It’s the sixth and last column by the German Society of Comics Studies (ComFor) in 2014 and as in the previous five columns I’d like to give an overview on the last months’ activities in German comics studies. In the following you’ll find a potpourri of conferences and workshops, new publications and also exhibitions that took place in Germany and neighboring German-speaking countries.
Conferences, Workshops, Presentations
In Hildesheim, the conference “The Translation and Adaptation of Comics” was held from October 31st to November 2nd, 2014. The main question that ran through all the contributions was which possibilities and problems arise when translating comics with their non-verbal and para-verbal elements from one language and culture into another.
The Winter School “Transmedial Worlds in Convergent Media Culture” in Tuebingen already took place in February and was part of the April ComFor Update. Now the promised extensive English conference report written by Lukas R. A. Wilde is available at the Journal of Literary Theory Online.
Keith Knight, the award-winning American indie cartoonist, visited Germany for almost one month. At different locations (University of Siegen, University of Bremen, University of Osnabrück, University of Bochum and Free University of Berlin) Knight presented his slide show “They Shoot Black People, Don’t They?”. The tour’s last venue in Berlin served also as the opening of the Comics Collection at the Library of the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies on November 25th, 2014. Since 2013, the library of Berlin’s JFK Institute has systematically developed its existing comic collection. Talks by Julia Mayer and Daniel Stein were also part of the opening event. They covered the importance of the collection within the wider field of German and international scholarship and the talks can be read on the ComFor website.
Before the library opening, the JFK Institute also hosted the workshop “Reading with Pictures. A Seminar on Comics in the (Academic) Classroom” with graphic-novelist Josh Elder on October 21st, 2014. Elder is the founder of the nonprofit literacy organization Reading with Pictures and presented his goal to enhance student engagement, improve the efficiency of instruction, and increase overall educational efficacy with comics and graphic novels.
Finally, the department of Japanese studies in Cologne hosted the symposium “Mediale Zeitenwende” (“Media at a Turning Point”) from November 14th to 15th, 2014. Scholars from media studies, narratology and Japanology investigated the range and effects of what has been described as a last decade’s “narrative turn,” with a focus on visual narratives. Comic books featured prominently as objects of inquiry, with presentations by ComFor members Silke Horstkotte, Stephan Packard, Jan-Noël Thon, and Lukas R.A. Wilde.
The German field of comic studies offered some new publications in the past few months. Björn Hammel published an introduction to webcomics: Webcomics. Einführung und Typologie. Hammel tracks the development of American and German webcomics and formulates a typology for this special kind of comics.
Also, the anthology Visuelle Medien im DaF-Unterricht (Visual Media in Classes for German as a Foreign Language), edited by Marc Hieronimus, has been published. Two essays in this volume deal with comics, one by ComFor member Ralf Palandt and another by linguist Chiara Cerri.
The first volume of Closure, an open-access e-journal for comics studies that is published by members of the University of Kiel, came out in November 2014. Five members of the ComFor are involved in this first issue, namely Julia Ingold, Arno Meteling, Véronique Sina, Lukas R.A. Wilde, and Janina Wildfeuer. They contributed essays and reviews on comics and secondary literature. Issue #1.5 with an exclusive focus on reviews is planned for May 2015.
The 15th German comics yearbook Comic! Jahrbuch 2015, edited by Burkhard Ihme, was published in early November 2014. This volume focuses on webcomics, the 16th International Comic Salon in Erlangen and the comics revolution in the 1960s, as well as interviews and reports on comics and cartoons.
Finally, Transcript recently published a collection on text-image-interrelations in graphic novels entitled Bild ist Text ist Bild (Image is text is image) and edited by Susanne Hochreiter and Ursula Klingenböck. The many essays highlight a wide range of theoretical approaches, ranging from literature, media and gender studies to art history.
A number of comics exhibitions opened in autumn and winter: In mid-October, the exhibition “Greetings from the war” started at the Valentin Karlstadt Museum in Munich. The exhibition focuses on a graphic novel by comic artist Uli Knorr and archive footage of the First World War. From December 6th, 2014 until April 19th, 2015, there is also a show about “war drawers” who were officially employed to draw war, which can be seen in the Städtische Galerie Albstadt. Artists like Gus Bofa, Frans Masereel, Joe Sacco and Jacques Tardi are part of the exhibition. On November 15th, 2014 an exhibition about Joost Swarte’s work opened at the Cartoonmuseum Basel. The Kunstverein Ludwigsburg shows “Art Comics – artists‘ biographies as graphic novels“ until February 2nd, 2015. British historian and curator Paul Gravett opened the exhibition with a talk about the art language of comics on November 23rd, 2014.
From January 15th to 18th, 2015 the city of Kassel is going to celebrate its second “Neue Wege” (“new paths”) festival of graphic novels. The five days of the festival will incorporate a wide program of talks, exhibitions and discussions, exploring where comics and graphic novels could be heading in the future.
With this overview about the last two months of what has been going on in Germany, we can look back on the first year of ComFor columns at comicsforum.org. In 2015, the German Society of Comics Studies will celebrate its 10th anniversary. It’ll be exciting to see what the future holds in store for us and we will of course report on that in detail in next year’s columns.
Nina Heindl, M.A. is PhD. student in art history at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. Her dissertation project is about artistic forms of comics based on Chris Ware’s oeuvre and is funded by RUB Research School PLUS. She works as Graduate Assistant at the Department of Art History, University of Cologne, Germany, and is on the editing board of the website of the German Society of Comic Studies (ComFor).