literary works: Goethe’s Faust and Voltaire’s Candide. Next came a re-examination of bande dessinée Classics with Bart Beaty, who closely scrutinised panels from Bravo’s re-make of the best-selling hero Spirou. Another strip to enter the pantheon of classics, Lieutenant Blueberry, was discussed by Martha Zan, who established its similarities with ss.

Jimenez Lai and Martha Zan, Manchester 2011. Photo courtesy of Greice Schneider at

Our first keynote speaker, Edmond Baudoin, is a BD artist recognised in France but little known in the UK. He spoke in French but kept the non French-speakers involved by drawing as he spoke. Baudoin spoke at length about his artistic approach, particularly how shapes communicate oppositions and tensions in a drawing. Baudoin also discussed his current project on Dali, which he is preparing at the Pompidou Centre (Paris).

After lunch the panels again divided into two strands: strips connecting with a specifically European history and the Ninth Art and architecture. The first began with Laurence Grove’s paper on Mary Toft, who reportedly gave birth to rabbits in the 18th Century, thereby inspiring many comic prints and creating a furore which would not seem out of place in sections of today’s popular press. After that, Fernand Stefanich traced trends in detective BDs back to popular publications of the late 19th/early 20th Century. The European historical strand then took a Hispanic turn with Jorge Catala-Carrasco’s analysis of little-known strips from the Spanish Civil War and Manuel de la Fuente, who used autobiographical comics including those by Paracuellos, to reflect on societal and generational experiences. The strand on architecture comprised Renata Pascoal, who drew upon a variety of strips from Morris to Moebius, in order to study buildings past, present and future in BDs, and to show how they interact with the characters who live in them. Mike Picone considered how buildings interact with BDs by discussing relationship between museums and comic art, particularly with regard to exhibitions of more recent artists in the Louvre. We were also treated to Jimenez Lai’s three-dimensional drawings, in a paper discussing space, time and architecture in BDs. The day ended with what was perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole event: Alberto Cipriani and Mauro Marchesi, two architects who have designed a building which is also a comic book, no more no less!

Charlotte Pylyser and Steven Surdiacourt, Manchester 2011. Photo courtesy of Greice Schneider at

The second day again had two parallel panels. The first focused on Northern Europe. Charlotte Pylyser spoke about Flemish coffee-table books, Rik Sanders revealed the extent of anti-comics feeling in post-War Holland and Paul Malone discussed the ongoing search for a comic strip audience in Germany. The second strand was more devoted to theoretical approaches. Steven Surdiacourt discussed the role of excess for the reader’s experience, Rikke Platz Cortsen studied different formats to show how time/space work in the construction of fictional comics strip worlds, and Greice Schneider analysed the importance of narrative tension. Also in the morning we had a panel on gender and the body. Here we had a paper from Klara Arnberg and Tomas Nilson, who shed light on the little known comic books debate in Sweden from a gender perspective. There was also Catriona Macleod, who traced evolutions in representations of women in BDs with particular emphasis on recent evolutions, and Ann Miller who analysed the work of Penelope Bagieu as representing (not always enlightened) currents in post-feminism.

Unfortunately Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle, our second keynote speaker, was unable to attend for health reasons. However, he was represented by Hélène Sirven, his colleague from the Sorbonne, who kindly agreed to read his paper. Fresnault-Deruelle discusses resonances between former elements in Hergé’s famous diptych Les Sept Boules de Cristal and Le Temple du Soleil. His analysis shows how visual, semiotic and symbolic resonances between the albums create a vast “echo chamber”, which serves both to increase dramatic intensity and to create effects of parody.

Manchester 2011. Photo courtesy of Greice Schneider at

In the final afternoon we had two more panels: in one on traveller’s tales, Michelle Bloom discussed the construction of the artist Guy Delisle’s self during his stay in China; Annick Pellegrin then spoke of the depiction of Latin America in later Spirou. Finally, a panel on developments since the millennium gave us a paper by Christophe Meunier and Sylvie Dardaillon about the little-known Quebec artist Michel Rabagliati, and Clare Tufts’ discussion of the musical dimension in Etienne Davodeau.

The above gallop-through of papers cannot do justice to the quality of the research and the scholarship involved. We therefore look forward to seeing these papers published so that a wider public may appreciate them better.

Matthew Screech is senior Lecturer in French at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research interests are 19th Century Symbolist poetry and French popular culture, especially bandes dessinées. He co-organised a bande dessinée conference at MMU in 2005 with the support of Sheffield University and l’Alliance française de Manchester. He sits on the editorial board of the scholarly journal European Comic Art and has reviewed for Modern and Contemporary France and Graphic Novels and Comics.

For more images from Manchester 2011, click here.


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