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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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Broken Hero(es). The Construction of Masculinity in Enki Bilal’s La Trilogie Nikopol

by Véronique Sina

In France Enki Bilal may be one of the most popular comics artists who specialised in the genre of science fiction during his lifelong career. Since the mid 1970s his work has been characterised by the presentation of bleak visions of the future in which ruthless conglomerates reign and governments as well as ecological systems tend to collapse[1]. Most often the protagonists of these dystopic visions are disillusioned and broken heroes whose adventures Bilal manages to capture with the help of his surrealistic artwork. In the following I would like to focus on one of those broken heroes – namely Alcide Nikopol, the protagonist of Bilal’s comic book series La Trilogie Nikopol (1980-1992) – in order to analyse the construction of masculinity[2] in Bilal’s work by showing how performative discourses of gender and media go hand in hand in La Trilogie Nikopol[3]. In this respect, ‘masculinity’ is understood as a performative concept, i.e. as doing masculinity. As the American gender theorist Judith Butler elaborates

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“Can one still laugh about everything?” by Eszter Szép

A report on the Symposium at the Ohio State University on Charlie Hebdo and the terrorist attacks of January 7th 2015

The Charles Schulz auditorium, just above the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at the Ohio State University (OSU), served as the venue of a mini-symposium on 19 February 2015 on the attack against Charlie Hebdo. This is a place where comics is in the air, and so is the need for dialogue: as event organizer Jared Gardner, professor at the Department of English & the Film Studies Program, highlighted, the symposium was called into being by the need to have a conversation and to share learned opinions on events that have stirred debates in society, in academia, and in the comics community. Conversation is what makes universities necessary, added Gardner, and it was in this spirit that he invited scholars with different perspectives and backgrounds to discuss the events of January 7th.

The symposium started with a lecture by Mark McKinney, professor of French at Miami University, co-editor of European Comic Art, and author of The Colonial Heritage of French Comics and Redrawing French Empire in Comics. The subsequent roundtable helped us to see the magazine and the terrorist attack as complex cultural phenomena that can be approached and interpreted very differently between disciplines. The participants were Daniele Marx-Scouras, from the Department of French and Italian, OSU; Youssef Yacoubi, from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, OSU; Erik Nisbet, School of Communication, OSU; and Caitlin McGurk, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library.

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The International Bande Dessinée Society: February 2015 by Lisa Tannahill and Chris O’Neill

Welcome to the second edition of the International Bande Dessinée Society column, a look back at developments in the world of bande dessinée (francophone comics) scholarship and research.

No retrospective examination of the year in bande dessinée can overlook the tragic events of January 2015: the shooting at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The events and their ramifications have been discussed endlessly in the press, and discussion of the political or wider global effects of the attack is far beyond the remit of this column. However, the deaths of Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (Tignous) and Philippe Honoré represent a huge loss for not only Charlie Hebdo but the wider world of bande dessinée. Several of them were key figures in the development of post-war bande dessinée and wider visual culture in France. For example, Cabu and Wolinski’s work appeared in Charlie Hebdo from its beginnings in 1969 as well as its predecessor Hara-Kiri. Cabu and Charb, along with economist Bernard Maris, who was also killed, were instrumental in the resurrection of Charlie Hebdo in 1992 (publication had ceased in 1981). It is this incarnation which continues to the present day. Charlie Hebdo represents a particularly French tradition of satirical cartooning which lost many of its most important figures in the attacks. If you would like to know more about Charlie Hebdo and its place in French culture, Berghahn has published an informative blog post by Mark McKinney (University of Miami, Ohio) at their site, as well as making available two articles from European Comic Art: a history of the journal and its politics, as well as an interview with Cabu.

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Manga Studies #7: Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach by Masafumi Monden

Shōjo manga varies in style and genre.[1] But despite this diversity, there is a certain conception of shōjo manga aesthetics, dominated by images of flowers, ribbons, fluttering hem skirts, and innocent-looking girls with large, staring eyes.[2] Traditionally, the beginning of shōjo manga has been equated with Tezuka Osamu’s Princess Knight (Ribon no kishi), but more recent studies have instead focused on prior texts,[3] namely the creations of Takahashi Macoto, who was influenced by the so-called lyrical illustrations (jojōga) of artists such as Nakahara Jun’ichi, Takabatake Kashō and Takehisa Yumeji.[4] Manga influenced by jojōga have arguably prioritized visual qualities.[5]

The importance of visual qualities has increasingly been recognized in shōjo manga studies.[6] However, most critical examinations of shōjo manga place emphasis on the role of narrative structure and representation of gender. This applies particularly to those who read shōjo manga as a medium to challenge conventional gender roles. As Iwashita Hōsei points out, female manga researchers especially have tended to focus on biological and socially constructed gender (2013a: 58). This column discusses two such works, Fujimoto Yukari’s Where is my place in the world? (1998, revised edition 2008) and Oshiyama Michiko’s Discussion of Gender Representation in Shōjo Manga: Forms of “Cross-dressed Girls” and Identity (2007, revised edition 2013).

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