by Nicoletta Mandolini, Alessia Mangiavillano, Giorgio Busi Rizzi and Eva Van de Wiele
Lecture by Prof. Ivan Pintor Iranzo
Prof. Ivan Pintor Iranzo’s lecture defined comics as a way of approaching images, juxtaposing and arranging them. At the same time, they express concepts and material forms. He then attempted to disentangle the complex, multiform nature of the medium.
Definitions of comics are numerous and yet no single version can quite capture the fecundity, variety and experimental profusion of the medium as it continues to evolve. I would therefore agree with Joseph Witek who suggests that arguments over what defines or qualifies as a comic often “devolve into analytical cul-de-sacs and hair splitting debates over an apparently endless profusion of disputed boundary cases and contradictory counter-examples” (149). Witek continues that in light of this, “‘comicness’ might usefully be reconceptualized from being an immutable attribute of texts to being considered as a historically contingent and evolving set of reading protocols that are applied to texts, that to be a comic text means to be read as a comic” (149). Although this suggests a cultural relativist approach to the medium it does still enact some boundary policing in the sense that the graphic information sheet placed in the pockets of airplane seats, while sharing certain features with the comics medium—panels and a combination of word and image—is not a comic because it is not read as such.
‘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.
The bande dessinée part of the joint conference took up the baton after two very stimulating days with GNAC and SIC. We too were pleased by the quantity and quality of papers and we ran parallel sessions. The morning of 7th July began with panels comprising two distinct strands: bandes dessinées and Francophone Africa, and BDs drawing upon the European Classics. The first strand began with Laurike in’t Veld’s insights into how the Rwandan genocide was represented in comics, and continued with Michel Bumatay’s study of Sub-Saharan African Francophone BDs. The focus on Africa continued with Mark Mckinney, who drew upon (post) colonial strips to argue that autobiography began in BDs earlier than is generally recognised. This was followed by Cathal Kilcline’s analysis of Boudjellal, who depicts an immigrant family in Toulon. The European Classics strand began with papers by Linda Rabea-Heyden and Matthew Screech on comic strip adaptations of canonical literary works: Goethe’s Faust and Voltaire’s Candide. Next came a re-examination of bande dessinée Classics with Bart Beaty, who closely scrutinised panels from Bravo’s re-make of the best-selling hero Spirou. Another strip to enter the pantheon of classics, Lieutenant Blueberry, was discussed by Martha Zan, who established its similarities with ss.