by Eva Van de Wiele and Dona Pursall
Gert Meesters chaired Panel 4: A Space for Girls. Early research into the relationship between comics and their readers was central to Sylvain Lesage’s presentation. Through a study of reader correspondences he analysed the reception of and discourse provoked by the comics strip “Corinne et Jeannot” in the communist comics magazine for children Pif Gadget (1969- 1993/2004-2009). The serial performance of Jeannot, a boy in love being pranked by Corinne, the girl he adores, sparked a feedback loop between publishers, creators and readers and was also referred to within the comic. The curiosity of the readers’ letters is their desire to negotiate the morality of a fictional character, to communicate ideologies such as the extent of acceptable meanness for girls and suitable levels of temperance and kindness. It speaks to readers’ genuine investment in these comics, showing that fictional characters in humour strips are subject to such socially normative constraints. Aswathy Senan’s research on the childhood of Malayalis considered the extent to which the context of publication shapes the comics themselves. This notion was explored through a comparison of the comics strip “Bobanum Moliyum” as published in the women’s magazine Malayala Manorama and in Kalakaumudi, a literary magazine. Whilst the characters and the concept of their strip remained constant, the humour, the interests and the agency of the characters adapted to the flavour of the different magazines.
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Tags: A Man Among Ye, abjection, affect, Ana Caspão, autobiography, autographics, Belit, blackness, Bobanum Moliyum, body, Charlotte Solomon, children readers, choice, civil rights, comics, coming of age, Corinne et Jeannot, creative practice, culpability, diary, education, feedback loop, female influence, female superheroes, Feminist Cultural Studies, friendships, Fundo do nada, gender roles, genre, girlhood, gothic motifs, graphic narratives, grotesque, heteronormative-queer dynamic, horror, humour, identity, individuality, isolation, Jackie Ormes, Kalakaumudi, Lynda Barry, Malayala Manorama, Martha Newbigging, memory, Misty, monstrosity, morality, narrative, origin stories, Paddy Jo, Pif Gadget, polyvocal identities, possession, power, prejudice, reader response, readers’ letters, representation, restrictions, segregation, self-sacrifice, Skim, social interactions, socially normative constraints, songplays, Spellbound, superheroine, teenage culture, trauma, Valeria, women’s magazines, Wonder Woman, WWII
Countering Critics through Social Reform and Education
by Peter W. Y. Lee
The 1954 Comics Code was intended to protect children by curtailing comic book content that contributed to juvenile delinquency. However, historians have pointed to how overzealous red-baiters wielded the Code to attack the industry as a figurative whipping boy for Cold War anxiety (J. Gilbert, Nyberg, Wright, Hajdu). EC Comics stands out, noted for its “New Trend” of social criticism, horror and crime in severed jugular veins that provoked readers (Whitted). Scholars have pointed to EC’s publisher and editor William Gaines’s testimony before the Senate Subcommittee’s hearing on juvenile delinquency as a show trial of sorts, in which Gaines had hoped to counter the criticism levied against his company, but caved in shortly afterwards instead. But Gaines was not the first to defend the industry, nor was EC representative of many publishers flooding the market. By looking at different titles, scholars can gain a greater appreciation of how other creators negotiated the post-war public role of comic books.
This is the first part of a two-part article that looks at publisher Leverett Gleason’s comic books. Gleason’s publishing house, alternatively known as Comic House or Lev Gleason Publications, used various means to elevate comic books in the public eye. This part examines how Gleason and his gung-ho editor, Charles Biro, predated EC’s touting the educational merits of crime suspense stories and the medium’s potential as an art form. Gleason tried to pass off his crime-centred titles as progressive and artistic literature, belying the genre’s contemporary and enduring reputation as perpetrators of violence. The second article details Gleason’s tactics to expand the scope of comic books as serious literature by appealing to grown-ups.
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Tags: Alex Raymond, art, Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, Bob Bernstein, Bob Wood, Boy Comics, Charles Biro, classism, Comic House, Comics Art, comics code, Crime Does Not Pay, crime suspense stories, Crimebuster, Daredevil, EC Comics, education, educational comics, Frederic Wertham, Fredric Wertham, Henry E. Schultz, horror, Jim Crow laws, juvenile delinquency, law enforcement, Lev Gleason, Little Wise Guys, marketing, Milton Caniff, morals, National Cartoonists Society, National Comics Publication, New York City Board of Education, pre-code, romance comics, sexual imagery, social criticism, social reform, Tony DiPreta, USA, violence