by Stephan Packard
The new year starts with preparations for 2016’s annual ComFor conference, which will be held at Duisburg-Essen from November 16th to 19th. This year, we will focus on didactics, offering workshops and talks about implementing comics and comics studies into school curricula and lessons. Organized by Markus Engelns alongside Ulrike Preußer and Clemens Kammler, the conference will discuss basic concepts of comics analysis with a focus on examples that topicalize school within comics; and then turn that around to focus on comics in schools for the longest part. As usual, the conference will also include an open forum for current plans and intermediate reports from unfinished projects in comics studies that are looking for feedback or simply encouragement – my favorite part of each of our conferences. The call for papers was published recently and the deadline for abstracts is set at April 1st, 2016.
Another recent call for papers asks for proposals for the third edition of Germany’s new and highly acclaimed journal for comics research, CLOSURE. The first two issues collected fascinating pieces of scholarship as well as students’ reviews of comic books old and new and earned great praise. The most recent CFP is headlined “stuff matters” and asks for contributions focusing on objects and material design within comic books, topically and aesthetically. The deadline is March 11th.
As for completed publications, Véronique Sina’s long-awaited PhD thesis on comic adaptations in film under a gender perspective, aptly titled Comic – Film – Gender, is finally available from Transcript. The monograph uses Bolter and Grusin’s concept of remediation to analyze the roles of gender in Frank Miller’s Sin City, Enki Bilal’s Immortel, and Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass. Regular readers will recognize Véronique as the founder and president of the German Society for Media Studies’ extremely active section on comics studies.
Meanwhile, Markus Engelns and Ulrike Preußer have also been busy editing the most recent issue of literaturkritik.de, an online journal for book and media reviews. 2016’s first issue is focused on comics, with discussions on German comics and graphic storytelling, literary adaptations in comics, Franco-Belgian BDs, and international comics with a special focus on the US. The edition’s editorial also uses the opportunity to remember the murderous attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January last year.
While we usually only talk about German publications in this column, let me add a quick shout-out to Neil Cohn’s Visual Narrative Reader, which has garnered praise and discussion in German comics studies and not least contains a unique overview of German media linguistics’ approaches to the field from Janina Wildfeuer and John Bateman, a resource that has been sorely missing, especially for work from those decades produced before the recent upswing in academic comics analysis. A lot of the most fascinating work from German comics studies probably comes from early linguistic treatises from 1970 onwards; it is invaluable to see it collected and summarized in one easily accessible article.
Moving from research and reviews to comics and comic art, the ComFor webpage started 2016 with recommendations from some members on their best picks for comics from 2015, continuing a tradition begun last year. Ole Frahm, Dietrich Grünewald, Max Höllen, Lukas Wilde and myself recommend that you run, not walk, to your nearest comic book store or internet terminal and get a hold of any or all of these volumes from the German, American, British, Turkish and international scene.
On tumblr, a special project collecting politically engaged German comics and caricatures has started under the moniker of Bildkorrektur – Bilder gegen Bürgerängste, which roughly translates as “Correcting Images – Pictures Against Citizen’s Fears”. The co-operation by 16 renowned German comics artists depicts, discusses and presents information on what they consider the top 15 of German citizens’ current fears, intending to battle a fear-based media circuit and political landscape.
Finally, here is a short selection from the plethora of exhibitions and conventions available for travelers in Germany so far: the main attraction, as always in even-numbered years, is the Comic Salon at Erlangen, which will take place from May 26th to 29th. While we are still waiting to find out this year’s topical focus, we are already looking forward to the biggest and most elaborate convention on the German scene, for fans, artists, and scholars alike. As for the previous salons, expect to see ComFor panels on this year’s main topics as well as general comics research in the final program once published.
US comics artist Ben Katchor and his French colleague Nicolas Wild are offering courses on comic book design and art at the Sommerakademie in Salzburg in July and August; enrolment will continue through April 8th. Exhibitions include “Berliini Suomix”, on Finnish comics, in Berlin, from February 26th to March 3rd; an ongoing exhibition on Richard McGuire in Frankfurt, which will continue through September 11th; an exhibition dedicated to The Myth of Eternauta, on Héctor Germán Oesterheld’s SF comic and its relation to the Argentinian military regime, to continue through April 15th; and at the Schwule Museum Berlin, the exhibition SuperQueeroes will begin in late February and stay open until June 26th.
Stephan Packard is Substitute Professor for Popular Cultures and their Theories at Cologne and Junior Professor for Media Culture Studies at Freiburg University. Research interests include 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), chief editor of the open access journal Mediale Kontrolle unter Beobachtung, and co-editor of the journal Medienobservationen. – Publications include 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 2014, ed.).