While April’s column on recent developments in German comic studies was dominated by news about fairs and festivals, the last months saw a bigger emphasis on exhibitions and art galleries. On May 30, Berlin’s Icon Gallery featured an exhibition on German artist Simon Schwartz, whose highly praised graphic novel Drüben is also available in French (translated as De l’autre côté). Munich’s Instituto Cervantes presented an exhibition on Spain’s most famous comic artist Paco Roca throughout May and June, whose book Arrugas (engl.: Wrinkles) and its animated film adaptation received many awards around the world. Until July 27, you may visit an exhibition on “Graphic novel – Bande Dessinée: Gezeichnete Literatur aus Frankreich” (“Graphic Literature in France”) in the municipal library of Osnabrück; until August 3 on the German Democratic Republic-comic magazine Mosaik (and its stars, the Digedags) in the Kulturbrauerei Berlin, as well as on German artist Ralf König in the caricature museum in Frankfurt. And until August 31, the Berlin Literary Colloquium will feature an exhibition on Finnish artist Ville Tietäväinen’s controversial political comic book on EU immigration issues, “Näkymättömät kädet”, which was recently translated into German by the Avant publishing house.
A similarly strong focus on international issues can be found with regard to speeches and talks. British Batman expert and cultural studies scholar Will Brooker visited the University of Cologne for a conference on “Understanding Transmedia” on May 17 to give a keynote on “The Batman Brand: The Dark Knight as Transmedia Icon” (the conference discussed other comic-related topics as well, with ComFor-member Jan-Noël Thon giving a speech on transmedia characters in general). On May 13, French scholar Jean-Pascal Vachon visited the University Innsbruck to talk about one century of French bande dessinée, while American comic scholar and cognitive scientist Neil Cohn spoke at the University of Freiburg on June 21 and the University of Bremen on June 23/25, respectively. He elaborated in open workshops on his most recent and influential publication, The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images, building on contemporary theories from linguistics and cognitive psychology.
Mentioning those exhibitions and talks separately feels somehow out of proportion, however, since the Erlangen International Comic-Salon features such a large number of comic-related issues within its four day schedule. Over 30 comic art exhibitions, more than 50 talks, round tables, lectures and discussions, as well as over 400 artists were present at Germany’s biggest comic fairs from June 19 to 22. Since this column was written right before (or rather during) its final preparations, it isn’t possible to provide any impressions of the event yet.
The conference “Comic Studies meet Media Studies” is hard to summarize, for completely different reasons – which have already been mentioned in the last column. Held at the Ruhr University in Bochum on April 25/26, the five talks and subsequent discussions pointed at very different perspectives on the “mediality” of comics. A round table discussion, which involved the audience of about 30 to 40 scholars to a great degree, addressed a lot of questions regarding the institutional, methodological and disciplinary contexts surrounding the study and teaching of comic books. While it remained vague on what might be understood by the term “mediality,” the participants agreed on the fruitfulness of asking and negotiating the multiple aspects the term might encompass in a given case. The AG Comicforschung (Comic Studies Board) of the Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft GfM (German Society of Media Studies) is going to pursue some of those issues further with a panel at the GfM annual conference “Medien | Recht” (Media, Law and Rights), as well as with a subsequent workshop in 2015.
In terms of future events, it should be mentioned that there will be a workshop on “Future Visions: Speculation and Anticipation in Graphic Narratives” at the University of Bayreuth on July 11, featuring a poster session where students present their own research projects, as well as three lectures by literary and cultural scholars on the primarily dystopian future visions in contemporary comic books. Also, the ComFor will hold its own annual conference from September 25 to 28 in Berlin on “Drawing Boundaries, Crossing Borders“ with a lot of English presentations as well – check out the conference program online! On November 14/15, the University of Cologne is going to host a conference on “Media at a Turning Point”, which will focus exclusively on changes in visual narratives and includes ComFor-members Silke Horstkotte, Stephan Packard, Jan-Noël Thon, and Lukas R.A. Wilde among its participants.
We’d also like to mention a Call for Participation from the University of Hamburg on the topic “Visual Narratives – Cultural Identities”, pointing to a trans- and interdisciplinary conference on November 27 to 29 that focuses strongly on the visuality of cultures and culture-making in graphic narration (deadline for abstracts is July 31).
In a closing comment we’d like to point out that the ComFor has “re-invented” itself: the previously more or less informal pool of collaborators, which, for the last nine years, had primarily been united by their shared engagement in the coordination and progression of German comics scholarship, was officially reestablished as a registered association in April. Stephan Packard, Felix Giesa, and Catherine Michel were reelected as managing board.
The ComFor-online editing board currently consists of Nina Heindl, Laura Oehme and Lukas R.A. Wilde. Nina Heindl is assistant at the Department of Art History of the Ruhr-University Bochum; Laura Oehme is writing her PhD at the Department of American Studies of the University of Bayreuth; Lukas Wilde is doctoral candidate at the Department for Media Studies of Tuebingen University.