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The Comics Patrimonialisation of Woodcut Novels

Turning an Entre-deux Situation into a Third Position – Part 3/3[1]

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. 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).

 

The terminological instability in designing Masereel’s and Ward’s books in their current paratext—and the ambivalences it produces— [see part II] can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, this instability reflects the processual nature of this patrimonialisation, consisting in the collective production of an equivalence between woodcut books, and graphic novels and comics. The equivalence is initiated by the publishers, reinforced by its critical reception and then re-appropriated by the publishers. On the other hand, the instability also reflects the symbolic tensions that the editorial paratext tries to manage and to overcome. According to these paratextual indications, the woodcut books are to be seen as comics without being comics, as graphic novels without being ordinary graphic novels, as “wordless novels” but not only, as past works but “modern” and, as such, still relevant. What is at stake here is distinction—within or without the comics field.

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Posted by on 2021/05/24 in Guest Writers

 

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Lev Gleason Publications and Pre-Code PR:

Attracting Mature Readers[1]

By Peter W. Y. Lee

Among the 1954 Comics Magazine Association of America’s Comic Code’s many regulations was a directive to company admen: “Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable” (Nyberg 168). The ubiquity of alcohol in mainstream media certainly concerned social guardians in post-war America (Rotskoff). However, liquor manufacturers did not solicit to minors in the comics, but another demographic group: their parents.

The first part of my article looked at how Lev Gleason Publications responded to the public alarm over comic books. Gleason and his chief editor, Charles Biro, pushed comics as a progressive medium with educational and artistic merit. This second part explores their second strategy: courting adults. Gleason hoped that an expanded readership would bolster support and offset rising production costs. However, critics rejected comic books’ potential beyond that of disposable children’s entertainment. The Comics Code sanitised comic books and stigmatised readers beyond middle-school age.

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Posted by on 2020/07/17 in Guest Writers

 

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Symposium report: Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée

by Fransiska Louwagie and Simon Lambert

 

On 13 March 2020 the University of Leicester hosted an International Symposium titled “Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée” organised in collaboration with Wallonia-Brussels International. This one-day symposium – for which the progamme can be found here – was organised with generous support from the ASMCF, the Society for French Studies and the School of Arts at the University of Leicester.

The day was opened by Simon Lambert as Academic and Cultural Liaison Officer for Wallonia-Brussels in the UK, in conjunction with Fransiska Louwagie (University of Leicester). Keynote speakers were Professor Laurence Grove from the University of Glasgow and graphic novelist Michel Kichka, who also delivered a public seminar on his work. Across three panels, the day focussed on various forms of tradition and innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée: the first panel was dedicated to “Revisiting the classics”, the second panel to “Contemporary perspectives”, and the final ASMCF panel to “Reshaping Franco-Belgian bande dessinée”. The closing remarks were organised as a roundtable session on collaborative international research projects.

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Conference Report: Fluid Images — Fluid Text: Comics’ Mobility Across Time, Space and Artistic Media (Cardiff University, Wales)

by Andrea De Falco

 

‘Fluid Images – Fluid Text’ was the title of an interdisciplinary conference that took place at Cardiff University (Wales) on 23-24 January 2020. The conference, organised by Dr Tilmann Altenberg (School of Modern Languages) and Dr Lisa El Refaie (School of English, Communication and Philosophy), hosted eighteen speakers from twelve institutions spread across seven different countries, featuring a wide range of backgrounds and approaches. The conference received financial support from Institute of Modern Languages Research (London), University Council of Modern Languages, Cardiff Comics Storytelling Network, Cardiff School of Modern Languages and Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

The aim was to investigate from a transdisciplinary perspective three different and interlinked dimensions underpinning comics’ mobility: time, space and artistic media. The chronological dimension covers a broad field including the relationships between comics and history and the transformations investing their editorial and reading practices. Translation is the key word to understand how comics have been able to transcend national borders, by means of transmission in different languages and cultures. The last dimension leads us to comics’ adaptation in other media, investigating their relationships with different forms of artistic expression.

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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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