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Symposium Report: Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood

DAY 2/2

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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