by Lukas R. A. Wilde
Welcome back to ComFor’s quick update on comic studies-news related to the German-speaking corners of the world. The big news, here as probably everywhere else, was arguably the first membership drive of the Comic Studies Society (CSS). We were even more excited to learn about the plans of the CSS to launch a new comic scholarship Journal in 2017 (announced aptly as the Journal of the Comics Studies Society) – fascinating times to be a comics scholar, indeed!
In Germany, the early spring was initially all about wonderful festivals and fairs: from March 10 to 20, our Austrian neighbors in Linz and Steyr celebrated their Nextcomic Festival, with an inspiring range of international guests and ambitious exhibitions. During the same time (March 12), Hamburg opened up its first Comic and Manga Convention, and Berlin became the place to be for the Comicinvasion Festival (April 16 to 17). The satellite program of the Comicinvasion kicked off more than two weeks prior to the festival, with lots of exhibitions and some highly interesting lectures and talks on comics in various venues across the city. If Berlin was too far north from wherever you are residing, there was the option to head for Switzerland instead: the 25th Fumetto Festival in Luzern was celebrated for a whole 10 days (April 10 to 20), featuring not only a range of renowned artists and exhibitions as well (one right in the streets of Luzern), but also a program that seemed targeted at scholars as much as at connoisseurs: a lecture series on comics by some true masters of the art (such as Ben Katchor, Joost Swarte or Matt Madden, to name just a few). In addition, there was an international symposium titled “Drawing as Language and how Comic Artists Teach it”. The symposium asked some of the most renowned artists how they share their experiences in teaching, in encounters with students, children and even refugees.
Similarly of interest to scholars and fans alike is certainly the Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Films to be held on April 27, which is also the host of an academic symposium on “Narrative Structures and Visual Storytelling” (organized in collaboration with the Society of Animation Studies, the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University Singapore, the Institute of Media Studies at Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, the AG Animation and the Literaturhaus Stuttgart). Before this cues the topic of scholarly conferences without any “carrier festivals”, let me quickly mention the upcoming CoKomi event from April 30 to May 1st: Düsseldorf’s hugely popular Manga and Anime Convention set a new visitor’s record of about 19.000 people last year, so the organizers reacted by expanding the venue by 20.000qm. The biggest event in Germany will, of course, certainly be the upcoming Comic-Salon Erlangen, from May 26 to 29. As usual, ComFor is also going to host a lecture series there, this year on the Comic Salon’s topic “Comics from other Cultures”: “Gezeichnete Grenzgänge. Comic-Kultur(en) international” (“Drawn Borderline Walks. Comic Culture(s) Internationally”). Expect a detailed announcement on the specific presentations any day now on our ComFor homepage. The webcomic initiative Comic Solidarity is also renewing its “Webcomic in Focus”-supporting program (again with many talks, discussions and workshops on digital comics) and, of course, the main program of the Salon should certainly be a highlight of the year 2016 by itself. For the increasingly unmanageable number of exhibitions all over Germany in the past and in the future, I’d like to refer you again to Christian Maiwald’s indispensable calendar at dreimalalles.info.
This year’s range of academic conferences kicked off from February 23 to 26, with Jan-Noël Thon inviting to participate in Tübingen University’s Winter School on “Transmedial Narratology: Theories and Methods”. The conference was concerned with how narratives across media can be analyzed in the context of a “media-conscious” narratology. It thus featured not only, amongst others, internationally renowned keynote speakers such as Werner Wolf (Graz), Marie-Laure Ryan (independent scholar), Irina O. Rajewsky (Berlin) or Jan Alber (Aarhus) but set also an extensive focus on comic book narration: Karin Kukkonen (Oslo) opened up with her keynote presentation “Transmedial Narratology and Comics Storytelling”, contrasting Wittgenstein’s discussion of the “Duck-Rabbit-Picture” against various forms of ambiguity on different levels within comics. Anne Rüggemeier (Heidelberg) followed up with a presentation titled “‘I pose for all the characters in my book’: The Multimodal Processes of Production in Alison Bechdel’s Are you my mother?” in which she proposed an extensive analysis of self-referentiality and media-reflexivity within Bechdel’s work. Finally, Franziska Gößling added a presentation on “Mediality and Narrative Perspective of the Graphic Novel: Nicki Greenberg’s The Great Gatsby – A Graphic Adaptation”, in which she presented a detailed model of narratorial and authorial levels, contrasted not only against Greenberg’s original novel but also against its film adaptations.
The Folkwang University of the Arts in the city of Essen organized “a kind of conference” (“Eine Art Tagung”) from April 12 to 13 on the topic “Spricht Form? Fragen zu Verhältnissen von Form und Erzählen in der visuellen Narration” (“Does Form Talk? Questions on Relationships between Form and Storytelling in Visual Narration”), hosted by Martin tom Dieck. ComFor member Ole Frahm was one of many scholars invited. Frahm’s presentation “Signaturen. Was erzählt im Comic?” (“Signatures. What is Narrating in Comics?”) discussed apparent differences between narratological and semiotic approaches to comics, questioning especially the narrative function of the drawn line. From May 27 to 30, the University of Leipzig is going to host the conference “Geschichte und Mythos in Comics und Graphic Novels” (“History and Myth in Comics and Graphic Novels”), organized by art historians Tanja Zimmermann und Kerstin Borchhardt. Among the many presenters to reflect about the relation between historical and mythical forms of narration, between the factual, the fictional and various hybrid forms in between, are ComFor members Felix Giesa (Köln), Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff (Frankfurt a.M.), Nina Heindl (Bochum) and Véronique Sina (Köln). Finally, I myself am very much looking forward to a presentation together with artist and webcomics expert Björn Hammel on June 13. The cultural studies institute Essen (Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen) is inviting us to talk, both from a theoretical and a practical point of view, about “Comics, Webcomics and Humor on the Internet”. Finally, it is certainly worth mentioning that the Comic Colloquium Berlin is once again inviting to participate in an exciting summer program of eight presentations by well-known German scholars.
I’d also like to draw your attention towards some future conferences, which might still be looking for participants at the time of this text’s publication: a certainly sensational announcement came from the highly acclaimed academic comics journal Closure: the editors are going to host a conference of their own from September 9 to 11 in Kiel. “Opening Sequence, Origin Story und Reboot” will be reflecting about all kind of “starts” and “openings” within comics, ranging from historical to theoretical conceptualizations. Participants are invited to submit proposals for presentations in English, which are destined to be published in the upcoming issue #4 of Closure. The call for paper is open until April 30. There is some more time left for another deadline which inspires a lot of enthusiasm: next spring, from February 7 to 9, Bremen University is planning to host an international conference on “The Empirical Studies of Comics”. Organized by Janina Wildfeuer (Bremen) and the Early Career Research Group, “Hybrid Narrativity: Digital and Cognitive Approaches to Graphic Literature” aims to advance empirical research on comics, bringing together internationally renowned keynote speakers such as Bart Beaty (Calgary), Neil Cohn (Tilburg), John Walsh (Indiana) and John Bateman (Bremen) amongst others. If you want to participate with a presentation of about 20-minutes, abstract submissions are open until May 31. Finally, we’d like to remind you about ComFor’s own annual conference, coming up on November 16 to 19. Organized by Markus Engelns at Duisburg-Essen, it will explore the didactic potentials of the medium. Expect an update on the full lineup of presentations soon on the ComFor website or in the next column here at Comicsforum.org.
As a closing remark, the Christian A. Bachmann publishing house has been very busy these last few months. A variety of studies vital to comic scholarship was released. Lino Wirag, author of Comiczeichnen. Figurationen einer ästhetischen Praxis (Drawing Comics. Figurations of an Aesthetical Practice), investigates something easily overlooked: the actual processes, practices and techniques of the artist(s), but still from cultural, philosophical and phenomenological perspectives—how can we start to conceptualize these processes in the first place? Regina Rosenfeld takes a look back and engages with the historical research of Comic-Pioniere. Die deutschen Comic-Künstler der 1950er Jahre (Comic-Pioneers. The German Comic-Artists of the 1950s). The postwar years (and the artists from that era) are still mainly unknown to the public and many scholars alike and Rosenfeld sheds some light on visionaries such as Klaus Dill, Johannes Eduard Hegenbarth (Hannes Hegen), Wilhelm Hermann ‘Bob’ Heinz, Walter Kellermann, Willi Kohlhoff, Roland Kohlsaat, Helmut Nickel, Manfred Schmidt and Hansrudi Wäscher. Christian Bachmann himself published his long-awaited PhD thesis titled Metamedialität und Materialität im Comic´. Zeitungscomic – Comicheft – Comicbuch (Metamediality and Materiality of Comics. Newspaper Strip – Comic Magazine – Comic Book). His monograph focuses on the many material aspects of comics’ publications in various forms, reflecting especially on self-referential strategies in the works of artists such as Mort Walkers and John Byrne, Scott McCloud and Brian Fies, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. Soon, the Bachmann house will also be releasing a collection titled Comics in Poland – Poland in Comics, edited by Kalina Kupczynska and Renata Makarska. Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to Achim Hescher’s monograph Reading Graphic Novels. Genre and Narration, published in English by DeGruyter. Drawing on the narratological vocabulary of François Jost and others, the author presents an analytical framework for the analysis of graphic novels that focuses especially on issues of narrative complexities.
Lukas R. A. Wilde, M.A., is a doctoral candidate and research associate at the Department for Media Studies of the University of Tübingen; he is on the editorial board of the website of the German Society of Comic Studies (ComFor) and a member of the Comic Studies Board of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM). His focus of interest is on picture theory; media theory; webcomics and digital comics; and recent publications include Der Witz der Relationen. Komische Inkongruenz und diagrammatisches Schlussfolgern im Webcomic XKCD (Stuttgart 2012); “Distinguishing Mediality. The Problem of Identifying Forms and Features of Digital Comics”, in: Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Jayms Nichols (eds.): Digital Comics. A special themed Issue of Networking Knowledge (2015: 8.4), pp. 1–14; “The Epistemology of the Drawn Line: Abstract Dimensions of ‘Mainstream’ Comic-Storytelling”, in: Aarnoud Rommens et al. (eds.): Abstraction and Comics/La BD et l’Abstraction (Liège 2016); and with Nicolas Potysch: “Picture Theory and Picture Books”, in: Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (ed.): The Routledge Companion to Picture Books (London 2016), forthcoming.