by Julia Ingold
The first month of the new year always starts smoothly with a prolonged holiday period. German universities resume their daily activities only in the second week of January and so does ComFor’s editorial staff—as usual with our established retrospect about several ComFor members’ favorite comics of 2018. Shortly after Stephan Packard’s substantial bi-monthly update two months ago, ComFor’s editorial team posted a retrospect on the panel “Comics 4.0” that the Committee for Comics Studies contributed to the German Society for Media Studies’ (GfM) annual conference that took place in Siegen under the headline “Industry” in September 2018. ComFor Member Lukas R. A. Wilde gave a talk on “Von Remediation zum Intermedium: Formen, Formate und mediale Rahmungen digitaler Comics” (From Remediation to Indermedia: Forms, Formats and Medial Framings of Digital Comics). Tim Glaser shared his views on “Comics, Communities & Crowdfunding: Plattformen und deren Einfluss auf die Rezeption und Distribution von Webcomics” (Comics, Communities, and Crowdfunding: Platforms and their Influence on Reception and Distribution of Webcomics). Peter Vignold, for his part, presented on “From A(yn) to Z(ack): Objektivismus im zeitgenössischen Comicfilm” (From A(yn) to Z(ack): Objectivism in the Contemporary Film Adaptation of Comics). The first two presentations both took their cues from the concept of the infinite canvas that Scott McCloud introduced in his 2000 book Reinventing Comics. The panel expounded the question to what extent webcomics’ many new possibilities might collide with the fact that they still only receive widespread attention once they are transferred into traditional print media and thus lose aspects of their inherent mediality.
How the medium of comics can generally contribute to the depiction of history was the crucial question of the workshop “Hamburgs Geschichte im Comic?” (Hamburg’s History in Comic Books?) at Hamburg University in December 2018. Organizers and ComFor members Sylvia Kesper-Biermann, Thorsten Logge and Sabine Bamberger-Stemmann brought together historians, comic scholars, comic artists, university teachers and students to explore the possibilities of rendering Hamburg’s historical facts and events in comics form. They plan to continue the project with a workshop on comics and history in spring 2019.
Hamburg University was also host to another important event recently. On January 18, the bi-annual Roland Faelske-Preis was once again awarded by Hamburg University’s Arbeitsstelle für Graphische Literatur (ArGL) (Research Institute for Graphic Literature) to honour outstanding bachelor or master theses and doctoral theses dealing with comics and/or animated film. Alexandra Novacov from Freiburg was given the award for her master’s thesis “The Ugly in Animated Series”, while ComFor member Lukas R. A. Wilde from Tübingen received the award for his doctoral thesis “Im Reich der Figuren: Meta-narrative Kommunikationsfiguren und die ‚Mangaisierung‘ des japanischen Alltags” (Empire of Characters: Meta-narrative Communicational Characters and the “Mangaization” of Everyday Japan). Markus Kuhn, professor for media studies at Kiel University, will give an accompanying guest lecture on “Ein bewegtes Leben in (un)bewegten Bildern: Werk und Alltag des Comicautors Harvey Pekar in der filmischen Comicadaption ‘American Splendor’” (A Moved Life in (Im)Movable Pictures: Comic Author Harvey Pekar’s Work and Life in the Cinematic Adaptation of the Comic ‘American Splendor’).
On January 24 Véronique Sina and Esra Canpalat hosted the interdisciplinary workshop “Gendered Cultural Identities in Comics and Literature” at Bochum University. Béatrice Hendrich, junior professor at Cologne University’s Department of Middle Eastern and South East Asian Studies and comic artist Sarah Lightman examined, as the organizers had announced, “(auto-)biographical comics and Turkish literature and culture. Bringing together the drawn line and the written word, an emphasis will be placed on the question how gendered cultural identities are being constructed, documented and negotiated within different media constellations. By doing so, the workshop will examine various conceptions of identity and their (de-)construction in comics and literary texts, paying specific attention to mechanisms of hegemonic exclusion(s) as well as manifestations of heteronormative structures and allocations in both media.”
The Berlin Comic Colloquium, organizing regular meetings to discuss comics and comics scholarship for many years at the Humboldt University, then invites scholars to a one-day symposium to discuss “Motive von Angst und Wut – Emotionen im und um den Comic” (Motives of Fear and Anger – Emotions in and Around Comics) on February 9. ComFor members Angela Guttner, Matthias Harbeck, Linda Heyden, Marie Schröer and Jeff Thoss compiled a promising program around the subject. In times of rampant hate speeches, as well as of many forms of self-centered mindfulness, it might indeed be time to explore in more detail how fear and anger are depicted and narrated in comics. ComFor member Tillmann Courth’s opening lecture carries the provocative title “Hatte Wertham recht? – Wie Comics Angst erzeugen” (Was Wertham Right? – How Comics Generate Fear). Next will be ComFor member Antje Knopf with a talk on “Anthropomorphisierungen der Angst im zeitgenössischen Comic” (Anthropomorphizations of Fear in Contemporary Comics). Subsequently, scholars from Berlin and from all over Germany will focus on specific case studies, for example on the Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones. A group visit to Syrian comic artist Tarek Nijmeh’s exhibition “Sensing Bureaucrac(it)y – Erfahrungen von Wut und Angst in Berlin” (Sensing Bureaucrac(it)y – Experiences of Anger and Fear in Berlin) will conclude the day and the event.
The last months of 2018 brought some new important publications to the German-speaking world of comic scholarship. The 15th issue of editor Eckart Sackmann’s Deutsche Comicforschung (German comic research) appeared at the end of November with articles focusing exclusively on the investigation of German comic history. In this year’s issue you will find, amongst others, investigations of Wilhelm Busch’s Max und Moritz, Rudolph Dirk’s Katzenjammer Kids and comics during Germany’s Third Reich.
Around the same time, CLOSURE – Kieler e-Journal für Comicforschung (CLOSURE – The Kiel University e-Journal for Comics Studies) published Issue #5. The e-journal initially started in 2014 as a project to support and encourage comics scholarship written in German. The online periodical continues to provide a unique platform for contemporary research in German but it has become increasingly open to articles written in English as well. Since issue #2, each installment of Closure focuses on one special topic or headline while articles on any other subject are still welcome. In Issue #5, the editorial team (amongst them many ComFor-members, as well as the writer of these very lines here) compiled many insightful investigations focused on the topic of “Failure”. Comic artists Anne Elizabeth Moore’s and Katharina Brandl’s article “Bound to fail. Living and working conditions in the comics industry” has already received some notable attention on the international comic scholars scene. It also contains unpublished artworks by the authors. Aside from many additional case studies from all kinds of disciplinary backgrounds you will find journalist and translator Marc-Oliver Frisch’s fine essay “Kapow! Boom! Comics: They’re Not Just for Kids Anymore! On the failure of comics criticism” provoking further discussions. The subsequent call for papers for the next issue invites articles for the special section “A.I.”, as well as (again) on any other topic in the open section. Since I cannot inspire you to hand in an abstract for an upcoming conference in Germany this time around to close off this bi-monthly update, I can at least invite you to consider submitting an abstract for CLOSURE #6. We would be happy to read your thoughts there and present them to a German audience!
Last but not least, I am honoured to announce that ComFor’s editorial staff has gained new members whom we cordially welcome to our team. Düsseldorf University’s Robin M. Aust, Dresden Academy of Fine Arts’ Katharina Serles and Frankfurt University’s Nathalie Veith have, in fact, already joined the team since October last year. They have been constantly working on our weekly posts on ComFor’s website ever since to inform interested readers about relevant events and publications in comics scholarship. At the same time, I am sad to say goodbye to Lukas R. A. Wilde and Laura Oehme whom you know well as regular authors of “The Bi-Monthly ComFor Update” on the Comics Forum. They will thus conclude their regular work within ComFor website’s editorial team to move on to new ‘missions’ for ComFor and comics studies. I cannot thank both of them enough for their great and inspiring commitment to ComFor and their ‘contagious’ passion for comics (studies).
Julia Ingold, M. A., is a member of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor) and part of its website’s editorial team. She is currently working on her PhD at Kiel University on German-Jewish avant-gardist Else Lasker-Schüler, with a focus on the writer’s graphic art. She also teaches German literature in Kiel and at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. She has published articles on contemporary comics and is one of the editors of CLOSURE – Kieler e-Journal für Comicforschung, a German-language e-journal for the academic study of comics.
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