As Stephan Packard stated in his last update, the abundance of comics-related events, publications, and exhibitions has become overwhelming. As a member of the ComFor online editing board, I know first-hand how much we are struggling to keep up with the numerous announcements of upcoming events that are received almost daily. This, of course, is not only a good sign for the future of comics studies, but also hints at the fact that the public perception of comics continues to grow.
I would like to start off this month’s column by congratulating Stephan Packard for receiving the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2015. The prize is awarded each year by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The ComFor’s much-valued President received the prize on May 5th in Berlin and is, after Daniel Stein, only the second comics scholar to receive it yet.
With the summer semester well underway, the last two months have been busy for German comics scholars. In May, the University of Bonn invited two ComFor members to give guest lectures on autobiographical comics: Joachim Trinkwitz talked in general about self-portrayal in the comics medium and Rolf Lohse introduced the audience to the tradition of autobiographical comics in France. This year’s comics symposium in Saarbrücken focused on “Comics in Space” and invited many German and French comic authors to talk about their works. The research colloquium “Literature and Illustration” at the University of Hannover, which is still short of two guest lectures on comics, will take place on June 24th and July 15th. Similarly, the workshop series “Comics als Metageschichte” at the University of Cologne will put on its third and final workshop on June 26th, focusing on the circulation of comics and featuring presentations by Christina Meyer and Jeff Thoss. The series will be topped off by a comics reading with Christina Plaka and Barbara Yelin on July 15th.
Most notably, since April, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced funding a research cooperation between the University of Paderborn and the University of Potsdam on the subject of “Hybrid Narrativity”. By combining methods from the cognitive sciences and digital humanities with narratology and literary history, this project “aims at a richer and empirically robust understanding of graphic literature” and thus presents an intrinsically interdisciplinary approach to comics studies.
This month, the ComFor’s 14th Publication Monitor was published and I would like to emphasize the two German publications it lists: Graphisches Erzählen von Adoleszenz: Deutschsprachige Autorencomics nach 2000 by Felix Giesa (publisher: Peter Lang) and Die Kunst des Comic-Sammelns by Alex Jakubowski and Sandra Mann (publisher: Edition Lammerhuber). Felix Giesa’s study of comics dealing with the subject of adolescence traces the historical development of the genre and provides close readings of six contemporary German comics. Alex Jakubowski’s and Sandra Mann’s edited volume of portraits and photographs provides insight into 15 unique comic collections and their owners.
Summertime is festival-time! First and foremost, the Comic Festival in Munich took place from June 4th to 7th, which Stephan Packard has already dealt with it at length in the last column. A video of the ComFor’s panel discussion on the state of German comics studies is now available on Splashcomics’ website (in German). Apart from the second largest comic event in Germany, comics were also a topic at this year’s Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (May 5th to 10th), featuring a panel discussion asking “After Charlie?”, a one-day symposium on “Color in Animation, Comics and Literature”, a two-day comic workshop with Davor Bakara, and presentations by Harri Römpötti about comics and animation. Also, the Hamburg Graphic Novel Days took place at the Literaturhaus from May 18th to 22nd for the fourth time.
Beyond the many ongoing exhibitions that were listed in the last update, some more have opened in the past two months. In cooperation with Cross Cult publishing house, the city of Asperg presented the art exhibition “Comic made in Germany” in May. The traveling exhibition “Going West!” has moved to Dortmund and will be on tour until June 2016, also stopping off in Hannover and Saarbrücken. In Bad Wildungen, an exhibition of the Caricatura Kassel shows the works of the cartoonist Burkhard Fritsche, alias BURKH, until August. From June 6th to October 4th, the Sommerpalais in Greiz hosts the eighth Caricatures Triennial, entitled “Everything under Control.” On June 12th an exhibtion series on “Abstract Comics” opened in Bremen, with the first showing the works of the Swiss collective Hecatombe.
I would also like to mention that the online magazine Bookster has published a comprehensive portrait of Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff, co-founder of the ComFor and organizer of this year’s annual ComFor conference at the University of Frankfurt (September 4–6, 2015). Finally, I would like to join my predecessor in predicting an equally well-filled column in August and hope that the exciting interest in the German comics studies scene continues.
Laura Oehme, M.A. is currently writing her dissertation on “Risk Technologies and Global Catastrophe in Contemporary Science Fiction Comics” in the field of American Studies at the University of Bayreuth, where she also works as a research assistant in a DFG-funded project on “Contemporary American Risk Fiction.” She is a member of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor), as well as the AG Comicforschung, and is part of the editorial team of the ComFor website. Together with Jeanne Cortiel, she has written an article on “The Dark Knight’s Dystopian Vision: Batman, Risk, and American National Identity,” which is forthcoming in the European Journal of American Studies.