by Laura Oehme
Looking back on 2016, I have to say that it was a great year for comics studies in Germany. The past two months in particular were yet again full of academic events and publications, but also festivals and exhibitions around the comics medium. From a distinct ComFor perspective, the annual ComFor meeting in November was certainly a highlight of the year. As Stephan already mentioned in his last update, this year’s ComFor conference focused on comics’ didactics and brought together academia and teachers in very productive ways.
Speaking from an even more specific perspective of the ComFor online editorial team, the past two months have seen two very particular novelties. For one, we asked all ComFor members to let us know about their lectures and seminars with a comics focus in the winter semester 2016/17 and collected them in an unprecedented overview post on the ComFor website. Secondly, we were lucky enough to gain two new members for our (still rather small) editorial team, but also lost one of our core editors who has been a beloved team member for many years now. Thus, to use a rough translation of a German idiom “with one sad and two cheerful eyes”, we say a heartfelt “goodbye and farewell” to Nina Heindl (Art History, University of Cologne), and welcome Alexandra Hentschel (museum’s director, Erika-Fuchs-Haus) as well as Julia Ingold (German literature, University of Kiel) to the team! We are very grateful for all the hard work that Nina has invested over the years and we are looking forward to the “breath of fresh air” that our newest team members will certainly bring to the ComFor website!
Colloquiums, Lecture Series, Talks
As I already announced above, the past two months saw an abundance of academic events (and particularly talks) that dealt with the comics medium. The semester started off with a presentation on “PathoGraphic Embodiment: Ethics, Politics, and the Visual Representation of Disability” by Thomas Couser (New York) at the Free University of Berlin. The University of Kiel started a lecture series on “Graphic Novels und Ihre Verfilmungen” (Graphic Novels and Their Screen Adaptations) that will continue until February 7. Apart from the Berlin Comic Colloquium (that Stephan already mentioned in his last update), the Hamburg Comic Colloquium also resumed its regular program of presentations on individual projects that deal with comics. Both colloquium series will continue until February 2017.
On November 9 to 11, the symposium “Zur Ästhetik des Gemachten in Animation und Comic” on the aesthetics of artificiality in animation and comics took place near Hannover. As Stephan already mentioned in his October update, the event was a co-operation of two commissions of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM), namely the AG Comicforschung and the AG Animation, and was organised by Hans-Joachim Backe, Julia Eckel, Erwin Feyersinger, Véronique Sina, and Jan-Noël Thon.
ComFor member Véronique Sina also gave a talk on “Die Thematisierung des Holocaust in der sequenziellen Kunst” (The Holocaust in Sequential Art) at Cologne’s Cöln Comic Haus in late November, as well as a presentation on “Die mediale Beschaffenheit des Comics” (The Medium-Specific Qualities of Comics) at the University of Augsburg in early December. The former was part of the supporting program for the traveling exhibition “Holocaust im Comic” (The Holocaust in Comics), which also saw a presentation by the most recent ComFor addition Tillman Courth who talked about “Der ‘Führer’ in US-Comicheften der 1940er Jahre” (The “Führer” in U.S. Comic Books of the 1940s), and a talk on “Braune Comics?! Bildergeschichten von Rechts” (Brown Comics?! Comic Strips from the Right) by Ralf Palandt; both held in November.
The conference “Praktiken medialer Transformationen” (Practices of Medial Transformations) on December 9–10 at the University of Hamburg included two papers on comic-related topics. Vanessa Ossa focused on superheroes in her talk “Metalepse und Partizipationskultur” (Metalepsis and Participatory Culture) and Lukas R. A. Wilde presented on “Digitale Comics: Zur Medialität und Ästhetik des Interfaces” (Digital Comics: The Mediality and Aesthetics of the Interface).
When it comes to publications, the bi-annual Roland Faelske-Preis is the most prestigious award for comic studies theses in Germany. On December 2, this year’s Faelske-Preis was awarded to Johannes C. P. Schmid for his master thesis Shooting Pictures, Drawing Blood: The Photographic Image in the Graphic War Memoir (Ch. A. Bachmann, 2016) and to Christian A. Bachmann for his dissertation Metamedialität und Materialität im Comic. Zeitungscomic – Comichefte – Comicbuch (Meta-Mediality and Materiality in Comics; Ch. A. Bachmann, 2016). In Monitor No. 27, Lukas Wilde pointed to Nina Mahrt’s monograph on Die Darstellung realer Kriege in Comics (The Representation of Real Wars in Comics). The beginning of December saw the publication of Closure, which is already the fourth instalment of Germany’s first and only e-journal for comics studies. What is more, the traditional yearbooks COMIC!-Jahrbuch 2017 (ICOM, 2016) and Deutsche Comicforschung 2017 (Ed. Eckart Sackmann, Patrimonium, 2016) were published just in time for the new year.
Festival season is almost over, but as usual, the German comic scene came together once more at the Frankfurt Book Fair and the accompanying “Comic Satellit” in October, and again on November 5 for the 80th International Comic Fair in Cologne.
Among the many comics exhibitions currently underway, I would like to simply mention three exhibitions that opened in November: “Fix und Foxi” (12.11.16–26.3.17, Hannover); “Leibnix – Das Universalgenie im Mosaik” (13.11.16–2.4.17, Leipzig); “dr. Zep & mr. Titeuf” (26.11.16–23.4.17, Basel). December then saw the opening of the exhibition “Fakten und Fiktionen” (Facts and Fictions) in Minden, which features a rich supporting program on the topic “Gewalt und Krieg im Comic” (Violence and War in Comics) that can be explored until March 2017. I am glad to announce that from now on Alexandra Hentschel, one of our new editorial team members, will keep us posted about all comics-themed exhibitions in German-speaking countries on the ComFor website.
So far, the year 2017 promises to be an equally successful year for German comics studies. While the ComFor is already looking forward to its next annual meeting in late September at the University of Bonn, the new year will start off with an international conference on “The Empirical Study of Comics” in Bremen and the third workshop of the AG Comicforschung on “Formen der Selbstreflexivität im Medium Comic” (Forms of Self-Reflexivity in the Comics Medium) at the University of Cologne. Hence, we are looking forward to an exciting and diverse year for comics studies in Germany. For now, however, I wish you all a peaceful holiday season with enough spare time to enjoy the latest comic books, webcomics, and graphic novels!
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 the DFG-funded project “Contemporary American Risk Fiction.” She is a member of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor), as well as the AG Comicforschung, and is among the editors of the ComFor website. Together with Jeanne Cortiel, she published an article on “The Dark Knight’s Dystopian Vision: Batman, Risk, and American National Identity” in the open-access European Journal of American Studies.