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.