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Report: Transnational Graphic Narratives Summer School

University of Siegen, Germany. July 31st – August 5th 2017

-Report-

Authors: Amadeo Gandolfo, Pablo Turnes, Laura Nallely Hernández Nieto, Lia Roxana Donadon

Introduction

The first Transnational Graphic Narratives Summer School (abbreviated TGN) was held at the University of Siegen, Campus Unteres Schloß, from July 31st to August 5th of 2017. The participants included the following scholars (in alphabetical order): José Alaniz (University of Washington, USA), Benoît Crucifix (Université de Liège, Belgium), Veronica Dean (University of Los Angeles, USA), Subir Dey (Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India), Harriet Earle (Sheffield Hallam University, England), Franca Feil (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany), Moritz Fink (Academy for Civic Education Tutzing, Germany), Amadeo Gandolfo and Pablo Turnes (National University of Buenos Aires / CONICET, Argentina), Isabelle Guillaume (Universiy of Bordeaux Montagne, France), Olivia Hicks (University of Dundee, Scotland), Ganiyu A. Jimoh (University of Lagos, Nigeria), Kenan Koçak (Bilecik Şeyh Edebali University, Turkey), Sarah Lightman (University of Glasgow, Scotland), Suraya Md Nasir (Kyoto Seika University, Japan), Laura Nallely Hernández Nieto (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Barbara Postema (Concordia University, Canada), Johannes Schmid (University of Hamburg, Germany), Pfunzo Sidogi (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Simon Turner (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture, England), Jocelyn Wright (University of Texas, USA), Tobias Yu-Kiener (University of the Arts London, Great Britain), Giorgio Buzzi Rizzi (University of Bologna, Italy), Lia Roxana Donadon (University of Siegen, Germany).

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Review: Take It as a Compliment by Maria Stoian

By Harriet Earle

 

Winner of the 2016 SICBA Best Graphic Novel Award and the Independent Publisher’s 2016 Outstanding Book of the Year Independent Spirit Award.

Unfortunately, it’s probably happened to all of us. We find ourselves in a situation that does not feel quite right—perhaps it was a stranger on the bus standing uncomfortably close or a sense of being followed when walking home in the late evening. Unfortunately, it’s probably happened to a large number of us that we’ve been in situations far more dangerous. Sexual harassment and assault exists on a scale and it is wrong to suggest that the ‘lower’ end of the scale should be dismissed. Often, such actions are dismissed and victims are told to ‘take it as a compliment’, a grim suggestion when we consider how uncomfortable and personally violated these behaviours can make us feel. The issue of sexual harassment and assault have become of increasing importance in the social conversation of the 21st century but often the focus is on men targeting women and ignores the wider issue of female-to-male and same-sex harassment. Enter Maria Stoian’s 2016 comic Take It as a Compliment. Taking that horrible yet common phrase as its title, this not really Stoian’s story—it’s a collective memoir of sexual assault, created by survivors and filtered through Stoian’s artwork.

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Review: At War with Yourself: A Comic about Post-Traumatic Stress and the Military by Samuel C. Williams

Review: At War with Yourself: A Comic about Post-Traumatic Stress and the Military by Samuel C. Williams

By Harriet Earle

 

In my last review for Comics Forum, I asked my father to give his opinion on two medical education comics. As a non-scholar and an infrequent reader, I thought he would be able to offer a different perspective and he may be a better representative of the target audience than me, someone who practically eats comics for breakfast. For this review, I asked for his help again, partly because of his ‘lay status’ but also because he is a retired RAF officer and the topic of Samuel C. Williams’ At War with Yourself is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a retired soldier, his friend Matt. PTSD is a relatively recent and hotly contested condition; it entered the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980 and since then has been a staple in pop culture representations of returning veterans, plagued with nightmares and hair-trigger alertness. However, this representation is not only largely incorrect, it is also very unhelpful to those with the condition.

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Posted by on 2016/09/02 in Comics Forum 2016, Reviews

 

Review: Trauma is Really Strange and Pain is Really Strange by Steve Haines, with art by Sophie Standing

By Harriet Earle

 

The titles of these books do not lie; both trauma and pain are really strange. Indeed, it is in their strangeness that both of these common phenomena find their power. We do not know much about them (comparatively speaking) and their diagnosis and treatment is neither standardised nor, oftentimes, effective. However, as with so much in life, knowing is half the battle and being able to understand the basics of a condition can lead to more effective self-management, if not multi-levelled treatment by medical professionals. That’s where these two books come in. Bodyworker and fervent advocate of a number of alternative treatments Steve Haines has worked with illustrator Sophie Standing to create two accessible and plain-speaking guides to pain and trauma. The result? Nothing short of excellent.

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Review: Threadbare by Anne Elizabeth Moore

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex and Trafficking by Anne Elizabeth Moore and The Ladydrawers

Microcosm Publishing. 10th May 2016. ISBN: 978-1-62106-739-9. Price: $13.95

 

Reviewed by Harriet Earle

As I write this review, I am acutely aware of my clothing. Not the items specifically as much as the fact that almost everything I’m wearing came from a high street store and cost very little. This is not something I have concerned myself with much in the past but after reading Threadbare: Clothes, Sex and Trafficking, a brilliantly constructed report on ‘the connections between the global fashion and sex trades’ I have found myself rethinking my previous stance on fashion. In this comic, Moore spotlights the complex and far-reaching relationship between these two markets to create a comic that is dense and informative without being dull or confusing. The result is a text that not only informs the reader of the relationship between fashion (especially ‘fast fashion’ – cheap, mass produced clothing that is taking the global market by storm) and the international sex and trafficking trades but also provides nuanced, personal stories from women whose lives are directly affected by the issues at hand. The combination of astute research and intensely personal artistic styles is what makes this book. This is no ordinary comic: this is a manifesto.

From the outset we are faced with some harsh truths: the world of fashion has changed drastically over the past century and is still in flux. In the US, the average woman buys 68 items of clothing per year. One in seven women worldwide is employed in the garment industry. Shop staff are paid low wages with little to no security or benefits; models are routinely encouraged to diet excessively and are often forced into situations they are not comfortable with; garment factory workers face long hours, minimal pay and all manner of horrific abuses. Threadbare is open and honest about these facts; it encourages the reader to contemplate them, not just as abstract statistics but through vignettes with individual representatives of each part of the sprawling international garments industry. Moore is not rehashing someone else’s research – this is all her own work, complete with notes and references. She directly engages with her subjects and it shows. She exists within her own comics as a guiding voice, if not visible character, through the agenda that each short strip sets up and the focussed way it plays out.

The Ladydrawers, an ‘unofficially affiliated group’ of artists that ‘researches, performs and publishes comics and texts about how economics, race, sexuality, and gender impact the comics industry, other media, and our culture at large’. Their artwork is raw and curiously coloured; the majority of the strips rely on black line work, highlighted by shades of orange, red and pink. Each artist has a distinct style and their individuality lends the particular narratives a flavour all their own. The narrating head and shoulders sketches of model Sarah Meier in ‘Model Employee’, drawn by Delia Jean, floats throughout a series of flashbacks to her own story and imagined meetings in other people’s. In contrast, Melissa Mendes’ cool and impersonal industrial landscapes illustrate the stark reality of how zoning laws are manipulated by the garment industry to keep both merchandise and labour cheap.

Threadbare is an incredibly wordy comic; though pocket-sized, the amount of information contained within requires several readings to fully digest. Moving from the USA to Austria to Cambodia and then to a world-wide view, the reader is faced with page after page of uncomfortable truths about an industry that is seemingly ubiquitous and that the vast majority of us are interacting with on numerous levels. The final short comic of the collection, ‘The Connecting Threads’, asks us to consider everything that Threadbare has already laid out, recapping statistics and offering its rallying cry: ditch the mall, advocate for a living wage in the garment industry and make a change. As difficult as this may be – fast fashion is a staple of many of our wardrobes and remains so because of its affordability and omnipresence – there is no doubt that Moore and her artistic collaborators are correct. The only way to make a difference is to take a stand. And, thanks to Threadbare, I will be doing just that.

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