By Lukas R. A. Wilde
The ComFor editorial team concluded the last year – which already feels like ages ago – with a more detailed self-introduction of our new staff and started off again with the 2016/17 installment of comic book reading recommendations by some of ComFor’s members. Shortly after, an extensive and long-awaited ComFor-publication was released by the Christian A. Bachmann publishing house: Comics an der Grenze. Sub/Versionen von Form und Inhalt [Comics Crossing Borders. Sub/versions of Form and Content], edited by Matthias Harbeck, Marie Schröer and Linda Heyden. This collection of 25 articles (with a sensational cover illustration by Paul Paetzel) collects some of the papers presented at ComFor’s 9th annual conference held in Berlin in 2014. Scholars from various fields question, on the one hand, the many medial, cultural, national, generic and disciplinary boundaries that are crossed by comics as a form, as well as, on the other hand, the representations of threshold conditions of gender, bodies and borders within individual works. Five of the contributions are in English, including a must-read conversation with Black Kirby (an artist collective comprised of John Jennings and Stacey ‘Blackstar’ Robinson) that created a spectacular exhibition on the intersections of Black history, AfroFuturism and comic book culture.
While many major conferences are still ahead of us, January already saw a variety of smaller lectures, colloquiums and talks in many German locations. On January 21, the university of Siegen hosted an undergraduate student conference on the topic “Made of Flesh and Blood: The Bodies of Superheroes”. ComFor members Daniel Stein (Siegen) and Véronique Sina (Cologne) presented keynote speeches on gender, race and sexuality in comics, while other contributors questioned the role of disability, or the function of the burka as a political symbol within superhero narratives. In Tuebingen, the German-American Institute (d.a.i.) cooperated with ComFor in order to invite Alexander Klähr for a talk on a “Newsflash on the American Comic Scene” on January 26, while, on that same day, Jürgen Mohn (Basel) presented a lecture about “The Transfer of Religion within the Comics’ Medium” in Hamburg University’s continuous colloquium “Religions on the Move”. Three days later, on January 29, the travelling exhibition “Holocaust in Comics” opened its doors in the Anne Frank educational centre in Frankfurt/M., making quite an impression with an extensive supporting programme of readings, talks and training courses for teachers. From February 7 to 9, the University of Bremen hosted the conference “The Empirical Study of Comics”, bringing together international experts such as Pascal Lefèvre (Leuven), Gert Meesters (Brussels/Lille), John Bateman (Bremen), Neil Cohn (Tilburg) and Bart Beaty (Calgary), to name just a few.
As for upcoming events, we’ve already mentioned the third workshop of the AG Comicforschung (Comic Studies Board) on “Formen der Selbstreflexivität im Medium Comic” [Forms of Self-Reflexivity in the Comics Medium] at the University of Cologne (March 2 to 3). The full programme has now been published (see the link above), promising most exciting approaches from a variety of perspectives.
The “ComiXconnection” events in Freiburg, spanning from January 19 to March 19, live up to their name and connect our topics of conferences and lectures to those of festivals and fairs: on February 21/22, the festival presents an international symposium on “Comics Connected. Transnational Comics Art and Comics Scenes”, with talks on transculturalism and related topics by many ComFor members and international guests. The surrounding ComiXconnection exhibition on independent comics from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from Hungary and Romania, can be found at the university library and the gallery of Kommunales Kino. Already before that, on February 10/11, the city of Cologne celebrated its second “Comic Festival Köln” at the Literaturhaus [House of Literature]. Then, on February 24, Frankfurt/M. will resume its regular “Stories+Strips” event series with nonfiction-cartoonist Sarah Glidden and on March 3 the city of Hamburg is going to celebrate its Comic- und Manga-Convention. The upcoming events afterwards will be Austria’s NEXTCOMIC-Festival Linz & Steyr (March 16 to 24), the Buchmesse Leipzig with its adjoining Manga-Comic-Con and the small but prestigious graphic novel festival Millionaires Club (all March 23 to 26 in Leipzig), followed by the outstanding Fumetto Festival in Switzerland’s Lucerne (April 1 to 9).
Finally, we would like to mention that our newest staff member, Alexandra Hentschel from the Erika Fuchs Museum, is doing an outstanding job in keeping track of comic exhibitions across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There have been and will be, indeed, too many to be mentioned here individually, but if you visit the Exhibition section of our website you can stay updated on an almost daily basis.
Lukas R.A. Wilde, M.A., is a research associate at Tuebingen University’s Department for Media Studies where he has just completed a dissertation on the functions of “characters” (kyara) for everyday communication in contemporary Japanese society. He is a member of the coordination team of the Comic Studies Board (AG Comicforschung) of the German Society of Media Studies (GfM) and co-organizer of the webcomic initiative Comic Solidarity. His main areas of interest are visual communication, picture and media theory, webcomics and digital comics. For a list of German and international publications please visit http://lukasrawilde.de/en/publikationen.