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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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