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Symposium report: Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée

by Fransiska Louwagie and Simon Lambert

 

On 13 March 2020 the University of Leicester hosted an International Symposium titled “Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée” organised in collaboration with Wallonia-Brussels International. This one-day symposium – for which the progamme can be found here – was organised with generous support from the ASMCF, the Society for French Studies and the School of Arts at the University of Leicester.

The day was opened by Simon Lambert as Academic and Cultural Liaison Officer for Wallonia-Brussels in the UK, in conjunction with Fransiska Louwagie (University of Leicester). Keynote speakers were Professor Laurence Grove from the University of Glasgow and graphic novelist Michel Kichka, who also delivered a public seminar on his work. Across three panels, the day focussed on various forms of tradition and innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée: the first panel was dedicated to “Revisiting the classics”, the second panel to “Contemporary perspectives”, and the final ASMCF panel to “Reshaping Franco-Belgian bande dessinée”. The closing remarks were organised as a roundtable session on collaborative international research projects.

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Amar Bari Tomar Bari Naxalbari: A Socio-Political Indian “Comic”

By Antarleena Basu

 

In 2015, while Paul Gravett was affirming that “the Indian graphic novel is here to stay” (Gravett), a 162-page comic/graphic novel that raised many an eyebrow for its dauntless representation of the Naxalite movement and the rise of the communist ideology across India was published in book form somewhere in Bhilai, a bustling industrial city in the state of Chattisgarh in India. The Naxalite movement, also known as the “peasant uprising”, refers to the armed struggle of the peasants against wealthy and exploitative land-owners and it was initiated by a small fraction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led by Charu Mazumdar in a small village of West Bengal in India called “Naxalbari”; hence the name “Naxal uprising”. Titled Amar Bari Tomar Bari Naxalbari (which roughly translates from Bengali as “my house and your house is Naxalbari” and echo the popular Bengali slogan of the Naxals), Sumit Kumar’s comic was the first of its kind—it not only dares to portray the serious topic of the Naxal and communist uprising through the verbal and visual interaction of the comic mode but also experiments with a wide array of styles and techniques in the text, thereby injecting the necessary dosage of plurality that could go into the making of an Indian comic. By amalgamating the present political events with those of the past, by invoking classics as well as pop-culture and its icons, by mixing colourful pages with stark blacks and whites, among his many binaries, Kumar creates a scathing, tragic-comic narrative that almost borders on the absurd.

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Posted by on 2019/02/27 in Guest Writers

 

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Queering the Western? Questions of Genre, Gender, and Normativity in Rikke Villadsen’s Et Knald Til (2014)

By Charlotte Johanne Fabricius

 

How can one queer a comics genre – especially one rooted in patriarchal tradition, rife with male gaze and stereotypical gender roles? I consider ‘queering’ to be not only an inclusion of nonnormative gender and/or sexual identities, but a broader strategy of ‘making strange’[i]. Furthermore, I consider the comics medium to be an especially interesting site in which to investigate such ‘strangeness.’ This idea has previously been offered by, amongst other, Ramzi Fawaz, who, in The New Mutants (2016), draws upon queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s idea of queerness as “gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances”, which manifest themselves as “formal gaps, overlaps, dissonances, and resonances of comic book visuality.”[ii] I speak of queering as not only a ‘making unfamiliar’, but also of ‘making possible’ different futures and logics than presented in traditional version of a genre. In the following, I investigate one such attempt, the comic Et Knald Til (Another Bang), which has been characterised by publishers as an ‘erotic Western’.

Et Knald Til[iii] is written and drawn by Rikke Villadsen, published in 2014 by the Danish Publishing House Aben Maler, and nominated for a Ping Prize for Best Danish Comic Book in 2014. It tells the story of a quintessential Western town, inhabited by cowboys and loose women. An outlaw with a price on his head comes to town, kills the men who try to stand in his way, solicits a prostitute – who explodes after their intercourse – and has a drink at the saloon before retiring to a room in the same establishment. Parallel to these goings-on is the story of a young woman in the town who dreams of being a man, so she can leave the town to go adventuring. When the outlaw arrives, she steals his horse and the clothes of one of his victims and sets out. When she starts menstruating, however, the horse recognises her sex and throws her off, leaving her to an uncertain fate. The story concludes with the outlaw waking up in his room only to discover that he has been transformed into a woman identical to the one whose story the reader has been following.

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Posted by on 2017/04/03 in Gender, Guest Writers, Women

 

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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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