By Lukas R. A. Wilde
It is my pleasure to fill you in on what happened since Natalie’s last update in March on comics scholarship in the German-speaking corners of the world. The summer term started around the middle of April in German universities and, as usual, ComFor’s editorial staff compiled a list of comics related classes and lectures from disciplines as varied as Literature (English, German and French), Media Studies, History, Art Teaching and even Geography. Spring break or not, our motivated team (that Laura Oehme and I have had the honor to hand over some months back) has in general been very busy, as you can see from our new website section dedicated to international comic scholarship journals. Take a look at their second installment introducing new issues and articles of the International Journal of Comic Art, Studies in Comics, the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, ImageTexT and The Comics Grid in a clear arrangement. As usual, you can also find short introductions of new monographs and edited collections on comics within the regular Monitor section. Most of these books are released by international publishing houses and in English, so send a short note to firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of a publication that should be included in future installments. One notable German-language publication has been released during the last months: Überzeichnete Spektakel: Inszenierungen von Gewalt im Comic [Exaggerated Spectacle: The Staging of Violence in Comics] by ComFor member Jörn Ahrens. The author investigates the many forms, strategies and functions of ‘graphic violence’ from a formal, media-specific perspective, with case studies ranging from classics as Sin City or the works of Joe Sacco, to more contemporary series such as 100 Bullets or DMZ. The monograph’s release was accompanied by a roundtable discussion event on May 14 at the University of Gießen (with Frank Thomas Brinkmann, Ole Frahm and Kirsten von Hagen) on the relationship between comic aesthetics and violence.
This brings us right to the topic of conferences, workshops and public lectures – and it is safe to say that the last months have been surprisingly busy for this time of the year. On April 4 the Museum of Vienna hosted the second edition of Graphic Vienna, an evening during which many local artists (this time Leopold Maurer and Regina Hofer; Jasmin Rehrmbacher; and Andreas Martens) present and discuss their recent graphic novels and answer questions concerning their works. The next day, Akiko Yamada, Melanie Unseld and Markus Oppolzer from the University of Music and Performing Arts (also based in Vienna) invited a more specialized audience of comic scholars to a one-day workshop on “Manga, Comic und visuelle Kultur: Auto|Biographische Narrative” [Manga, Comic and Visual Culture: Auto|biographical Narratives]. In our previous column we already announced that the Erika-Fuchs-Haus in Schwarzenbach an der Saale, a museum dedicated to comics translations (and especially to the regionalization of Carl Barks’ work in Germany) is going to host ComFor’s upcoming annual conference from November 8 to 10. The museum’s director Alexandra Hentschel (also part of our editorial staff) organizes many smaller events at the same venue, too. On April 9 she invited comics expert Wolfgang J. Fuchs to give a talk on “Die drei Leben des Donald Duck [The Three Lives of Donald Duck]” to complement the museum’s special exhibition on Disney artist Al Taliaferro. On the museum’s website, you can find information about many additional events all year round. The month of April was then concluded by a two-day workshop (April 26/27) at Tuebingen University on “Comics des Mittelalters – Mittelaltercomics [Medieval Comics and Comics about Medieval Times]”. I’ve had the honor and pleasure to present alongside ComFor’s former president Dietrich Grünewald, as well as many other friends and colleagues (mainly from medieval studies). The organizers Marion Darilek (Tuebingen) and Matthias Däumer (Vienna) first asked for presentations on medieval artifacts featuring sequential images that could be read just like a (proto-) comic; they then contrasted these studies with discussions about the representation of those times in contemporary comic books. As a media studies scholar, I initially felt a little like an outsider, but I can honestly report that the stimulating discussions have been among my intellectual highlights of 2019 so far.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the SAS (Society of Animation Studies) Symposium at Stuttgart’s Festival of Animated Film on May 1, even though it was very close to Tuebingen University, where I am based. Most of the symposium’s presentations seemed to investigate animated films, animation and animation theory itself from interdisciplinary perspectives. The next specialized event on comics (as such) took place only days later: ComFor members Véronique Sina and Kalina Kupczynska invited specialized comic scholars to the University of Cologne on May 3 for a workshop on “The Crumbs. Obszönität und Tabubruch [Obscenity and the Breach of Taboos]”. The dual focus on both Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Robert Crumb within the context of underground culture inspired the participation of many ComFor members to discuss and compare the aesthetics of one of the most controversial couples in comic book history. Finally, the Center for Jewish Studies at Austria’s University of Graz organized an outstanding international conference titled “Beyond MAUS: The Legacy of Holocaust Comics” from May 26 to 29. Hans-Joachim Hahn and ComFor members Markus Streb and Ole Frahm managed to put together no fewer than 9 panels of 20 presentations. A freely available PDF program book with the detailed abstracts of all the contributions documents the fact that the participants did, indeed, go beyond the usual suspects such as MAUS to examine the many contact points of the comics form with our image-based memory of the Holocaust.
While such a range of lectures, workshops and conferences – in just the two months of April/May – is bordering on intimidating for a scholar who tries to follow current discussions, there was an equally impressive number of comic festivals, fairs and events for a non-specialized audience. I can do no more than mention them briefly here: from April 6 to 14, comic book artists, journalists and fans met up at the Fumetto Festival in Switzerland’s Luzern; on May 5, the city of Cologne expanded its traditional ‘Night of Literature’ for the first time with an additional comic book event with a spectacular program (“Für die Comics bitte ganz nach hinten durchgehen!” [For Comics, All the Way to the Back, Please!]); Munich’s municipal library likewise created a new format called “ComicBar” a few months back, in which world-renowned artist Barbara Yelin invites emerging stars to the stage. The third installment took place on May 10 with Jan Bachmann’s work Mühsam, Anarchist in Anführungsstrichen [Mühsam, Anarchist in Single Quotation Marks] in the spotlight. Then, in the second part of May (16–26), Berlin hosted the international Anime Festival. Not only did the Babylon Cinema, the organizer of the event, screen more than 30 new films and classics, but it also put together a wonderful side program with concerts, exhibitions and lectures. For the local scene, however, the highlight of these last two months has certainly been the Comic Invasion festival (May 11/12) that, for the ninth time, turned our capital into the center of the German language comic book world as well. The festival was of additional interest to scholars, as the side program with lectures and round tables (with the participation of many ComFor members) seems to expand every year.
Coming to a close, I’d like to draw your attention to a Call for Papers for an upcoming journal issue on “Comics/Fandom: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Intersection of Fan Studies and Comics Studies”, a collaboration between the German Society for Media Studies’ Committee for Comics Studies and the Committee for the Studies of Fandom and Participatory Culture that emerged from the workshop “Comics/Fandom” held at the University of Cologne in March. The upcoming comics-focused special issue of Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies will be in English and the deadline to submit contributions is October 31. With our column’s focus on comics scholarship in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, I should also mention an international Call for Papers on “German Comics and Graphic Literature”, planned as a special issue of Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies. The deadline for this CFP is June 15.
Dr. Lukas R.A. Wilde is a post-doc research associate at the Collaborative Research Center 923 “Threatened Order – Societies under Stress” of Tuebingen University, Germany. He studied theatre and media; Japanese; and philosophy at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg and the Gakugei University of Tokyo. His media studies dissertation on the functions of ‘characters’ (kyara) within everyday communication of contemporary Japanese society was awarded the Roland-Faelske-Award for the best Dissertation in Comics and Animation Studies in 2018. In the German Society for Comic Studies (ComFor) he is the executive board’s treasurer, the co-spokesperson of the Committee for Comic Studies (AG Comicforschung) of the German Society of Media Studies (GfM), as well as one of the organizers of the digital artists initiative Comic Solidarity and the German GINCO-Award. For a list of publications, see http://lukasrawilde.de/en/index.
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