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Deadline Extended: Comics Forum 2018 Call for Papers

Progress: A Decade of Comics Scholarship
Leeds Central Library 20-21 September

Call for Papers

Deadline extended to the 23rd of July 2018.

Comics Forum 2018 is the tenth anniversary of the annual conference series. To celebrate this milestone, we invite scholars from around the world to join us for a two-day series of talks looking back at the subjects Comics Forum has focused on over the past decade and considering how they have changed and developed. We are now open to submissions on any of the following themes, reflecting the topics from previous years’ events (please indicate which theme you are addressing when you submit your abstract):

  • Genre (2016)
  • Graphic Medicine: Visualizing the Stigma of Illness (2011)[1]
  • Materiality and Virtuality (2011)
  • Multiculturalism and Representation (2012)
  • Politics (2015)
  • Possibilities and Perspectives (2009)
  • Sculpture and Comic Art (2011)[2]
  • Small Press and Undergrounds (2013)
  • Space (2017)
  • Theory and Practice (2010)
  • Violence (2014)
  • Women in Comics (2010)[3]

Submissions will be considered in any of the following three formats (please indicate which you are proposing when you submit your abstract):

  • Paper: 15-minute paper on a focused topic.
  • Panel: 1 hour structured discussion between three or more participants (N.B.: this should be a coherent unit, not simply a collection of three or four papers).
  • Workshop: 1 hour interactive, collaborative session aimed at producing outputs to be published on comicsforum.org.

Proposals of up to 250 words in length are now being accepted at the following link: http://bit.ly/comicsforum2018 The deadline for submissions is the 23rd of July and you will be notified of acceptance by or before the 30th of July. Please include a short (100 word) biography of your speaker(s) with your proposal. We look forward to welcoming you to Leeds!

***

[1] Graphic Medicine: Guest conference organised by Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec.
[2] Sculpture and Comic Art: Guest conference organised by Jon Wood and Kirstie Gregory.
[3] Women in Comics: Guest conference organised by Sarah Lightman, Catriona MacLeod, Hattie Kennedy and Emily Rabone.
 

Call for Papers: Comics Forum 2018

Progress: A Decade of Comics Scholarship
Leeds Central Library 20-21 September

Call for Papers

Deadline extended to the 23rd of July 2018.

Comics Forum 2018 is the tenth anniversary of the annual conference series. To celebrate this milestone, we invite scholars from around the world to join us for a two-day series of talks looking back at the subjects Comics Forum has focused on over the past decade and considering how they have changed and developed. We are now open to submissions on any of the following themes, reflecting the topics from previous years’ events (please indicate which theme you are addressing when you submit your abstract):

  • Genre (2016)
  • Graphic Medicine: Visualizing the Stigma of Illness (2011)[1]
  • Materiality and Virtuality (2011)
  • Multiculturalism and Representation (2012)
  • Politics (2015)
  • Possibilities and Perspectives (2009)
  • Sculpture and Comic Art (2011)[2]
  • Small Press and Undergrounds (2013)
  • Space (2017)
  • Theory and Practice (2010)
  • Violence (2014)
  • Women in Comics (2010)[3]

Submissions will be considered in any of the following three formats (please indicate which you are proposing when you submit your abstract):

  • Paper: 15-minute paper on a focused topic.
  • Panel: 1 hour structured discussion between three or more participants (N.B.: this should be a coherent unit, not simply a collection of three or four papers).
  • Workshop: 1 hour interactive, collaborative session aimed at producing outputs to be published on comicsforum.org.

Proposals of up to 250 words in length are now being accepted at the following link: http://bit.ly/comicsforum2018 The deadline for submissions is the 23rd of July and you will be notified of acceptance by or before the 30th of July. Please include a short (100 word) biography of your speaker(s) with your proposal. We look forward to welcoming you to Leeds!

***

[1] Graphic Medicine: Guest conference organised by Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec.
[2] Sculpture and Comic Art: Guest conference organised by Jon Wood and Kirstie Gregory.
[3] Women in Comics: Guest conference organised by Sarah Lightman, Catriona MacLeod, Hattie Kennedy and Emily Rabone.
 

Sketching in Lectures: An Interview with Mel Gibson by Ian Hague

Dr Mel Gibson is a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University. She is also the creator of Dr Mel Comics, a website which supports librarians and teachers in developing graphic novel and manga collections and offers resources and links for those researching comics. She has been an invaluable asset to the development of Comics Forum since its inception in 2009, generously offering both sponsorship and expertise that have enabled the annual conference series to go ahead.

On the 20th of November 2011 she took some time out of the Thought Bubble Convention in Leeds to talk to me about her experiences using comics in the UK education sector, particularly as tools for assessment.

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Read the rest of this entry »

 

The Joy and the Burden of the Comics Artist: The role of boredom in the production of comics by Greice Schneider

There is something very intriguing in the high incidence of comics about cartoonists whining about the struggle of their métier, especially in the realm of alternative comics, in which the combination of autobiography and a tendency towards a depressive mood has been setting the tone in the last decades. In fact, the idea that many ‘alternative comics’ feature stories in which ‘autobiography would be the mode’ while ‘neurosis and alienation the dominant tone’ (Leith) is so well spread that it has become almost a genre in itself. It is not a coincidence that these two elements appear together, though. There is a connection between the subject (the routine of making comics) and the mood it awakens (most of the time, self-deprecating, depressing) that is directly related to the tricky dynamics of boredom and interest in the creative process: making comics appears both as the escape from boredom and the source of it. Although the role played by boredom and melancholy has been addressed in many arts, there seems to be something special with comics, given the high number of artists that bring up this topic in their work, such as Lewis Trondheim, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes or Ivan Brunetti.

Cartooning Will Destroy You

Lewis Trondheim was so concerned with the question of aging that he devoted a whole book to the subject, a comic-essay entitled Desoeuvré (published in English as At Loose Ends), in which he tries to understand why comic authors age badly. Trondheim interviews a number of his peers, mainly from the French-Belgian bande dessinée tradition, and makes an inventory of artists that ended up falling into depression – like Hergé, Franquin, Gotlib, Fred or Carl Barks and Winsor McCay (not to mention the countless artists that ended up just falling into repetition). Trondheim was obviously worried about his own work, a fear of becoming himself repetitive and boring without noticing. That is the reason why he decides to kill the main character of his series, Lapinot (McConey in English), as a result of an urge to avoid being ‘trapped in a gilded cage’ (Trondheim, Désoeuvré) in repetitive and endless sequences. This fear of falling into cliché is illustrated several times, as when he enumerates an undesired sequence of events for his character: ‘McConey becomes a daddy, McConey gets married, McConey becomes a granddad, McConey has his prostate surgery’ (Trondheim, Désoeuvré).

Trondheim is definitely not alone in his concerns and he is not the only one to express them in the comics form. A brief look at the sketchbooks of Chris Ware quickly reveals an interest on this same topic, not as a fear of getting dried by routine, but as a series of complaints about the struggle and minutiae involved in the making of comics. In one of these confessions, he says: ‘all day today, nearly impossible to work, heavy feeling, […], lack of interest in work, feeling stupid stupid stupid, can’t even look at what I should be doing, lots of procrastination…’ (Ware 32).

Ivan Brunetti manages to go even deeper in addressing his depression in the comics format, as in the one page story entitled Cartooning Will Destroy You – quoting Schulz’s famous statement (Brunetti). Drawn in a sketchy style, the repetitive structure of the grid and the marks of corrections and redrawings in the page only reinforce the burden of the comics production mentioned by the main self-referential character: ‘I’ve tried to quit a million times, but I always come back to it. Am I insane or just completely crazy?’, he asks. Such conviction that there must be something utterly wrong in the choice of making comics is also echoed by Trondheim, who declared that ‘one of the conditions to become a comics artist would be to have a sort of psychological flaw’ (Trondheim, ‘Interview with Matthias Wivel’).

It is true that this connection between creative process and moods keen to boredom, melancholy and depression is not exclusive to comics. Actually, this melancholic state has always been presented in a rather glamorized status among artists and intellectuals, given the popularity of the idea that ‘the melancholy man was one who felt more deeply, saw more clearly, and came closer to the sublime than ordinary mortals’ (Radden 15). The idea dates back to Aristotle, who associated inspiration and melancholy by questioning why people ‘who have become outstanding in philosophy, statesmanship, poetry or the arts are melancholic’ (Aristotle 155).

But this struggle seems much more evident in comics (or at least in a particular genre). Benoît Peeters – a comics author and theoretician himself – believes there is something specific to the comics language that reinforces this feeling, and that is related to the artisanal craftsmanship based in manual labor and the consequent ‘complex and unending mechanism of repetition’ (Peeters 113). This ‘iterative principle’ can’t be found in other plastic arts (not to the same degree at least). Peeters considers this mechanism of repetition (that he proposes to call redrawing) as one of the fundamental features of the comics medium, appearing in different levels, such as from sketch to the rough (the artist has to draw and redraw), from inking in to the colouring, from panel to panel (always repeating scenarios, making small changes), from page to page, from album to album (in the case of serialized works) (Peeters 113).

Trondheim also seems to agree with Peeters on that matter: ‘repetition is the biggest trap’, he says (Trondheim, Désoeuvré). That seems to be even more true to what he calls the ‘complete authors’, the comic artists that take care of drawing and writing in all phases of production, and therefore accumulate all these levels of repetition. Ivan Brunetti also addresses this repetitive aspect: ‘my whole world, rectangle after rectangle. I have reached the October of my enthusiasm’ (Brunetti).

What is very symptomatic here is to notice that the same authors who constantly address their levels of exhaustion are precisely the ones who use repetition as a deliberate stylistic choice. If repetition is already an intrinsic part of the comics language, as Peeters reminds us, what happens then to authors who extrapolate these limits in order to represent minimal changes to refer to, for example, the monotony of their everyday life?

Cartooning will save you

The whole irony is that making comics can not only be a source of boredom, but also a solution against it – the initial motivation to start drawing is often to escape routine. There is something paradoxical in the mechanism of boredom – appearing both as a threat and as a point of departure – a crucial dynamic in the creative process in general: ‘it is from the negative power of boredom that the aesthetic impulse draws much of its force’ (Raposa 79). Nietzsche notes the necessity of enduring boredom and awaiting its effect in the work of thinkers and artists, describing it as ‘that disagreeable “lull” of the soul that precedes a happy voyage and cheerful winds’ (Nietzsche et al. 57). Likewise, Spacks places such urges to overcome boredom in the very foundation of the literary process. According to her, ideas would be nothing more than responses to boredom’s threat – and that reactive movement would constitute the very basis of literature (1).

The most frequent sign of that can be found in the testimonials on childhood experiences. In many interviews, when asked about the motivations to start making comics, many cartoonists will often refer to a lonely childhood and drawing to kill time and distract themselves. Chris Ware’s sketchbook is, once again, revealing. In a section entitled ‘What I may (or may not) have learned thus far‘, one of the topics is: ‘you will never again be as happy as you were when you were a child’, illustrated by a young Chris Ware happy to be drawing with the only purpose of enjoying himself (supposedly contrary to what would be his life at the time he was drawing his sketchbook) (Ware 206). Daniel Clowes says he was ‘definitely a loner’ (Raeburn 19) when he started drawing. And Adrian Tomine starts his anthology 32 stories by describing an escapist motivation:

The book you hold in your hands would not exist had high school been a pleasant experience for me. […] It was on those quiet weekend nights when even my parents were out having fun that I began making serious attempts to create stories in comics form (Tomine 7).

This first impulse of drawing comics to kill time is very different from the obligation to draw comics as work – and it happens not only in childhood, but also in situations in which the authors are, somehow, held in limbo, and need an activity to distract themselves. In these senses, reacting against boredom is actually a source of creative power. This can be found, for example, in the phenomenon of “travel comics”. Much of the autobiographical work by Trondheim is done during trips (hence all the airports, stations) because he has some time on his hands and ‘don’t like to be bored’ (Trondheim, ‘Interview with Matthias Wivel’). The same reason is given by Craig Thompson, in his Carnet de Voyage – a travel-diary in his trip to Europe. At a certain point, he loses his sketchbook and has nothing to draw during a flight, leaving him in a clearly uncomfortable situation: ‘it would have been a perfect time to draw. With nothing to distract me, I had to face how UNHAPPY a person I am’ (Thompson 86).

Making comics can manifest as an antidote against tedium or the source of exhaustion and angst. The secret for engagement here is balance. Peeters says he considers essential that ‘every page, or at least every album, should represent a real challenge. Otherwise, the drawing becomes stale, and that is quickly apparent’ (Peeters 113). The key to dealing with such ambiguous moods, then, is to keep engagement by finding an optimal point between these two extremes. Doing comics should never cease to pose a certain kind of challenge.

Bibliography

Aristotle. Aristotle Problems II, Books 22-37. Cambridge Mass.; London: Harvard University Press; Heinemann, 1983. Print.

Brunetti, Ivan. Schizo. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2006. Print.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Beyond Boredom and Anxiety : The Experience of Play in Work and Games. San Francisco (Calif.): Jossey-Bass, 1977. Print.

Klapp, Orrin K. Overload and Boredom : Essays on the Quality of Life in the Information Society. Westport (Conn.): Westport (Conn.) Greenwood 1986, 1986. Print.

Leith, Sam. ‘When It Comes to Comics, You Just Can’t Beat a Drunken, Violent Aardvark.’ The Guardian 18 July 2010. Web. 14 July 2011.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm et al. The Gay Science : With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Peeters, B. “Between Writing and Image: A Scriptwriter’s Way of Working.” European Comic Art 3.1 (2010): 105–116. Print.

Radden, Jennifer. The Nature of Melancholy: From Aristotle to Kristeva. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

Raeburn, Daniel. ‘The Fallen World of Daniel Clowes.’ The Imp 1997.

Raposa, Michael L. Boredom and the Religious Imagination. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1999. Print.

Spacks, Patricia. Boredom : The Literary History of a State of Mind. Chicago (Ill.): University of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.

Thompson, Craig. Carnet De Voyage. Marietta GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2004. Print.

Tomine, Adrian. 32 Stories : The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-comics. Softcover ed. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly Publications, 2004. Print.

Trondheim, Lewis. Désoeuvré : Essai. 2nd ed. Paris: L’Association, 2005. Print.

—. ‘Interview with Matthias Wivel’ The Comics Journal Autumn 2007. Web. 14 July 2011.

Ware, Chris. The Acme Novelty Date Book : Sketches and Diary Pages in Facsimile, 1995-2002. 1st ed. Montréal Quebec; Enfield: Drawn and Quarterly; Publishers Group UK [distributor], 2007. Print.

Greice Schneider is currently conducting PhD research on boredom and everyday life in contemporary graphic narratives at K.U. Leuven, in Belgium. She is a founding member and co-editor of The Comics Grid.

 

Introduction

Hello and welcome to the Comics Forum blog. This is the best place to keep up to date with all the latest news and information about Comics Forum, the academic side of Leeds’ sequential art festival, Thought Bubble.

Comics Forum was established in 2009 as ‘Possibilities and Perspectives: A Conference on Comics’, which ran at the Alea Casino in parallel with the Thought Bubble convention on the 21st of November. Last year’s event took place at Leeds Art Gallery and ran from the 18th to the 19th of November. It comprised two conferences: ‘Women in Comics II’ and ‘Theory and Practice: A Conference on Comics’. 2011’s Comics Forum is scheduled for the 16th to the 18th of November and will pull together ‘Sculpture and Comic Art’, ‘Graphic Medicine’ and ‘Materiality and Virtuality: A Conference on Comics’. The call for papers is out today and is available here.

The aim of Comics Forum is to encourage productive dialogues between scholars, creators and professionals working on comics. We have a broad and inclusive approach, and try to showcase as many different speakers and ideas as possible in the time available. The intellectual level is high and the event can be challenging at times, but we think it’s important to push for the type of rigorous, well-researched material that comics deserve.

This site has been established in that spirit. In addition to releasing information about Comics Forum, we’ll be using it to provide an archive of material relating to previous years’ events, and to present articles from a wide range of guest writers. We’ll also be hosting ongoing columns. Kirstie Gregory from the Henry Moore Institute will write on Sculpture and Comic Art, while Ian Williams, Columba Quigley and M K Czerviec (Comic Nurse) will discuss Graphic Medicine. The intentions here are: a) to give an idea of the numerous voices speaking on comics in different styles, from different angles and with different interests, b) to get people rethinking their readings of the medium and challenging themselves to consider alternative viewpoints, and c) to stimulate debate and discussion on a wide range of topics relating to comics, both on the blog itself and at the events.

I very much hope you’ll enjoy the site and take the time to read the articles and commentaries provided by our writers, who are among the top thinkers on the medium of comics. If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, complaints or compliments don’t hesitate to get in touch by email at comicsforum@hotmail.co.uk or in the comments sections on each of the blog posts. You can keep updated with the site by email by clicking the subscription link on the right hand side of the page, or by RSS by clicking the orange icon at the top right.

Best wishes to all our readers.

Ian Hague, Director of Comics Forum

 
 
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