Tag Archives: comics studies

FRAME:WORKS Symposium 2017 – An Illustrated Report

Authors: Mark Hibbett, Guy Lawley, Tobias J. Yu-Kiener

Images: John Miers.

FRAME:WORKS was a one-day symposium on comics held at Central St Martins (CSM) on Friday, June 16th 2017, funded by University of the Arts London (UAL) Communities of Practice as a UAL Comics Studies Network event. It was organised by Mark Hibbett, Guy Lawley and Tobias J. Yu-Kiener, with sketch-noting by John Miers.

The symposium was devised to bring together a mix of comics academics, practitioners and professionals. Grouped into four thematic sessions, the speakers discussed the nature of working within frameworks, whether artistic, conceptual, professional or legal. The organisers envisioned that the term ‘framework’ could be perceived both negatively, as limitation and restriction, and positively, as a guiding and framing structure to a project. This idea was picked up by the speakers and carried on into the chaired discussions that concluded each panel.

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Posted by on 2018/03/19 in Conference reports


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The Comics Arts Conference and Public Humanities by Kathleen McClancy

Comics studies has come a long way in the past few years. Scholarship centered on sequential art is no longer considered beyond the pale of the academy; academic conferences and journals focusing on comics studies are multiplying; more and more books are being published that take a scholarly approach to the medium. The Comics Arts Conference, one of the first academic conferences dedicated to the study of sequential art, has been instrumental in encouraging this recognition within the academy. By providing a home for comics scholarship, the CAC not only created a forum where individuals scholars could connect to become a larger field, it also helped to grow the profile of comics studies on the academic stage. Today, being a self-described Batman scholar is no longer cause for derision. Or at least, not from fellow academics.

Unfortunately, the legitimacy comics studies has gained inside academia does not seem to be replicated outside it. An obvious recent case-in-point would be Alan Moore’s treatment of Will Brooker in what may or may not be his last interview. Not only does Moore not name the mysterious “Batman scholar” who has questioned the representations of race and gender in his comics, he dismisses those concerns as essentially the whining of an emotionally stunted idiot who can’t understand anything without a caption box. He goes on to imply that comics scholarship as a whole displays a lack of rigor at best and is a waste of time at worst. Of course, Moore’s public persona is famously a curmudgeonly old fart, and Moore could certainly be exaggerating for emphasis here, but I don’t want to dismiss his reaction as extraordinary; instead, it seems to me that Moore’s belittlement of the highly regarded Brooker is emblematic of a larger trend in the public at large to consider scholarship on sequential art dubious and even ridiculous.

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Posted by on 2014/02/22 in Guest Writers


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The Death of the Cartoonist? Working on Living Creators by Barbara Postema

Comics studies is a young field in more than its academic standing. With the flourishing of comics production at the moment, it is also young in terms of its texts and its creators.

Many of the texts we work on are less than thirty years old, and in the case of my research they are often less than fifteen years old. With the obvious exceptions of certain established creators, for many of these texts the list of secondary works discussing them is quite short. There are countless comics to choose to write about, and it is easy to find comics that have never been discussed in an academic publication before at all. While comics studies has in many ways been reluctant to establish a canon of the comics we should all know, due to the choices scholars make in the texts they write about, if we were to gauge worthiness or canonicity by what is most often discussed, that canon is quite clear: a quick look at the comics and graphic novels most often discussed in journal articles and books shows the same names cropping up again and again–most notably Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, and the British auteurs Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. In the case of newer artists, the only secondary literature available is most often interviews with the cartoonist, writer, or artist in venues like The Comics Journal. But even in that department, the lists of interviews will only be more impressive for established cartoonists.

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Posted by on 2014/01/24 in Guest Writers


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Some thoughts on an Emerging Field: Connections, Transitions and Looking Ahead by Nina Mickwitz

Over the past three years the Transitions symposium at Birkbeck College has established a presence in the annual events calendar of UK Comics Studies. For an excellent description of how this came to be, the rationale behind the event and of the collaborative DIY-ethos that continues to characterise Transitions I’d like to refer you to ‘The indisciplined middle space’ by Tony Venezia. What Tony wrote a year ago is as relevant now as it was then.

The organisation of this year’s event has been a team effort involving a small group of PhD students at both Birkbeck and the University of East Anglia. Our aim has been to provide a continuation of Transitions, and to maintain the attitude and character of what originated as Tony’s brainchild. We hope that the diverse and promising programme of papers will offer the opportunity to trace some of the current directions as indicated by new research, with the proviso that this selection should be seen as loosely indicative rather than necessarily representative. This year’s keynote, by Chris Murray and Julia Round, will provide insights into the current challenges and opportunities of teaching and researching comics in the academic context. In addition, a roundtable discussion will provide a chance to reflect on the shared scholarly context we inhabit, as constituted by networks of practices and initiatives.

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Comic (Book History): towards a new methodology by Padmini Ray Murray

The prevalent academic approach to the study of comics and graphic novels might be understood as one that defines itself by negation; scholars have focused on those formal qualities that differentiate sequential art from poetry or prose in order to create a theoretical vocabulary that might serve the discipline. However, for a scholar such as myself coming to comics studies from a different disciplinary background – that of book history and publishing studies – such a valorisation seems intriguing in the face of the form’s insistent materiality, especially in the commitment of this approach to structuralist readings of image and text. Examining this tension becomes particularly crucial at a time when new technologies and digital transformations are challenging the very notion of the book, for two specific reasons. Firstly, the attachment to the codex form, which I call “container nostalgia,” has interesting ramifications for comic book culture, given that part of the enthusiasm of the comic book reader has been, historically, embedded in the collectability and rarity of the comic as artifact as well as for its content. Secondly, the rapid pace of digital developments means that the “basic elements” of the form are thrown into exaggerated relief – as Jenkins and Thorburn put it: “What is felt to be endangered and precarious becomes more visible and more highly valued” (4) – presenting a unique opportunity for comic book scholars to reflect on how to define their objects of study. In this article, I’d like to suggest that this self-reflection might be enriched by using methodologies from the fields of book history and publishing studies to study comics, graphic novels and their contexts. In order to do so, it might be instructive to present a brief history of book history itself, and the circumstances out of which it emerged [1].

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Posted by on 2012/08/24 in Guest Writers


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