As German universities are about to return for their summer semesters, I find that the previous seasons of comics research in Germany hardly seem to apply any longer; an onslaught of publications, conferences, and exhibitions seems to continue throughout the year. Giving an overview of all of them no longer appears feasible, but here are some of those that kept us busy during the last two months, with apologies to anyone whose projects I might have missed. Do let me know.
We’re currently gearing up for the workshop on The Mediality and Materiality of Contemporary Comics at Tuebingen between April 24th and 26th. This second workshop of the AG Comicforschung, the panel for comics research, of the German Society for Media Studies (Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft) will be organised by Jan-Noël Thon and Lukas Wilde. The program boasts keynotes by Daniel Stein, Karin Kukkonen, Ian Hague, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, and AG founder Véronique Sina, and will combine these with shorter paper presentations on topics ranging from the treatment of history in comics to analyses of individual comics by Warren Ellis, John Byrne, Scott McCloud, Brian Fies, and several others.
Meanwhile, the Call for Papers for ComFor’s Annual Conference has been published. Under the auspices of Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, the tenth conference (!) will tackle issues of History in Comics as well as the History of Comics from September 4th to 6th at Frankfurt University. Papers on the conference subject as well as contributions to the open workshop format are welcome in German as well as English; the deadline for submissions is May 15th. If you’re looking to discuss comics histories and historiographies in an international crowd and with an added opportunity to see a wide selection of German comics research, please do come along.
ComFor’s tenth anniversary is also marked by its first panel at Munich’s Comic Festival (June 4th to 7th) with its typically varied and rich program. Dedicated to an overview on the State of German Comics Studies, it will feature a discussion among Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff (Forschungsstelle Kinder- / Jugendbuchforschung, Universität Frankfurt); Astrid Böger (Arbeitsstelle für Graphische Literatur, Universität Hamburg); Andreas Rauscher (AG Comicforschung der Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft); Janina Wildfeuer (Comiclinguistik, Universität Bremen); Joachim Trinkwitz (Bonner Online-Bibliographie für Comicforschung); Burkhard Ihme (ICOM and Comic-Jahrbuch); and myself. Marie Schröer will chair.
But of course, the Comic Festival goes way beyond our little panel. Well over 20 international and 30 German comics artists will be attending, and research as well as fan panels and several vernissages beckon. See the link above for the most recent news on the ever-growing program.
Meanwhile, several recent and upcoming events are keeping us going during the spring. Not least, concurrent to the Munich Comic Festival, Horst Berner’s exhibition Die Beatles im Comic promises several well-selected pieces, among them originals by Arne Bellstorf. David Schraven’s and Jan Feindt’s critical comic on right-wing terrorism, Weisse Wölfe, will be presented at a vernissage and subsequent exhibition starting April 15th at the Schauspielhaus in Dortmund. Journalist Brigitte Helbling and artist Sarah Burrini are offering insight into “Graphic Novels in Print and Web” at Stuttgart’s city library on April 14th. And also in mid-April, Berlin’s comic festival Comic-Invasion (April 18th/19th) will include an accompanying program with a huge variety of readings, lectures, panels, and exhibitions. An exhibition on Belgian Independent Comics has already opened at Peter Weiss Haus in Rostock and will continue to be available until April 19th; another on the work of Ralf König, titled Rotznasen, will continue until May 17th at Caricatura in Kassel. The last of three readings by König on May 6th is still upcoming. On May 23rd, the exhibition on Manfred Schmidt’s Nick Knatterton comics previously shown at Saarlouis will move on to Bamberg, where it will stay until August 16th.
Keeping track of new publications on comics studies has become a challenge of its own. ComFor’s Publication Monitor does its best to keep up and has published two instalments recently on the previous year as well as the first months of this year. While Comics Forum readers will know about most of the international publications mentioned, they might be interested to learn about some of the German projects: Florian Trabert’s, Mara Stuhlfauth-Trabert’s and Johannes Waßmer’s Graphisches Erzählen promises a collection of “new perspectives on literature comics”, meaning adaptations of literary texts in comic format. Jörn Ahrens’, Frank T. Brinkmann’s and Nathanael Riemer’s edited volume on Comics – Bilder, Stories und Sequenzen in religiösen Deutungskulturen presents overviews and analyses on religious graphical naratives, as well as their and other comics’ religious interpretations. Meanwhile, Stefan Maier’s monography on Superman transmedial considers the existence of the character, figure, and body image across media.
Let me also point out that the paperback edition of Daniel Stein’s and Jan-Noël Thon’s much-celebrated volume From Comic Strips to Graphic Novels: Contributions to the Theory and History of Graphic Narrative has finally arrived, giving a wide and – in this columnist’s opinion – excellent and exhaustive panorama of current narratological approaches to comics studies.
ComFor was proud to publish Daniel Stein’s conversation with American cartoonist Keith Knight (in English), creator of The K Chronicles, (Th)ink, and The Knight Life, “About Comics and Police Brutality”. Daniel Stein is Professor for North American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Siegen and a member of ComFor. They discuss both the stereotypes and the resistant powers of comics art, and go on to distinguish the different attitudes of divergent genres, such as autobiographical comic strips as opposed to single-panel political cartoons. The thought-provoking interview concludes on an elaborate description of needs but also hopes for change.
March also saw the publication of Comic Solidarity’s Webcomics im Fokus I (in German), which documents the talks, discussions, readings, and presentations given on webcomics at the Comic Salon in Erlangen in 2014. Comic Solidarity, founded in 2013, represents web artists working on comics. The most recent publication was edited by ComFor-member (and contributor to this column) Lukas Wilde; its entries range from questioning a specific aesthetics of webcomics, through photo comics and distinctions between comics and journalism online, to spotlights on ten selected webcomics. It also includes a documentation of the roundtable discussion that centred the talks at Erlangen.
In closing, I would like to draw readers’ attention to the project Visual History. At home at Potsdam’s Zentrum für zeithistorische Forschung, the network of researchers aims to bring together various methods and disciplines working on historical studies into pictorial media. The rich and growing online resource has recently added an elaborate article by Christine Gundermann on Comics as a Historical Source (in German).
Beyond that, there are no closing remarks; work continues, and I have no doubt that the next column will be at least as full as this one.
Stephan Packard is Junior Professor for Media Culture Studies at Freiburg University; previously, he was Assistant Professor for Comparative Literature in Munich. Interests focus on semiotic and psychoanalytic research into new and traditional media; the semiotics of affect; censorship and other forms of media control; as well as comics studies. He is President of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor), on the editorial board of the journal Medienobservationen, and chief editor of the open access journal Mediale Kontrolle unter Beobachtung on censorship and media control. – Anatomie des Comics. Psychosemiotische Medienanalyse (Göttingen 2006); Poetische Gerechtigkeit (ed. with Donat/Lüdeke/Richter, Düsseldorf 2012); Abschied von 9/11 (ed. with Hennigfeld, Berlin 2013); Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political (Berlin 2013, ed. with Esch-van Kan/Schulte); Comics & Politics (Berlin 2013, ed.).