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A Culture of New Racism in Comics

By Whitney Hunt

 

New Racism Ideology In the USA

Whiteness is an enduring construct of privilege and power that systematically shapes and maintains racial inequality, resulting in a hierarchal system of oppression toward people of color (Feagin & Elias 2013). Systematic racism requires generations of people reproducing racist institutions and the white racial framings that support them (Feagin 2013). According to Feagin (2013), the white racial frame is a broad concept encompassing racist practices, imagery and discourse throughout US society shaped by and for the primary benefit of individuals considered white by society. In all eras of American history, manifestations of racism contain the ideological underpinning that justifies racial inequality. Moreover, the societal grip of white racial framing underscores the gross reality that America’s racist foundations are regularly unacknowledged (Feagin 2014; Bonilla-Silva 2017).

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Posted by on 2018/09/17 in Guest Writers, Women

 

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Funny? Animals? The Problem of We3 by Alex Link

There can be no doubt as to the importance of the representation of the animal body in comics history. This, of course, is not to say that comics, with talking dogs that walk on two legs and the like, have traditionally aspired to realism. Rather, the anthropomorphized animal pervades comics, and typically, in the history of “funny animal” comics, “the ‘animalness’ of the characters becomes vestigial or drops away entirely.” [1] Even so, “comics and graphic novels are a virtually untapped source of insight into cultural paradigms about animals” [2] when the comics animal is considered qua animal. Recent comics such as Pride of Baghdad (2006), Duncan the Wonder Dog (2010), and others have returned to this legacy of the funny animal with a critical gaze, doing so at a time that coincides with the development of critical animal studies.

Critical animal studies takes as one of its aims the exploration of the manner in which “ ‘the human’ and ‘the animal’ . . . must be continuously reimagined and reconstituted” [3] and We3 (2004-5), by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, seems to do precisely that. Wanting “‘to do to funny animal comics what Alan Moore did to superhero comics,’” Morrison—who ended his time writing Animal Man (1990) with an explicit call for animal rights—and Quitely invite a reappraisal of the comics animal. [4] While it is true that Art Spiegelman’s Maus famously takes caricatural anthropomorphism beyond humour, it leaves intact the role of comics animals as proxy humans, and/or as metaphors for qualities based on “understandings of animal behavior that circulate . . . in . . . culture” [5]. These practices have always ultimately “celebrate[d] and naturalize[d] the superiority of the human,” [6] and elided animal alterity. Rosi Braidotti calls for the direct examination of animal alterity in narrative, by asking that we approach the animal as animal, or “neoliterally.” [7] Perhaps surprisingly, when one approaches We3 with this “neoliteral” recognition of the animal in mind, one quickly encounters the difficulty with which the animal might clearly be separated from additional cultural categories that serve as others to the always-contested definition of the “human.”

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Posted by on 2015/05/30 in Guest Writers

 

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The Whites of their Eyes: Implied Violence and Double Frames in Blazing Combat and The ‘Nam by Harriet Earle

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that comics has a massive arsenal of techniques for the representation of violence, of trauma, of horror, of life. Indeed, the array is so vast that this paper can only concentrate on a single technique – one that is both subtle and incredibly effective. This is a technique that allows violence to be implicit. It is sneakiness and cleverness combined. It is, to my mind, one of the best examples of the utter magic of the comics form. I am talking about the representation of the human eye. It may not seem at first that the drawing of an eye is anything more than just that – an eye. But I propose that the way an eye is drawn and its relationship to the rest of the image is in fact an acutely important representational tool and one that allows violence to be implicit, dependent on the reader’s imagination.

In this paper, I consider examples from two American war comics. The first is Doug Murray and Mike Golden’s The ‘Nam, a Marvel publication that ran from 1986 to 1993 that mimicked the typical tour of duty so the characters were rotated in and out of story arcs as they would have been in combat. The series followed the Comics Code Authority guidelines and as such does not depict certain aspects of the Vietnam War – no drug use, no swearing. That said, it does have a fairly level approach to combat and is rightly praised for not subscribing to the ‘men’s adventure’ derring-do style storytelling that is has been employed by other publications. The second example is Blazing Combat, written by Archie Goodwin, which ran from 1965 to 66 before being rather abruptly cancelled. The second issue ran a story set in Vietnam and this was something of a death knell. American PX shops (shops set up on American military bases internationally) refused to stock it because, while the comic is not necessarily anti-war, it steadfastly refuses to subscribe to any glorification of war and instead concentrates on individuals and the trauma of their experience. These are not typical war comics – neither are as brash as Commando or Battle. As Kurt Vonnegut would suggest there is no role for John Wayne here (see Slaughterhouse-Five, p.11).

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Posted by on 2015/05/13 in Guest Writers

 

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From Random House to Rehab: Julia Wertz, The Small Press, Auteurism and Alternative Comics by Paddy Johnston

Brooklyn-based autobiographical cartoonist Julia Wertz published her first graphic novel, Drinking at the Movies, through Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Random House, during a brief period which she depicts in her second book, The Infinite Wait, as something of a minor boom in interest in comics from mainstream book publishers. However, once this period was over and the sales of Drinking at the Movies had proved lower than expected (in the words of Wertz’s publisher, ’these numbers would be great if it was with a smaller comics press, but since it’s with a major publisher whose standards are much higher…’) (Wertz 2012: 91), Wertz found herself dropped from her publisher. The Infinite Wait was published in 2012 by Koyama Press, a Canadian small press. Wertz is more comfortable with this arrangement, as evidenced by her autobiographical stories’ portrayals of events. Drawing herself writing to Annie Koyama, publisher of Koyama Press, she says ‘I just want to be with my people,’ (Wertz 2012: 93) the implication being that mainstream book publishers, despite their ability to pay her enough money to enable full-time cartooning, are not a home for the work of an alternative cartoonist. This article will explore the relationship between small presses and alternative comics, with Wertz’s two graphic novels and their publishing background as a case study, examining Wertz’s above implication that her work is best suited to being published with a small press.

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Posted by on 2014/09/16 in Guest Writers

 

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The Comics Arts Conference and Public Humanities by Kathleen McClancy

Comics studies has come a long way in the past few years. Scholarship centered on sequential art is no longer considered beyond the pale of the academy; academic conferences and journals focusing on comics studies are multiplying; more and more books are being published that take a scholarly approach to the medium. The Comics Arts Conference, one of the first academic conferences dedicated to the study of sequential art, has been instrumental in encouraging this recognition within the academy. By providing a home for comics scholarship, the CAC not only created a forum where individuals scholars could connect to become a larger field, it also helped to grow the profile of comics studies on the academic stage. Today, being a self-described Batman scholar is no longer cause for derision. Or at least, not from fellow academics.

Unfortunately, the legitimacy comics studies has gained inside academia does not seem to be replicated outside it. An obvious recent case-in-point would be Alan Moore’s treatment of Will Brooker in what may or may not be his last interview. Not only does Moore not name the mysterious “Batman scholar” who has questioned the representations of race and gender in his comics, he dismisses those concerns as essentially the whining of an emotionally stunted idiot who can’t understand anything without a caption box. He goes on to imply that comics scholarship as a whole displays a lack of rigor at best and is a waste of time at worst. Of course, Moore’s public persona is famously a curmudgeonly old fart, and Moore could certainly be exaggerating for emphasis here, but I don’t want to dismiss his reaction as extraordinary; instead, it seems to me that Moore’s belittlement of the highly regarded Brooker is emblematic of a larger trend in the public at large to consider scholarship on sequential art dubious and even ridiculous.

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Posted by on 2014/02/22 in Guest Writers

 

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