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The Comics Patrimonialisation of Woodcut Novels

Patrimonialisation as Retcon? – Part 1/3

by Jean-Matthieu Méon

 

Woodcut novels form a genre of graphic narratives that emerged in Europe at the end of the 1910s with the works of the Belgian Frans Masereel. It was later explored and expanded by several European and Northern American artists, among whom the American Lynd Ward was one of the most influential (Beronä). If the genre waned in the 1950s, its influence has been claimed by diverse artists, especially in the comics field. In recent years, key works of the genre were reprinted in France and they are considered important elements of comics’ heritage.

The three parts of this article analyse this current comics valorisation of decades-old woodcut novels.[1] The theoretical model of patrimonialisation (Davallon) helps to shed light on this process, which relies on a specific relationship with the past, made of both rediscovery and reinvention (part I). The editorial paratext of the current reprints plays here a central role. It’s a means to equate “woodcut novels” and “graphic novels” and to bring together distinct fields of artistic creations (part II). The symbolic stakes of this patrimonialising process are important: for comics and for their publishers, it’s part of a quest for legitimacy and for an artistic autonomy that Masereel and Ward could embody (part III).

 

 

Wordless woodcut novels created in the Twenties and the Thirties are enjoying a renewed editorial and critical interest in France. Six “novels in pictures” by Frans Masereel have been reprinted by Martin de Halleux since 2018 and L’Éclaireur, one exhaustive slipcase set of all six of Lynd Ward’s “novels in woodcuts”, was published by Monsieur Toussaint Louverture in 2020 (see list of works cited). But for one exception (in Walker’s anthology), this is the first French edition of Ward’s woodcut novels and only a few of Masereel’s books had been reprinted as individual books in the preceding years by small literary publishers. On the occasion of these reprints, both bodies of works have been praised as forerunners of the modern graphic novels—if not as graphic novels in their own right. Both of them were also selected for the Angoulême festival award dedicated to comics’ heritage: Masereel’s Idée was nominated in 2019 and Ward’s L’Éclaireur won the award in 2021. The place of these works in the history of comics thus seems formally established, as one more milestone in the form’s past. Jean Davallon’s communication approach to heritage (patrimonialisation) offers a heuristic model to describe this process of (re)insertion of woodcut novels in comics history. It also helps to understand its internal logic as well as its specificity: the retrospective look at the past here is as much one of rediscovery as one of reinvention.

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Posted by on 2021/05/10 in Guest Writers

 

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Spotlight on Indian Comics and Folklore

This post is guest written by Subir Dey, a Research Scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati.

Teenta’ means ‘Three’ in Nagamese language. All the three stories in this book are adapted from ‘the book of Naga folktales’ published by Department of Art and Culture, Nagaland. Folktales are the hidden treasure of our culture and transforming the folktales in comics format was an attempt to unearth the hidden treasure and make it more interesting. The comics presented hereby are work of hard labour, brainstorming and numerous pencil strokes, which are completed over a period of 3 Days, as part of ‘Comics-Comics! A Comics Making Workshop’ conducted by Subir Dey. The main objective of the workshop was to understand the persistence, patience and commitment required for making comics. The art styles are raw and bear certain honesty towards the stories which is rarely seen in today’s polished and flamboyant world of superheroes. The essence of the stories lies in their grounded nature. They tell the stories of spirits, tigers, stepmothers, jealousy, foolishness and so many other emotions and expressions that are part of ‘modern life’ too.

The representation of characters and environment in this book is completely imagined by the artists and may or may not bear resemblance to the Naga culture. This is due to the simple reason that giving out the message of the Naga folktales was given more priority than the exact representation of Naga culture (which would not have been possible in 3 days!).

So, enjoy some of the gems from Naga folktales.
Happy Reading!

To view these comics, please click the link below:

‘Teenta’ Naga Folktales

 
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Posted by on 2017/11/03 in General, Guest Writers

 

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EPIC THEMES IN AWESOME WAYS: How we made Asteroid Belter: The Newcastle Science Comic, and why it matters by Lydia Wysocki and Michael Thompson

Asteroid Belter Cover

1. Introduction

Asteroid Belter: The Newcastle Science Comic is a 44-page, newsprint, 10000 copy print run comic for the British Science Festival 2013 hosted by Newcastle University, England. It was produced as collaboration between a total of 76 artists, writers and scientists, led by our editorial team: Lydia Wysocki, Paul Thompson, Michael Thompson, Jack Fallows, Brittany Coxon and Michael Duckett. The comic sought to put university science research and concepts into the hands of children in a way that is meaningful, interesting, and inspiring to them. We did this by supporting scientists and comics creators to work together and increase each party’s understanding of the value of the other’s work. This article first outlines how we made Asteroid Belter, where we locate it in the wider field of comics, and then goes on to identify what we can and cannot show as evidence of its success.

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Posted by on 2014/09/23 in Guest Writers

 

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Manga Studies #4: Traversing Art and Manga: Ishiko Junzō’s Writings on Manga/Gekiga by Shige (CJ) Suzuki

I. Who is Ishiko Junzō?[1]

Arguably, one of the first Japanese critics to discuss graphic narratives (story manga) for mature audiences is Ishiko Junzō (1928 – 1977).[2]  Initially active as an art critic who explored a wide range of contemporaneous artistic and popular movements, he began to publish writings more specifically on manga between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. To many English-language readers his name might be obscure, perhaps even more so than his contemporary, philosopher and cultural critic Tsurumi Shunsuke, whose book Sengo Nihon no taishū bunkashi (A Cultural History of Postwar Japan 1945-1980)—a chapter of which is devoted to postwar manga—is available in English. Yet, in present-day Japanese-language manga research, Ishiko is repeatedly referenced, especially in relation to his media-specific discussion of manga. This article shall introduce art critic Ishiko Junzō and his scholarship, concentrating on his contribution to Japanese comics criticism and manga studies.

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Posted by on 2014/08/11 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Universalism Re-visited: The Cartoon Image, My Mom, and Mii by Mita Mahato

Scott McCloud’s articulation of the universality of cartoon imagery (‘when you enter the world of the cartoon—you see yourself’ [36]) has come under much scrutiny during the years since Understanding Comics first ushered the medium into the spotlight among academics. I am partial to this growing collection of perspectives that seeks to complicate the idea that comics naturally invite readers into their worlds. Gillian Whitlock, in her reading of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, offers one such complication; ‘there can be no simple universality in the associations produced by cartooning across very different relationships’ (977), she writes. Even a cursory survey of the tools, topics, and stylistic and generic choices that cartoonists have employed in their work reveals that comics do not make us all one in our experiences; instead the form (as with any form) exhibits a proliferation of divergent approaches to life—some that pull us in with their imagery and others that seem determined to alienate. Additionally, universalizing claims tend to neglect the medium’s capacity to help readers “re-see” known events or experiences with new points-of-view. Of course, another problem with universalism is that what we understand as a universal worldview tends to be dictated by those who have the power and voice to control the world’s goings-on.

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Posted by on 2013/09/12 in Guest Writers

 

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