Ph.D. student in history at the University of Maryland
What does the trajectory of comic books during midcentury America look like if we move away from the traditional, deterministic framing of Superman to Wertham to Comics Code? What do these tenuous years look like if we focus our attention instead on those that took a more dispassionate view of comics, promoting their use in education and the development of socially-constructive messages and endorsing what came to be known as multimodal literacy? (Tilley 2017, Jacobs 2013, 65-99)
This is but a brief survey of the National Social Welfare Assembly Comics Project, a twenty-year public relations project between the National Social Welfare Assembly (NSWA), an administrative confederation of organizations that promoted health, civic engagement, and youth development, and National Comics Publications (NCP), the immediate predecessor to DC Comics. involved the publication short one-page comic stories aimed primarily at youth. Topics tackled by the strips include racial discrimination, respect for elders, stay-in-school conversations, and many more. Over the course of the Comics Project’s near twenty-year run, they published over 170 public service announcement comics, and by the project’s cessation in 1967, they provided over a million reprints of these comic strips to public service organizations across the country.
Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Worcester State University
Coined by the Japanese philologist Motoori Norinaga, “mono no aware” refers to the moving power of things as they are encountered in experience as well as the sensitivity to the moving power of things in experience. For Norinaga, mono no aware was crucial to the capacity for art, specifically poetry and literature, to move the human kokoro, or heart-mind, in its consumption. It is the embodiment of mono no aware in poetry through the skilled organization of words that enables art to connect the kokoro of individuals across time, distance, and social position (Marra, 189). For Norinaga, the cultivation of mono no aware through consuming works of art enables an individual to cultivate their capacity to sense mono no aware in other realms beyond the aesthetic, including in social relationships.
Kokoro in Norinaga’s mono no aware and Japanese philosophy broadly, refers to the combined rational and affective capacity of an organism. Translated as “heart/mind,” the kokoro “involves a propensity for engagement, a sensitivity expressed as either being in touch with something else or being touched by it” (Kasulis 7), and it thus enables a mode of intersubjective responsiveness between the individual and the world. For our purposes, the movement of the kokoro in response to the encounter with the world is what gives rise to poetry as the articulation of an unbearable “aware” for Norinaga. While such aware may be released through a cry or a shout, or other emotional outburst, it is through poetry and art that the pent up aware within the human kokoro is given an articulate form so that other individuals might be moved by it and respond appropriately to the aware that moved the artist (Marra, 189).
Institute of Iberian and Ibero-American Studies, University of Warsaw
Comic book studies have different ideas linked to reading patterns. For example, we have z-path pattern/closure (McCloud), art of tensions (Hatfield), the network (Groensteen), path (Gąsowski), graphical equivalence (Birek), ECS (External Compositional Structures; Cohn), unflattening (Sousanis) or openness (Ahmed). All these approaches listed above are not the only ones that are likely to be applied by the authors when breaking down sequences into panels (in a nearly 100% conscious way, but we should keep in mind that all the creative activities are bound to carry over something that can be realized only a posteriori) by the readers (rather in an unconscious way or automatically) and by the researchers when analyzing the dynamics of storytelling in comics books (in a thoroughly analytical), but they do show a rather vast array of how we can approach comic books. Should we decide to treat them as guidelines, it will surely help us to understand the story, but would it also make an escapist experience out of reading it?
PhD candidate, Department of Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University
With its opening conceit—an aerolite crashing into Earth and the establishment of an altering-reality-zone—Alexis Figueroa and Claudio Romo’s 2009 graphic novel Informe Tunguska immediately pulls readers towards two distinct frames of reference: history and science fiction. “Tunguska” points to the mysterious meteorite collision that occurred in 1908 near the Stony Tunguska River in Russia, while the reality bending area calls to mind “the Zone” from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film, Stalker. Employing these referents, the text also turns us towards political history, linking the fictional crash and subsequent government investigations of the fallout to the 1973 coup d’état in Chile and the resultant Pinochet dictatorship which, like the mysterious zone, fundamentally altered the lives of the Chilean people. Although reading this text through the lens of political history is highly encouraged within the text itself and would lead to fruitful interpretations, the overabundance of references within the graphic novel resists a totalizing reading that would reduce the entire text to a historical interpretation.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
When I lived in Toronto, I would often hear it described as a hub of comics culture. I understood why. The city hosts an abundance of comic shops, including landmark locations for both alternative comics (The Beguiling) and nerd culture (The Silver Snail). There are also numerous expos and conventions to attend: Fan Expo, Anime North, and the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF), which has grown into one of the most diverse, well-reputed North American festivals.
However, a lot of what makes Toronto an important city for comics folks is less obvious to your average isolated comics fan. It is exciting to know that the city is home to a large community of writers and artists, that there is a long history of that community, built up and supported by figures like Darwyn Cooke and Ty Templeton. But, other than occasionally spotting Chip Zdarsky in the park, that aspect of the city remained largely invisible to me during my years there. My curiosity was provoked by the prospect of a city of artists hiding in plain sight: sharing apartments, working in studios, hanging out, supporting one another.
Ruptured Graphic Narrative as a Tool for Intersectional Knowledge: Chicana and Japanese Iconographies in “Flies on the Ceiling” and Skim.
Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature and Visual Studies at Penn State
This paper was meant to be a longer study regarding moments of rupture in graphic narrative, and how those moments open a space for intersectional aspects of the narrative to surface. By rupture, I mean moments in which the conventional linearity and sequentiality of comics is momentarily abandoned, or moments in which seemingly decorative but actually meaningful elements disrupt the page. If conventional comics are a woven pattern of panels and gutters, these moments are ruptures through which the spun fibers are visible for a moment. The knit fabric of the page reveals the twists of a gendered life, of an ethnic lineage, or a distant culture. By reading the graphic novel Skim by Canadian Japanese authors Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, and the comic “Flies on the Ceiling,” by Chicano author Jaime Hernández this paper discusses how the language of comics may illustrate alternative epistemologies or women’s epistemologies as coded in non-linear languages. Scott McCloud has named some of the techniques featured in these comics as “aspect to aspect” transitions, or “non sequitur.” Thierry Groensteen in turn has referred to how arthrosis may replace sequentiality in narrative moments of this kind. In line with McCloud’s and Groensteen’s formal language, I start from the premise that these works are conveying alternative ways of knowing that may seem unstructured from the point of view of logic and sequentiality. The comics illustrate a kind of alterity that concentrates on moments of intersectional tension in the lives of their women protagonists. In these moments, the artists introduce iconographic references that stress the close connection between these women’s gender/sexuality and their ethnic backgrounds.
Masters Student in Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
For my Master’s thesis research in Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I created an interactive webcomic on the philosophy of time (specifically Block Universe Theory, also known as four-dimensionalism or “worm theory”) through the lens of comics formalism. Through 4dtime.space, I explore various issues within four-dimensionalism, and expand upon them by creating new concepts such as the "spacetime sausage" and "corkscrew block universe.” I also connect the comics medium to string theory and multiple universe theory, as well as explore the ramifications of the comics medium as a "multiples medium" on issues of personal identity through time. The form of the website is in itself a block universe, where each section exists simultaneously and can be read in any order, and is currently live online. In the next section, I’ll walk you through the website with some excerpts for your reading pleasure...
Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures - University of Washington, Seattle
Widely regarded as the “father” of Armenian comics, Yerevan-based Tigran Mangasaryan has been producing graphic narrative works since the late 1980s. Since 2005 he has devoted several graphic novels to the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917, one of the 20th-century’s greatest tragedies, in which over one million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks (many modern-day Turks either dispute these figures or point to similar atrocities committed against their own people at the time, or both). Public remembrance of those events more than a century ago remains a pillar of Armenian identity formation, in support of which it mobilizes numerous types of media, both within and without the country’s borders. As described by Roxanna Ferllini:
Diasporic communities have been able to develop and maintain cultural and national identity via a series of mnemonic devices, such as historical studies, publications in books, magazines, and newspapers, collections of photographs, memorials, oral histories, and the staging of commemorative events. This kind of “memory work” has served to keep intact Armenian heritage, language, belief systems, sociocultural practices, and maintained an active remembrance of the genocide (“Armenian”: 357-358).
Andrea Aramburú Villavisencio
PhD Student at the Centre of Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge
In 2017, Giancarlo Roman, editor of the independent comics publisher Pictorama, in Lima, Peru, asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a publishing project, a small series of zines by Peruvian women comics artists: Ana Paula Machuca (Piura), Ale Torres (La Libertad) and Leila Arenas (Arequipa). I readily accepted. The project was a valuable initiative in a still very masculine comics scene, that is often limited to the capital.
PhD student, English Department at the University of Florida
The widespread devastation of ocean ecosystems due to marine pollution, overfishing, and rising temperatures caused by climate change has emerged as one of the greatest man-made environmental issues of the twenty-first century. This crisis will undoubtedly have devastating, far-reaching consequences, particularly for today’s youth, who will need to adapt to an increasingly inhospitable world ravaged by environmental disaster. Given this unsettling reality, Carlie Trott contends that “empowering today’s children to understand and take action on climate change should be an important goal, both to support children’s agency and to promote present and future community resilience in the face of climate change impacts” (43). Katie O’Neill’s middle-grade comic Aquicorn Cove (2018) takes up this challenge by using a “gentle fantasy” narrative to educate children about ocean conservation. The comic centers on young protagonist Lana as she returns home to her storm-ravaged, nameless village and rescues an injured baby “Aquicorn,” an adorable seahorse-unicorn hybrid. Soon, Lana discovers that the village’s unsustainable fishing practices have contributed to coral bleaching and endangered the Aquicorn population. Beyond merely using the colorful, Disneyfied Aquicorns to evoke sympathy in the reader, I argue that O’Neill’s comic models “global feminist environment justice,” which Noel Sturgeon defines as “using an intersectional approach… and revealing the connections between social inequalities and environmental problems to uncover the systems of power that continue to generate the complex problems we face” (6). By drawing attention to the larger systemic issues threatening the oceans, Aquicorn Cove empowers children to engage in justice-oriented environmental activism.
remus jackson & F. Stewart-Taylor
Graduate students at the University of Florida
Despite raising pressing questions about representation and embodiment, trans autobiographical comics are understudied in both comics and trans studies. As comics theorists Elizabeth El Refaie and Hillary Chute have noted, the formal strategies for rendering the self inform the kind of “self” expressed on the page. Trans artists' presentation of self on the page can both describe the creator's phenomenological experience as subjects of coercive gender systems and the practices of resistance and hope that exceed these systems. Following José Esteban Muñoz, moments in these texts are utopian, proposing a future already germinating in the present where possibilities for gendered subjectivity exceed coercive systems. After a methodological overview, we’ll use a trans phenomenological framework to read two comics by Carta Monir. We gesture to possible uses for other texts, including the network of small press comics around Monir’s publishing company, Diskette Press.
Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the College of William & Mary.
Since the 1940s, American comic book creators working in the superhero genre have demonstrated a fascination with an ambiguous and amorphous East, including the Arab majority nations of the Middle East and North Africa. While that early fascination resulted in a number of superheroes whose power sets and personas were derived (however loosely) from Egyptian mythology, it did not produce Arab superheroes. Instead, Golden Age characters like Hawkman, Doctor Fate, and Ibis the Invincible were ancient Egyptians, wielders of ancient Egyptian (magical) artifacts, or both. Over eighty years, the origins of Hawkman have alternated between ancient Egypt and the planet of Thanagar, but the character has never been made Arab American. After 9/11, the Egyptian American Danny Khalifa inherited the Ibistick and became Ibis the Invincible. After the Arab Spring protests began in late 2010/early 2011 (beginning in Egypt on January 25th, 2011), the Egyptian Khalid Ben-Hassin and the Egyptian American Khalid Nassour were made to wear Helmets of Fate, the former outside of DC Comics’s primary continuity and the latter within it. The origin stories of Egyptian American legacy heroes, Khalifa and Nassour are examples of repatriation: in them, fictional Egyptian artifacts from the Golden Age are given to newly created Modern and Blue Age Arab American characters.
Doctoral candidate of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
James Baldwin and Yoran Cazac’s Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood is Baldwin’s love letter to Harlem and to his nephew, Tejan, for whom the story was written. The illustrated children’s book, which was marketed as “a child’s story for adults” on its original jacket cover (1976), follows a day in the life of four-year-old TJ as he moves throughout his Harlem neighborhood with his friends WT and Blinky. While the story could be categorized as an illustrated book, I purposefully place it within a capacious definition of graphic narrative and, thus, in the purview of comics studies. The story places images in intricate spatial relationships, at times creating panel-like structures, that exceed the illustrative and become integral to how the text creates meaning. Through its visual form, Baldwin and Cazac’s graphic narrative make visible how political geographies of race, particularly architectures of surveillance and policing, contour TJ’s experience with space.
Professor of Politics, Economics, and Law at the SUNY, College at Old Westbury
The use of violence by female superheroes has been written about mostly in terms of its subversion of dominant cultural narratives of gender, as well as in terms of readers/viewers’ pleasure and feelings of empowerment. I would argue, further, that for those who find the subversion of gendered norms discomfiting, the palatability or popularity of female superheroes’ violence also lies in stories that: 1) conform them to raced and classed notions of gender performance, 2) present them as seemingly naturalized to such behavior because they were born to it via an alien and/or exoticized monoculture, 3) accentuate their similarities to popular male superheroes, and 4) surround them with familiar military tropes and trappings. The subversion of gender norms attracts a more progressive audience; the containment of that subversion through these techniques attracts a more conservative audience, thus ensuring marketability across the political spectrum.
Ayanni C. H. Cooper
English PhD Candidate at the University of Florida
The webcomic Agents of the Realm (AotR) by Mildred Louis is a “college years coming of age story that takes influence from a number of timeless Magical Girl classics,” like Sailor Moon (“About”). The narrative follows Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan—five young women at the imaginary Silvermount University who, after the discovery of magical amulets, transform into “fetching super-warrior[s] … [who] courageously fight the forces of evil” (Sugawa). Louis relies on some of the greatest, tried-and-true magical girl tropes in her story: the team of five become “a specialised task force” of “chosen” ones who must “protect our world,” plus they “are endowed with heightened strength, stamina, [and] magical powers” (Liu 5). That said, Louis also adds her own spin to the genre by making the main cast college freshman and by having “the majority of the cast [identify] within the LGBTQ community” (“About”). Louis uses the university environment in AotR to create a utopic space for her queer magical girls. While this is a story-wide project that unfolds over the course of many chapter, I’ll examine a brief sequence towards the end of volume one that demonstrates how this utopic space explores queer identities.1
Due to the ongoing pandemic crisis, ICAF was forced to cancel its events at the 2020 Small Press Expo. Over the next 16 weeks (give or take), we will be publishing