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Category Archives: Guest Writers

Allies and Disability Representation in Contemporary Russian Comics

José Alaniz

University of Washington, Seattle

Note: all translations are the author’s own.

 

Corrections Class (Klass korrektsii, d. Ivan Tverdovsky, 2015) is a hard-hitting film about disability in Russia. In one scene, a mother, Svetlana Viktorovna (Natalya Pavlenkova), struggles to push her paraplegic teen daughter Lena (Maria Poyezhayeva) in her wheelchair up a two-track cement ramp outside her high school. But the ramp, which we had seen in the process of construction earlier in the movie, has a fatal flaw: a gap of several inches between it and the sidewalk – too wide for a wheelchair to overcome. Worse than useless, the ramp is a spit in the face, a bureaucratic nod to inclusivity with no actual follow-through. It drives Svetlana Viktorovna, who has more than enough troubles in her life, to hiss with rage: “Thank you very much, my dears. Great job.”[1] Equal parts maudlin melodrama, documentary exposé and black farce, the scene is not exactly fiction (though the film is). It had a real-life basis.

In the fall of 2012, a popular series of memes emerged on the Runet (Russian internet): pictures of the many inaccessible spaces for wheelchair-users in Russian cities, turned into absurdist set decoration by ramps built impossibly steep; ramps with trees and other objects blocking the way; broken ramps with wide cracks; and ramps leading to/from nowhere (e.g., into walls). “The inaccessible-ramps meme gained popularity not as [a] representation of the problem of disability inclusion in Russia,” wrote anthropologist Cassandra Hartblay, “but as a joke about the country’s infrastructure, ironic evidence of dysfunction in Russian daily life” (“Good”: 3).[2] Hartblay goes on to call the ramps “an overdetermined symbol, or a red herring for access” in postsocialism (“Good”: 4).

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Lev Gleason Publications and Pre-Code PR:

Attracting Mature Readers[1]

By Peter W. Y. Lee

Among the 1954 Comics Magazine Association of America’s Comic Code’s many regulations was a directive to company admen: “Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable” (Nyberg 168). The ubiquity of alcohol in mainstream media certainly concerned social guardians in post-war America (Rotskoff). However, liquor manufacturers did not solicit to minors in the comics, but another demographic group: their parents.

The first part of my article looked at how Lev Gleason Publications responded to the public alarm over comic books. Gleason and his chief editor, Charles Biro, pushed comics as a progressive medium with educational and artistic merit. This second part explores their second strategy: courting adults. Gleason hoped that an expanded readership would bolster support and offset rising production costs. However, critics rejected comic books’ potential beyond that of disposable children’s entertainment. The Comics Code sanitised comic books and stigmatised readers beyond middle-school age.

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Posted by on 2020/07/17 in Guest Writers

 

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Lev Gleason Publications and Pre-Code PR:

Countering Critics through Social Reform and Education

by Peter W. Y. Lee

The 1954 Comics Code was intended to protect children by curtailing comic book content that contributed to juvenile delinquency. However, historians have pointed to how overzealous red-baiters wielded the Code to attack the industry as a figurative whipping boy for Cold War anxiety (J. Gilbert, Nyberg, Wright, Hajdu). EC Comics stands out, noted for its “New Trend” of social criticism, horror and crime in severed jugular veins that provoked readers (Whitted). Scholars have pointed to EC’s publisher and editor William Gaines’s testimony before the Senate Subcommittee’s hearing on juvenile delinquency as a show trial of sorts, in which Gaines had hoped to counter the criticism levied against his company, but caved in shortly afterwards instead.[1] But Gaines was not the first to defend the industry, nor was EC representative of many publishers flooding the market. By looking at different titles, scholars can gain a greater appreciation of how other creators negotiated the post-war public role of comic books.

This is the first part of a two-part article that looks at publisher Leverett Gleason’s comic books. Gleason’s publishing house, alternatively known as Comic House or Lev Gleason Publications, used various means to elevate comic books in the public eye. This part examines how Gleason and his gung-ho editor, Charles Biro, predated EC’s touting the educational merits of crime suspense stories and the medium’s potential as an art form. Gleason tried to pass off his crime-centred titles as progressive and artistic literature, belying the genre’s contemporary and enduring reputation as perpetrators of violence. The second article details Gleason’s tactics to expand the scope of comic books as serious literature by appealing to grown-ups.

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Posted by on 2020/07/10 in Guest Writers

 

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Comics and/as Co-presence: Multi-directional Reading in ‘Tick Tock’ by John Cei Douglas

by Neal Curtis

 

Douglas_TickTock

 

Definitions of comics are numerous and yet no single version can quite capture the fecundity, variety and experimental profusion of the medium as it continues to evolve. I would therefore agree with Joseph Witek who suggests that arguments over what defines or qualifies as a comic often “devolve into analytical cul-de-sacs and hair splitting debates over an apparently endless profusion of disputed boundary cases and contradictory counter-examples” (149). Witek continues that in light of this, “‘comicness’ might usefully be reconceptualized from being an immutable attribute of texts to being considered as a historically contingent and evolving set of reading protocols that are applied to texts, that to be a comic text means to be read as a comic” (149). Although this suggests a cultural relativist approach to the medium it does still enact some boundary policing in the sense that the graphic information sheet placed in the pockets of airplane seats, while sharing certain features with the comics medium—panels and a combination of word and image—is not a comic because it is not read as such.

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Posted by on 2020/06/04 in Guest Writers

 

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Medieval Comics: Depicting the Middle Ages in European Graphic Novels

by Iain A. MacInnes

Medieval history is very much in vogue at the present time. Driven by representations of the period in various forms of popular culture, there appears to be a great appetite for all things medieval. From television (Vikings, The Name of the Rose, Knightfall) to film (The Green Knight, The King, Outlaw King) to video games (A Plague Tale: Innocence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Medieval Dynasty), representations of the medieval world are hard to avoid.[1] And that is before we get to the more medieval-influenced forms of media that perhaps drive interest in the medieval even more than apparently “real” representations of the past. Where Game of Thrones led the way, The Witcher is now appealing to a mass global audience.[2] The forthcoming Lord of the Rings television series, films like Nimona and games like Godfall will similarly bring different varieties of medieval aesthetics to modern audiences across the globe.[3]

Another medium, perhaps more niche than the above, is that of the graphic novel. Comics set in both the medieval past and medieval-inspired worlds have gained increasing popularity in recent years, and it can be argued that these are as important as the above examples in terms of influencing modern perceptions and understanding of our medieval past. One potential reason why this is not as well-recognised is that many medieval comics are not available in English. While there do exist prominent examples of English-language medieval comics by noted authors and special releases timed to coincide with historical anniversaries (such as Crécy, Templar, Nevsky: A Hero of the People, On Dangerous Ground: Bannockburn 1314 and Agincourt 1415: A Graphic Novel), this output pales into relative insignificance when compared with that produced in continental Europe.[4] The remainder of this post will therefore consider the range of medieval comics produced for the European market, with a focus on Spain and particularly France. While some broader context for these works is provided, the main focus will be on comics of the last decade to allow consideration of increased interest in the medieval period as reflected in the comic medium.

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Posted by on 2020/04/15 in Guest Writers

 

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