by Stephan Packard
It has been a comparatively quiet summer for comics studies in Germany, but that is about to change with autumn, as several conferences, exhibitions and projects get back into gear.
The German Society for Comics Studies’ (ComFor) annual conference will be held in Essen this year from November 16th to 19th. Dedicated to the use of comics in schools—teaching comics and teaching other subjects through comics—the conference takes up an array of topics that have attracted increasing attention for the last several years. The conference starts with the popular workshop format, in which comics scholars present ongoing and planned projects for joint discussion and feedback. For this year’s topic, many of these presentations will be from young scholars studying to be teachers; they will consider possible uses of comics in school settings. During the next three days, speakers will examine several dimensions of comics’ didactic uses and challenges, from issues of mediality and materiality through visual literacy and language acquisition, on to philosophical and historical treatments in comics to specific didactic programs and projects. As always, anyone interested in the topic is welcome to join in the discussion; see full program and information about registration here.
A week before we meet in Essen, a co-operation of two commissions of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM) brings to us a symposium on the aesthetics of artificiality in animation and comics, at Herrenhausen near Hannover from November 9th to 11th. The extremely rich program was put together by Hans-Joachim Backe, Julia Eckel, Erwin Feyersinger, Véronique Sina and Jan-Noël Thon; and is funded by a generous grant from the Volkswagen Foundation.
The Comic-Colloquium at Berlin will resume its not-quite-weekly sessions on October 12th, starting with a visit from Simon Grennan, Roger Sabin and Julian Waite. The full program can be found here.
Among the many comics exhibitions in Germany, let me mention but a few: Entenhausen >>>> Oberhausen (September 25th to January 15th in Oberhausen) boasts pictures and paintings by Barks, Gottfredson, Taliaferro, Gulbransson, Rosa and Ulrich Schröder (after all, Entenhausen is the German name for Duckburg, where those artists’ stories are set). The Wilhelm Busch Geburtshaus, the museum established in the house where Busch was born, presents the artists who won the recent Max & Moritz Prize (Wiedensahl, September 4th, 2016 to May 28th, 2017): Barbara Yelin; Claire Bretécher; Birgit Weyhe; Mariko and Jilian Tamaki; Luz; and Mikiko Ponczek. Moreover, the exhibition ComiXconnection, collecting comics from the transnational comics scene in South East Europe has returned from its tour there and is now showing at various stops in Germany. During its stay here in Freiburg in January, February and March 2017, I am happy to report that we will mark the occasion with a symposium bringing together artists and comics scholars under the topic of transnational comics scenes on February 20th and 21st. Watch this space for more news.
I usually try to give an overview of pertinent publications from German-speaking countries, be they in German or English. This is becoming increasingly difficult to do comprehensively, as the field continues to grow. However, here is an attempt to highlight some interesting editions and collections:
Contributions from a previous GfM-comics studies workshop on the “Mediality and Materiality of Contemporary Comics” held in Tübingen have been collected, along with other comics-related essays from the Tübingen winter schools on “Transmedial Worlds” and on “Transmedial Narratology”, in a special issue of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (7.3), edited by Jan-Noël Thon and Lukas Wilde.
Continuing in German, Alexander Braun, Max Hollein and David Currier have published a volume titled Pioniere des Comics, describing “a different avant-garde” ranging from McCay through Herriman and Sterrett to King and Feininger (Berlin: Hatje Cantz). Meanwhile, German publishing house Reclam has launched a whole new series of slim volumes, 100 pages long each, on various topics related to culture and media; two of the first volumes deal with Astérix and superheroes respectively (by Jörg Fündling and Dietmar Dath).
A topic adjacent to comics is covered in the new volume on Visuelle Satire, edited by well-known German comics scholar Dietrich Grünewald (Berlin: Bachmann 2016). It collects contributions to a symposium which was held under the same name at Stift Oberkirchen in 2015 to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Wilhelm Busch’s Max & Moritz. An idol of visual satirists in the various phases of German history, Busch is a point of departure for the chapters in this volume that discuss the conditions, ideas and experiences of satirical artists in the past and present.
Finally, the Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Studies has passed the amazing mark of no less than ten thousand entries, each representing one scholarly book or article on comics from a vast array of different languages. A project at Bonn University headed by Joachim Trinkwitz and supported by ComFor, the bibliography has grown incredibly since its establishment in 2008 and has long become a resource for international rather than merely for German researchers interested in comics. No examination of any issue in our field can be complete without checking the database of this rich and impressive collection. May it continue to grow for a long time!
Stephan Packard is the Junior Professor for Media Culture Studies at Freiburg University. His 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 the 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.