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Manga Studies #2: Manga history: Shimizu Isao and Miyamoto Hirohito on Japan’s first modern ‘manga’ artist Kitazawa Rakuten by Ronald Stewart

Kitazawa Rakuten’s (1876~1955) place in manga history is secure. Yet the two important manga historians of today, Shimizu Isao and Miyamoto Hirohito, diverge considerably in their understandings of what Kitazawa represents in this history. Shimizu sees him in terms of continuity, while Miyamoto sees him in terms of discontinuity. Both of these scholars are in agreement that Kitazawa was Japan’s first modern manga artist and that he was an important figure in early-twentieth century manga development. However, Shimizu considers Kitazawa as an important link in a manga history that connects manga’s present to ancient Japanese past, whereas Miyamoto views him as part of a radical separation from the past that established and popularized a new genre recognizable as manga today.

Here I want to explore these two scholars’ contrasting perspectives on manga history with a focus on Kitazawa whose own thoughts on manga I will take up at the end. As many readers are probably not familiar with this artist, I will firstly sketch out his life and career.

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Posted by on 2014/06/14 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Maus in the Indonesian Classroom by Philip Smith

As regular readers of Comics Forum are aware, the site recently featured a Themed Month which sought to examine comics as cultural production. The issue looked first at the work of comic book authors (Woo 2013) and ended with an autobiographical account of one scholar’s experiment as a comic book retailer (Miller 2013). In the following article I hope to continue to chart the life of a comic book by examining one particular comic after sales as it is read not by academics, but by a much larger demographic of comic book consumers: teenagers, specifically, Indonesian teenagers.

There has been a debate concerning the role of comics in language acquisition and literacy which can be traced back to the 1950s when Frederic Wertham, among others, argued that comics cause retardation of reading ability (Wertham, 1954). Many modern scholars argue that comics serve as a gateway to literacy (see, for example, the Canadian Council for Learning website, 2013).[1] This article will document my experience and observations as a teacher who uses Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the Indonesian classroom with advanced English-learners. I will describe how I prepared the students to read Maus, the concepts and history which I taught alongside the text, and what the students themselves brought to, and drew from the work.

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Posted by on 2014/02/18 in educators, Guest Writers

 

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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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The Colonial Heritage of Comics in French by Mark McKinney

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, is scheduled for release before the end of 2011. The film reportedly combines the stories from three books in the world-famous comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé (Georges Remi): The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Most movie-goers will have no idea about the historical context in which these three stories were first drawn and published. All were originally serialized by the cartoonist in Le Soir, a newspaper then controlled by the Nazis during their occupation of Belgium. And in the same newspaper, in between the first of these stories and the other two (which constitute a diptych), Hergé drew and published The Shooting Star, whose original version was clearly an antisemitic libel. This was at a time when the Nazis were preparing to kill the Jews in Belgium. Leafing through those old newspapers is a sobering experience, as one reads positive reviews of antisemitic movies and public speeches, and official notification of administrative measures designed to identify and isolate Jews in preparation for the genocide. Today Hergé is mostly celebrated as a creative comics genius, but historical facts like this should encourage us to delve deeper into the relationships between the form, the content and the context of his comics.

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Posted by on 2011/07/01 in Guest Writers

 

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