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Author Archives: Annick Pellegrin

The Intermittent ComFor Update, as of August 2021

by Michaela Schober

This is the first time that I have the honour of penning the Intermittent ComFor Update for the Comics Forum, having only joined the website editorial team last autumn. Stephan wrote a year ago, “[a]nd then, of course, a pandemic happened”: it is still ongoing and I would not presume to offer any projections as to the developments of the near or even intermediate future, given the world at large. Overall, as Natalie said last October, not too much has changed. However, as the vaccination efforts are progressing, the hope for at least a respite over the summer and, dare I say it, perchance even in-person conferences or courses in autumn, is alive. Personally, I must confess that while I do miss seeing colleagues in person, I have come to appreciate the ease, speed and spontaneity with which it is possible to attend talks and conferences halfway across the world. Admittedly, the sight-seeing is limited to various virtual backgrounds and the availability of ‘local’ culinary delights is dependent on one’s own culinary skills (or availability of restaurants offering delivery or click and collect services), but optimism is allegedly all about considering the (cocktail) glass (at the virtual social event with a virtual bar in the virtual background) half-full.

As I was reading through previous updates, Lukas’ from January this year, Natalie’s from October last year, and then, even further back in the year that was and, somehow, wasn’t, Stephan’s from last July and Robin’s from January 2020, I was struck again, possibly even more so in hindsight, by how drastic many of the changes over the last 18 months really have been. At the time they happened, it often felt as if there was too much going on to actually fully process what was going on, in all its implications and ramifications. The lockdowns between countries differed in timing and intensity, something that hasn’t changed, but I still remember the chaos of switching from working completely in situ to completely online in a matter of days, when there was barely any actual infrastructure, neither in terms of suitable software and technology nor in terms of teaching plans and course materials, to do so in the first place. I am honestly amazed by how much things have improved, and both amazed and disturbed by how quickly these things have become normal. I wonder how we will fare going back to the ‘new old normal’—personally, I feel as if FFP2 masks on cramped public transport will stay with me for a long time—and if we will manage to hold on to the good things that have come out of this, including but not limited to streamed and hybrid conferences. In any case, it was heartening to see how many activities and events carried on, and how the pace picked up again as we all grew used to—or at least, as much as it is possible to grow used to—the current status quo.

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Posted by on 2021/08/31 in ComFor Updates

 

Conference Report: Joint Conference of The International Graphic Novels and Comics and The International Bande Dessinée Societies

by Joe Sutliff Sanders and Laurence Grove

Although the 2021 joint conference of the International Graphic Novels and Comics and the International Bande Dessinée societies, to be held in Cambridge, was advertised as an in-person-only event that would be cancelled if the pandemic interfered, such was the response to the call for proposals that we moved the conference online. The result was five full days (21-25 June) of papers, keynotes, and online socialisation.

The four keynotes targeted the conference theme of “Comics and Their Audiences / Audiences and Their Comics.” Sara W. Duke (Library of Congress) gave an overview of European comics and caricatures in the Library onwards from the purchase of material from Windsor Castle a century ago. Kate Charlesworth (Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide and many more) took us through her personal journey to becoming an artist, coming out as a lesbian, and creating the much-lauded autobiographical account that is Sensible Footwear. Lara Saguisag (City University of New York-College of Staten Island) provided a compelling history of the petrocultural, the ways in which global society is an oil society, in physical and material ways, shaping values, practices, habits, and even feelings, infusing comics and communities with a narrative that naturalises high energy consumption. Kazumi Nagaike (Oita University) explored depictions of sexuality in Japanese ‘essay manga’, essentially slice-of-life narratives in comic form.

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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 2/2

by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall

Gert Meesters chaired Panel 4: A Space for Girls. Early research into the relationship between comics and their readers was central to Sylvain Lesage’s presentation. Through a study of reader correspondences he analysed the reception of and discourse provoked by the comics strip “Corinne et Jeannot” in the communist comics magazine for children Pif Gadget (1969- 1993/2004-2009). The serial performance of Jeannot, a boy in love being pranked by Corinne, the girl he adores, sparked a feedback loop between publishers, creators and readers and was also referred to within the comic. The curiosity of the readers’ letters is their desire to negotiate the morality of a fictional character, to communicate ideologies such as the extent of acceptable meanness for girls and suitable levels of temperance and kindness. It speaks to readers’ genuine investment in these comics, showing that fictional characters in humour strips are subject to such socially normative constraints. Aswathy Senan’s research on the childhood of Malayalis considered the extent to which the context of publication shapes the comics themselves. This notion was explored through a comparison of the comics strip “Bobanum Moliyum” as published in the women’s magazine Malayala Manorama and in Kalakaumudi, a literary magazine. Whilst the characters and the concept of their strip remained constant, the humour, the interests and the agency of the characters adapted to the flavour of the different magazines.

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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 1/2

by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall

The digital symposium Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood was launched on 22 April 2021 with a profound and personal keynote by Mel Gibson. Using herself as a case study she reflected on being a reader, a librarian, a scholar and an individual who, in a variety of fields, has represented non-standard notions of ‘girl’. In workshops for librarians, teachers and scholars, Gibson uses comics for object elicitation, allowing her to encourage others to reconsider themselves as child comics readers and the complex ideologies knotted up in this experience. Gibson’s work provokes the notion of the individual as a role model, a unique and precise representation with particular qualities, interests and passions. Using restorative nostalgia entails not just reflecting back on but, also, resisting shame and embarrassment, forgiving and accepting ourselves as the child readers we were. Gibson shows a respect for the powerful and evocative materiality of comics and offers a compassionate model for identity. Whilst speaking personally about comics reading, Gibson engaged with discourses of hierarchy, child development and affect, interrogating the simple truth that what we read is part of making us who we are.

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