Tag Archives: Spain

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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The Spanish Civil War in Comics: A Conversation on Spanish Comics, Remembrance, and Trauma by Sarah D. Harris and Enrique del Rey Cabero – Part 2

Click here to read part 1 of this conversation.

This is the second part of a conversation on the relationships between comics and the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. Having sketched out the history of comics in Spain from the early, middle, and late twentieth century, scholars Sarah D. Harris and Enrique del Rey Cabero will now discuss the representation of the war in more recent graphic novels and comics. They will also describe possible pedagogical opportunities for using some of these publications in the classroom.

SARAH: Hello, Enrique. I’ve enjoyed discussing with you the roots of the current comics climate in Spain, and a few groundbreaking twentieth century works. I’m struck by just how many Spanish comics from the twenty-first century take up the theme of Civil War. In the past several years, I’ve been especially interested in El arte de volar (The Art of Flying) (2009) [1] by Antonio Altarriba and Kim, Un médico novato (A Rookie Doctor) (2013) by Sento, Las serpientes ciegas (The Blind Serpents) (2008) by Felipe Hernández Cava and Bartolomé Seguí, and Los surcos del azar (The Furrows of Chance) (2013) by Paco Roca. In these recent books, as you have noted, several of their prologuists or authors describe an explicit and intentional act of remembering, and also a desire to participate in a collective or community endeavor. In interviews and paratexts, each work is called part of something bigger, something shared.

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The Spanish Civil War in Comics: A Conversation on Spanish Comics, Remembrance, and Trauma by Sarah D. Harris and Enrique del Rey Cabero – Part 1

In the young twenty-first century, several Spanish comics about memory and the Civil War have garnered well-deserved critical acclaim. However, they have been explored very little in academia. This conversation brings together two scholars working on memory and Spanish comics to discuss the current comics scene in Spain, the Civil War and its aftermath, the representation of the war in recent graphic novels and comics, and possible pedagogical opportunities for using some of these publications in the classroom. Enrique is currently researching and teaching in Australia, and Sarah is a professor of Spanish in the USA. For both of them, this conversation introduces some of their most recent research projects.

ENRIQUE: I think the first thing I would like to point out is how vibrant the Spanish comics scene is today. Comics are now more widely appreciated among many audiences. The rise of the graphic novel at a global level has played an important role and has already produced notable examples in the Spanish context, such as Arrugas (Wrinkles, Knockabout) [1] and some of the ones we will be talking about in this round table. Comics have also increased their visibility in media (newspapers, television), online (through websites and webcomics) and there has been some institutional support by the Spanish Ministry of Culture (since 2007, a National Comics Prize is awarded annually to the best Spanish comic of the year, under the same program as other national prizes such as Literature, History, etc.), public libraries (which have considerably extended their comics catalogue in recent years) and universities (which organize more and more conferences and seminars).

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‘Chercher dans le Noir’ – the gap as motif in Caboto by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jorge Zentner, by Barbara Uhlig

There have been many attempts at arriving at a definition for the comics medium. One of the defining elements in many of these definitions is the sequential arrangement of panels, arranged spatially adjacent to each other and separated out by the empty space surrounding them, the so-called “gutter” (see for example Kunzle 1973:2, Sabin 1993:5, Haymann and Pratt 2005:423). Thus one of the constituent elements of comics is the gap. In order to be able to follow the fragmented story told in the individual images, the reader has to mentally fill in the gaps, a process Scott McCloud called ‘closure’ (67). Both narrative and temporality are created in the gutter. In other words, the gutter is the major place for meaning making. This inter-frame gap has been extensively treated in research (i.e. Barnes 2009, Low 2012, Miller 2007). R. C. Harvey demonstrated in his 2001 essay ‘Comedy at the Juncture of Word and Image’ that the same principle of closure also applies to the gap between word and image in that the reader has to link both to be able to fully understand the panel. Finally, Barbara Postema showed in her dissertation Mind the Gap that gaps can be found on every level in comics: in image, page layout, sequence, image-text combinations and the narrative itself (3). She illustrates that according to Wolfgang Iser, the gap is an integral part of all fictional narrative as it ‘is always a matter of leaving openings to draw readers on’ (Postema 2011:5). This implies that gaps are responsible for engaging the reader, who must produce inferences to construct meaning in a narrative. The prime example for this is the crime story – the reader is left trying to figure out who the murderer is by interpreting the hints provided by the text and filling in the information gaps. While in literature this procedure is often invisible, the gaps in comics are often very noticeable, like the aforementioned inter-frame and word-image gaps. However, gaps can also be used to create narratives in which the gap explicitly takes on a thematic role.

This is exactly what happens in the comic El Cosmógrafo Sebastián Caboto: Trazar un Mapamundi (1992), in which Lorenzo Mattotti and Jorge Zentner apply the logic of the gap to the story itself. It is an account on the Italian explorer Sebastian Cabot who sailed to America shortly after its discovery by Columbus. Unfortunately, our knowledge of him is very patchy, his biography ‘nebulous’ (10). While gaps are something most biographers have to deal with to a certain degree, the ones Mattotti and Zentner are confronted with are particularly large. This may have influenced their decision to not smooth them over to create one harmonious, consistent story as is often done in fictional reconstructions of the past but to put its fragmentary nature at the center of their narrative, thus using the comic’s gutter structure to reinforce their own fractured narrative.

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Posted by on 2013/02/25 in Guest Writers


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