By Lukas R.A. Wilde
We are back with some more accounts of what was going on in German comic studies recently… After the following update, the ComFor editorial team will take some time off for a short holiday break. The weeks and months since Julia’s last update in May, however, have been nothing short of a rollercoaster. In some of our columns it has been challenging to not just recount the ‘German corner’ of the News Reviews (Martin de la Iglesia deserves all our credit for his excellent coverage of German events); this time, on the contrary, I have to remind myself not to let this get out of hand.
I would like to start, then, with a short survey of all the conferences related to comic studies that took place since May. On the first weekend of the month (May 2-7), the city of Stuttgart celebrated its annual International Festival of Animated Film for the 24th time. Among the many spectacular public screenings, award ceremonies and workshops across the city, an academic symposium focusing on Sound in Animation, Comics and Illustration was held. It was co-organized by 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 Arbeitsgruppe Animation (Animation Studies Board of the German Society for Media Studies) and the Literaturhaus Stuttgart and more than half of the presentations focused mainly on comics: Uwe Zimmermann (Flensburg) talked about possibilities and challenges of comic production and reception on digital platforms (his presentation was titled “Responsive Comics”); ComFor member Thomas Raich (München) investigated sound expanding in space in his paper on sound word experiments in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns; and Raphael Zähringer (Tübingen) gave a presentation titled “Beyond Onomatopoeia: Sounds, Words, and Metafiction in Hunt Emerson’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. The latter work is a comic adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem also titled The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797/1834).
Only a few weeks later (May 25-27), the University of Graz (Austria) held a specialized symposium titled “Comic/verfilmung und Religion” [Comic/Screen Adaptations and Religion], organized by the international research group Film and Theology. For three days, scholars from different academic fields (including ComFor members Barbara Eder (Wien) and Martin Frenzel (Darmstadt)) reflected on the functions of mythology and spirituality in works as varied as Persepolis, Preacher, MAUS or Batman vs Superman.
Comic studies are also becoming increasingly visible through specialized panels at conferences that do not specifically focus on comics. On June 6-9, The Ruhr University of Bochum hosted the annual conference of the DGAVL (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft), the German Society for Comparative Literature. This year’s topic, “Schrift und Graphisches im Vergleich” [A Comparative View on the Written and the Graphic], was certainly an invitation to shed comparative views on ‘graphic literature’ as well. I participated in one such panel myself, with a manga-oriented presentation titled “Das Basismedium der Line: Natsume Fusanosuke‘s Faszinationen der Manga-Linie” [The Line as a Base-Medium: Natsume Fusanosuke‘s Many Fascinations with the Lines of Manga]. Maria Weilandt’s (Potsdam) and Mara Stuhlfauth-Trabert’s (Düsseldorf) contributions engaged in a highly interesting dialogue on Craig Thompson’s Habibi (2011). Weilandt’s presentation was titled “‘… filling the emptiness … with writing’: Unterschiedliche Ebenen von Schreiben und Schrift(lichkeit) in Craig Thompsons Habibi” [Different levels of Writing and the Written in Craig Thompson’s Habibi] while Stuhlfauth-Trabert’s paper was titled “Das Reich der Schriftlichkeit – Überlegungen zu Shaun Tans The Arrival und Craig Thompsons Habibi” [The Realm of the Written – Reflections on Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Craig Thompson’s Habibi]. It should be noted that, at the same time in another panel, Julia Abel (Wuppertal) gave a presentation titled “Sprechblasen, Soundwords und Lettering” [Speech Bubbles, Sound Words and Lettering].
I had then the pleasure to participate in yet another comic-oriented panel smuggled into a different event: the NECS (Network of European Cinema Studies) conference held at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris (June 28-July 1). This year’s overall topic was “Sensibility and the Senses: Media, Bodies, Practices”. Our panel, organized on behalf of the Comic Studies Board of the German Society of Media Studies (AG Comicforschung der Gfm), combined three approaches to re-examine the idiosyncratic graphic sensuality of comics under the panel title “Cartoon Bodies and Graphic Sensuality”. The contributions ranged from the genre-defining art of underground comix and the political implications of their naturalization and denaturalization in mainstream comics to the yet innovative redistribution of depicted and elicited agency in digital comics. Our individual presentations were thus labelled “Interfacing (Digital) Comics: The Distribution and Negotiation of Agency and Control” (Lukas R.A. Wilde, Tübingen), “Seeing Fragmented Bodies – Towards an Inherent Political Quality of Comic Books” (Markus Engelns, Duisburg-Essen) and “‘If only I’d had a nose job’ – Representations of the Gendered Jewish Body in the Works of Aline Kominsky Crumb” (Véronique Sina, Tübingen). Abstracts can be found on the AG website.
While we are all eagerly awaiting the program lineup of ComFor’s own fall/winter-conference whose theme is “Comics and their Popularity” and which will be held at the University of Bonn (December 1-3), the next big event will certainly be the annual conference of the German Society of Media Studies (GfM) at the University of Erlangen on October 4-7. The overall focus will be on media studies approaches to the concept of ‘access’ and the finalized program has just been released. The Comic Studies Board will again be very active. Véronique Sina is organizing (and chairing) a panel titled “Zu- und Übergänge des Comics” [Accesses and Thresholds of Comics], with contributions by Maxim Nopper (Freiburg) (“Persepolis – Eine Geschichte von Übergängen: Transversalität und Liminalität” [Persepolis – A Story of Transitions: Transversality and Liminality]), Stephan Packard (Freiburg) (“‘Das Panel war nicht für mich bestimmt.’ Mehrfachadressierungen im populären Comic” [That Panel was not intended for Me: Multiple Addressings in Popular Comics]), and Peter Vignold (Bochum) (“Aufbruch ins Silver Age – Das Marvel Cinematic Universe als Zugang zum Wandel in der Produktionspraxis zeitgenössischer Comicfilme” [Departure into the Silver Age: The Marvel Cinematic Universe as an Access into Changing Production Practices of Contemporary Comic Book Films]). Additionally, the Comic Studies Board will co-host a workshop together with the Animation Studies Board, addressing “Interdisziplinäre Zugänge der Animations- und Comicforschung” [Interdisciplinary Approaches/Accesses to Comics and Animation]. I’ll have the pleasure to be the chair; the contributors/speakers will be comprised of Oliver Moisich (Paderborn), Jörn Ahrens (Gießen), Véronique Sina (Tübingen), Franziska Bork Petersen (Kopenhagen), Anja Ellenberger (Hamburg) and Daniele Martella (Tübingen). In other panels, Andreas Veits (Hamburg) will present a paper titled “Zur Repräsentation von Subjektivität im Comic: Konventionen, Innovationen, Irritationen” [On the Representation of Subjectivity in Comics: Conventions, Innovations, Irritations] while Miriam Piegsa (Passau) will deliver a talk titled “Selbstbilder nach MAUS: Comics kultursemiotisch betrachtet” [Self-Perception/Self-Images after MAUS: Looking at Comics with Cultural Semiotics].
LECTURES AND SPEECHES
Aside from these larger events in our academic calendars there were a number of smaller lectures and speeches that I can just mention in passing. But first, I would like to mention that we conducted a survey amongst ComFor’s members and friends again, in order to find out about all the comic-related seminars and lectures that were taking place at German, Austrian and Swiss universities (and a bit beyond that) this spring. If we did not miss too many, there were about 12 places this semester where undergraduate students could approach comics from a variety of different academic perspectives. In terms of public lectures, ComFor’s former president, Dietrich Grünewald, gave a presentation at the Museum of Starnberg (June 29) that promised a survey on comical characters in picture stories throughout history: “Kaleidoskopischer Seelenspiegel: Hanswurst, Kasper, Donald Duck & Co, Ein Reigen komischer Figuren” [Kaleidoscopic Mirrors of the Soul: A Parade of Comical Characters]. On July 10, José Alaniz (University of Washington, Seattle) gave a paper titled “Elephants and DJs: Disability in Post-Soviet Russian Comics” at the Free University of Berlin. His public lecture was organized by the PathoGraphics research group (which will also host an entire conference titled “Stories of Illness / Disability in Literature and Comics” on October 27-28 in Berlin). The scholar and publisher Christian Bachmann has again been very busy as well. On June 13 he held a public lecture titled “Jenseits der Schriftlichkeit: Zur Materialität von Comics” [Beyond the Written: About the Materiality of Comics] in Berlin and on July 6 he engaged in a public conversation titled “Comics und Museum” [Comics and the Museum] with the ComFor editorial board member Alexandra Hentschel, who is also the director of Germany’s first comic museum in Schwarzenbach. The talk will take place within Frankfurt/M’s Museum für Angewandte Kunst as part of the supporting program to their spectacular exhibition on Marc-Antoine Mathieu (together with an additional opening lecture by Andreas Platthaus titled “Zur Bedeutung des Traums im Comic” [The Significance of Dreams in Comics] on June 22 and a presentation by Rolf Lohse on “Wirbel – Endlosschleifen – Verschiebungen” [Vortices – Loops – Shifts] on July 20).
It has literally become impossible to keep track of all the exhibitions on comics that are taking place all over Germany – for anyone except Alexandra Hentschel, who is doing exactly that for our website’s exhibition section week by week. I mentioned the Mathieu exhibition in more detail, however, not only because of its accompanying lectures, but also because its organizers released a significant publication on the artist. Edited by David Beikirch and Matthias Wagner K. and published by Christian A. Bachmann in June, “Kartografie der Träume. Die Kunst des Marc-Antoine Mathieu” [The Cartography of Dreams. The Art of Marc-Antoine Mathieu] features 10 scholarly articles on this fascinating contemporary artist.
Some more recent publications deserve mention. You may not have heard about ICOM (Interessenverband Comic e.V.), a Stuttgart-based advocacy group for comic book interests founded in 1981. When comic studies were still in their infancy in Germany, ICOM was already building bridges between professionals, fans and teachers of the medium. Today, ICOM is still very active, publishing the annual Comic Jahrbuch [Comic Yearbook] every autumn, which has proven indispensable for the German scene. This June, ICOM’s Burkhard Ihme edited a free publication titled “Manga- und Comiczeichner im Dialog” [Manga and Comic Artists in Dialogue]. Since the ‘tensions’ between manga and other comic scenes are somewhat notorious, the more than 30 contributions included are remarkable: a mixture of reflective writing and artistic reflections. The whole booklet can be downloaded as a pdf for free. It features contributions from ComFor members (such as Ihme himself or Björn Hammel), as well as from renowned German artists (like Martina Peters or Johanna Baumann, who publishes under the penname “Schlogger”).
Some more mentions (yes, May to July 2017 were busy months around here!): Gerhard Mauch and André Märtens edited (and self-published) a book titled Krieg im Comic? Grafisches Erzählen zu Militarismus und Gewalt [War in Comic? Graphic Narration about Militarism and Violence] (which was highly recommended by ComFor’s former president Grünewald). Peter Vingold finished a monograph titled Das Marvel Cinematic Universe: Anatomie einer Hyperserie [The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Anatomy of a Hyper-Series] that was released by the publishing house Schüren. And ComFor members Nina Heindl and Véronique Sina published an edited volume titled Notwendige Unzulänglichkeit: Künstlerische und mediale Repräsentationen des Holocaust [Necessary Shortcomings: Artistic and Medial Representations of the Holocaust] which also includes a chapter on Art Spiegelman’s MAUS by Daniela Kaufmann.
Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to an exciting upcoming publication that relies a little bit on advance orders: Adventures of a New Telemachus: A Picture Story from 1786. Friedrich Schiller, the scandalous author of The Robbers, actually created a hand-drawn picture-story in 1786. Initially intended as a private jest among close friends and later presumed lost, it has since been recovered and will finally be presented in print. The historical context and aesthetics of Schiller’s picture story are explained by Dietrich Grünewald in an extensive introductory essay which will be fully translated to English by Stephan Packard. The advance order price will be 15€ only until October 31 (available at Bachmann).
Before we take some time off now, let me just mention that the summer will not be idle for everyone around here. In the first week of August, ComFor members Daniel Stein and Lukas Etter will be organizing a summer school at Siegen University. Titled “Transnational Graphic Narratives”, the summer school is intended for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from all over the world (July 31 to August 5). Only shortly after, from August 30 to September 8, the Summer Institute Cologne 2017 will host a specialized seminar titled “Visual Narration: Seeing Is believing: Evidentiality in Visual Narration”, jointly hosted and arranged by Patrick Noonan (Northwestern University) and Stephan Packard (University of Freiburg/University of Cologne).
And with that, we will be back with our next update in October.
Lukas R.A. Wilde, M.A., is a post-doc research associate at the Collaborative Research Unit 923 “Threatened Order – Societies under Stress” at Tübingen University, Germany. He completed a media studies/Japanese studies dissertation on the functions of ‘characters’ (kyara) within everyday communication in contemporary Japanese society. He is on the editorial board 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 areas of interest are picture theory; media theory; webcomics and digital comics. Some of his recent publications include:
- “Distinguishing Mediality. The Problem of Identifying Forms and Features of Digital Comics”. In: Daniel Merlin Goodbrey / Jayms Nichols (eds.): Digital Comics. A Special-Themed Issue of Networking Knowledge (2015: 8.4), pp. 1–14.
- with Jan-Noël Thon: “Introduction: Mediality and Materiality of Contemporary Comics” In: Mediality and Materiality of Contemporary Comics. Special-Themed Issue of The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 7 (3), 2016, pp.233-241.
- “The Epistemology of the Drawn Line: Abstract Dimensions of Narrative Comics” In: Aarnoud Rommens, Björn-Olav Dozo, Pablo Turnes and Erwin Dejasse (eds.): Abstraction and Comics/La BD et l’abstraction, Liège: Liège University Press/Presses Universitaires de Liège (2017, in print), pp.423-447.