Comics & Conflicts (2011)

Comics & Conflicts: Stories of War in Comics, Graphic Novels & Manga

19/08/2011 – 20/08/2011

Imperial War Museum, London

Conference Poster



Conference Papers

Ofer Berenstein

Title: ‘Redrawing the lines of “Best Practice” – Adapting documentary comics to war correspondence practices – two opposite case studies’

Date: 19/08/2011

Abstract: One of the oldest notions in modern journalism is that there should be a separation between News and Views. The news are in essence “the facts of the matter” while the views are the commentating, analyzing and pondering over the original facts. Although this generalization is overall synonymous for the coverage of all the traditional journalistic content (i.e. politics, foreign affairs, sports and even gardening), variables such as New-Journalism, imbedded journalism and the web 2.0 user generated content, makes this distinction a little blur. To make things even more complicated, there is no such thing as a definitive guide to journalism’s “Best Practice Approach” and journalists often mix different coverage traditions and trends in their work. It is therefore no surprise that there is no consensus on the “Best Practice Approaches” to war correspondence coverage in particular.

True to that notion, this presentation argues that the same separation of News and Views exists in documentary comics dealing with real-world current events as well. Furthermore, this presenter wishes to draw lines between different journalistic coverage approaches and the art-form best suited to it. Strips or short form stories complement news coverage and traditional correspondence while long form stories and Graphic novels complement in depth analysis of data, and complex conflicts. Graphic Novels would also fit well with new-Journalism. A series of questions arises following this argument: is there a combined “best practice” of creating illustrated war correspondence leaning on both the journalistic aspects and the artistic ones? What elements – artistic, literary and journalistic, should it include and what are its limitations? The last point to be dealt at this presentation would be presenting the findings of a research which compared audience acceptance of messages in one short-form comics project (the strips in “To Afghanistan and Back” by Ted Rall) and one long form graphic novel (“Combat Zone” by Karl Zinsmeister (W) and Dan Jurgens (A)). The findings of this research answers some of the questions mentioned earlier. Combining both qualitative analyses of the different forms of documentary comics with a quantitative survey of the readers’ responses to the content also helps to understand the potential effect of the publication with the audience.

Click here to read the paper.

Click here to download the PowerPoint.

Isabelle Delorme

Title: The first Afghanistan war through the glare of the Photographer and Emmanuel Guibert

Date: 19/08/2011

Abstract: The Afghanistan war (1979-1989) is not the subject of the graphic novel : The Photographer : Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders but it is the thread of this comic, which was published in France between 2003 and 2006, then in United States in 2009, and which has received many prizes, especially the Will Eisner Awards in 2010. Didier Lefèvre, the photographer, has been send in 1986 to follow a three months mission of Doctors Without Borders, in North Afghanistan, including two months of a dangerous trip in moutains. The story is told with photographs comic-book style, with the texts and the illustrations of Emmanuel Guibert. In this graphic novel, halfway between comics and photojournalism, by juxtaposing vignettes and hundred of photographs, with various shapes (contact sheet, full page photography, retouched photos etc…), is it an original approach to History and War or is it a standard treatment in comics ? How does Emmanuel Guibert represent Man coming to terms with war in this graphic novel ? Is it possible to distinguish between individuals behaviour (the photographer, members of mission like medical personnel, guide or interpreter, Afghans) and collective behaviour (mission of Doctors Without Borders, civil population, mujaheddin)? How can the fact that two of his major works The Photographer and Alan’s War, The Memories of GI Alan Cope, take place in war-torn countries, unless war be the topic of the graphic novel? Paradoxically, is Emmanuel Guibert interested in War?

Click here to read the paper.

Nina Mickwitz

Title: Displacing the Heroic Soldier in Emmanuel Guibert’s Alan’s War

Date: 19/08/2011

Abstract: Emmanuel Guibert’s Alan’s War (FirstSecond, 2008) renders the account of one man’s remembered experiences during WW2 in Europe. Arriving in France on the 19th of February 1945, the young G.I.’s experience of war is one dominated not by fierce battle but auxiliary deployments, the strategic importance and aims of which often remain hazy to the men in the platoon. Instead interpersonal relationships, chance encounters and incidents form the thread of the narrative. The small scale and mundane turns and events are recollected with clarity and brought to the fore, undermining the mythology of heroic warfare as a dramatic event. In addition, several incidents foreground the disparity between experience on the ground and administrative agendas, whether strategic or in the construction of authoritative versions of events.

This paper aims to highlight the double displacement performed through Alan’s story; war through the eyes of a young soldier whose deployments take him through foreign countries while often only partially aware of the exact whys and wherefores, and the discrepancy between official versions of history and the lived experiences which are subsumed by such accounts.

Click here to read the paper.


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