Monday, March 30, 2009

Conference: Academic Perspectives on Comics, Manga & Graphic Novels - Sweden, April 16-18:

Academic Perspectives on Comics, Manga & Graphic Novels
as Intercultural & Intermedial Phenomena

The Forum for Intermedial Studies
Växjö University, Sweden

April 16-18 2009

Check the conference website for lots of information, including abstracts as well as a PDF of the Preliminary programme. The keynote speakers will be Paul Gravett (United Kingdom), Thierry Groensteen (France), and Helena Magnusson (Sweden).

This reminder courtesy of Fredrik Strömberg, who notes that this will be "the first major academic conference on comics in Sweden."

Does anyone have a spare plane ticket to Europe they're willing to donate? :-)

Image Credit: A.K. Westin

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Latest Additions and Revisions to Our Bibliography (Lots!)

Long time, no update! But that doesn't mean we haven't been busy. Here are the latest new and revised bibliography entries. As always, we've also been correcting old links and adding new ones throughout the website. If you have suggestions or would like to contribute reviews, please let us know.

New Entries:
A Comics Studies Reader. Edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.

Clean Cartoonists' Dirty Drawings. By Craig Yoe. Last Gasp, 2007.

David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. By Bart Beaty. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Erotic Comics 2: A Graphic History from the Liberated '70s to the Internet. By Tim Pilcher, with Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Introduction by Alan Moore. NY: Abrams, 2009.

From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books. By Arie Kaplan. Foreword by Harvey Pekar and JT Waldman. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2008.

I Fumetti. By Carlo della Corte. Enciclopedia Popolare Mondadori. [Milano]: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1961.

India's Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes. By Karline McLain. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Little Sammy Sneeze: The Complete Color Sunday Comics 1904-1905. By Winsor McCay; edited by Peter Maresca. Sunday Press Books, 2007.

The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels. By Danny Fingeroth. Rough Guides / Penguin, 2008.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. By David Michaelis. New York: Harper, 2007.

Watchmen: Portraits. By Clay Enos. London: Titan Books, 2009.

Watchmen: The Art of the Film. By Peter Aperlo. London: Titan Books, 2009.

Watchmen: The Official Film Companion. By Peter Aperlo. London: Titan Books, 2009.

Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test. Edited by Mark D. Wright. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
Revised Entries:
500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. By Gene Kannenberg, Jr. NY: Collins Design, 2008.

Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium. Edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Dark Knights: The New Comics in Context. By Greg S. McCue, with Clive Bloom. London & Boulder, CO: Pluto Press, 1993.

Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tijuana Bibles to Zap Comix. By Tim Pilcher, with Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Introduction by Aline Kominsky Crumb. NY: Abrams, 2008.

The Essential Guide to World Comics. By Tim Pilcher and Brad Brooks. Foreword by Dave Gibbons. London: Collins & Brown, 2005.

Funny Ladies: The New Yorker's Greatest Women Cartoonists And Their Cartoons. By Liza Donnelly. Prometheus Books, 2005.

Garry Trudeau: Doonesbury and the Aesthetics of Satire. By Kerry D. Soper. University Press of Mississippi, 2008.

Illuminating Letters: Typography and Literary Interpretation. Edited by Paul Gutjahr and Megan L. Benton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed! Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman and More! By Arie Kaplan. Chicago Review Press, 2006.

Print: America's Graphic Design Magazine 42.6 (November/December 1988): "Comics: A Special Issue."

Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Cartoons in Contemporary Art. Ed. Valerie Cassel. Houston TX: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2003.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Press Release: India's Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes, by Karline McLain

[Note: For more information on this book, see's information page for India's Immortal Comic Books.]
A pioneering study of Indian comic book culture.

Combining entertainment and education, India's most beloved comic book series, Amar Chitra Katha, or "Immortal Picture Stories," is also an important cultural institution that has helped define, for several generations of readers, what it means to be Hindu and Indian. Karline McLain worked in the ACK production offices and had many conversations with Anant Rai, founder and publisher, and with artists, writers, and readers about why the comics are so popular and what messages they convey. In this intriguing study, she explores the making of the comic books and the kinds of editorial and ideological choices that go into their production.

"The Rama comic book features a muscular, bare-chested, blue-tinged hero on its cover, posed with bow and arrow drawn. A beautiful, fair-skinned woman with long dark tresses watches with wonder as Rama, the hero, takes aim. ... [Although] in many ways akin to American comic book superheroes such as Superman and Captain America, Rama is not your average fictitious superhero. He is a god in human form, and the Rama comic book is a Hindu devotional story told through the comic book medium." - from the Introduction
"[O]riginal both in content and in the kinds of sources that are brought to bear on the subject ... Students of popular culture, contemporary religion, and anthropology will all learn a great deal from McLain's study." - Lisa Trivedi, Hamilton College
"I’ve never taught an introductory Hinduism class without finding that for many Hindu students, Amar Chitra Katha had taught the course long before me. It’s a formidable canon, and like every 'Bible' it’s not just inspirational but, on reflection, controversial. In this absorbing study, Karline McLain takes the comics seriously, showing us the faces behind the pages and tracing the global impact of this culturally crucial medium and text." - John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University
Karline McLain is Assistant Professor of Religion at Bucknell University.
India's Immortal Comic Books is published in association with the American Institute of Indian Studies.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CFP: History of Books for Children and Young Adults, Bedford UK: April 17; June 16

Note the specific mention of comics and graphic novels.
The History of Books
for Children and Young Adults

University of Bedfordshire, Polhill Campus, Bedford UK
16th June 2009
The University of Bedfordshire is hosting a forthcoming one-day conference on the history of books for children and young adults to be held on the 16th June 2009 at the Polhill Campus, Bedford. The Hockliffe archive comprises works of fiction and non-fiction for children from the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These include a wide range of literary genres, from fables and fairy tales, through periodicals and instruction books, to poetry and fiction, as well as books on games and pastimes, natural science, history, mathematics, geography and travel (amongst others).

We do not, however, wish to restrict papers to work on books actually in the collection, although papers on these are of course very welcome, but instead we wish to use the conference as an occasion to celebrate the long and vibrant history of publications aimed at children and young adults, and the increasingly multi-disciplinary areas of research with which this has been associated. We therefore welcome contributions that centre on the following very broad topics and themes:
  • Academic approaches to children’s, young adult (YA) and crossover literature.
  • The history of children's book illustration, including work on picture books, comics and graphic novels.
  • The representation of children and childhood in fiction and non-fiction.
  • Multi-disciplinary work in the fields of childhood and youth studies.
  • The history of instruction books for children, from bible stories and hymns, through books on history, geography and travel, to natural science and mathematics.
  • Children's oral culture, including folklore, myths and legends.
  • Pedagogic theory and practice, from ABC books, to postgraduate courses on children’s literature and culture and creative writing for young and YA readers.
  • The history of children's play and leisure, including research on toys, games, and sports.
  • Multi-media childhoods, including work on the history of children's television, film and computer games.
Please note that proposed papers from postgraduate students are welcome.

The day's proceedings will end with readings by one or more contemporary children's writers (please check the conference website for updates on this).

Other related topics and themes will be considered for inclusion in the conference programme. Please submit a 250 word abstract, accompanied by contact details and a brief biography, to be received by 17th April 2009, to the following address:

The Hockliffe Conference
c/o Dr Clare Walsh
Division of Performing Arts & English
University of Bedfordshire
Polhill Avenue
MK41 9EA
Or by email to: hockliffe [at]

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Exhibit Announcement: True Stories by Phillip Marsden

For an exhibit showing later this year. Posted on behalf of the Riverside Gallery.

True Stories by Phillip Marsden
Exhibition at the Riverside Gallery, Richmond UK
12 September - 28 November 2009
A retrospective look at cartoon and comic strip works from the last five years, including Clam & Elgar, Aesop's Fables, the collaborative Blackout and the occasional True Stories series, chronicling curious instances from the artist's daily life, presented here in its entirety for the first time.

More information:
Riverside Gallery's exhibition page
The Arts Service at Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ
Image credit: Cartoon by Phillip Marsden, from exhibition page.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

"So, What's the Big Deal about WATCHMEN?"

Several months ago, a friend asked me about WATCHMEN. She'd read the graphic novel and liked it, but she wasn't utterly blown away like she thought she'd be, and she wanted to know what I thought about the book. I sat down to "write a quick email" in reply, and I came up for breath a little shy of 1000 words later.

I've been wanting to polish this up into a "proper" essay, replete with links and images a-plenty; but alas, I am not possessed of Doctor Manhattan's unique way with time. So I've decided to just "go wild" and post a plain vanilla, barely-polished version of that original email. Will it veer off topic? Yes. Are its ideas under-developed? Of course. Are all of its ideas original? No, but I only steal from the best. Does it just peter-out at the end? Aye. Will its unfinished state embarrass me? Heck no. Do I want to say more about all of this? You bet. And I hope to, right here, eventually. Until then, I give you, off the top of my balding, decidedly un-Moore-like head...

"So, What's the Big Deal
about WATCHMEN?"

Actually, I can understand this point of view. The hype -- the hagiographical zeal -- that surrounds Watchmen can't help but set up nigh-impossibly high expectations for new readers today. But...

Part of the situation is that when Watchmen appeared, 22-ish years ago, nothing quite like it had been done before. Since then, people have ripped it off -- er, paid it homage -- a zillion times. Plus, the type of psychological nuances that Watchmen contains are lots more common today, or at least the attempt is. So characterization-wise, it can't help but seem somewhat less amazing now than it was back in the day. Plus, lots of comics today try to envision "what effect superheroes would have on the 'real' world." Again, when Watchmen came out this sort of thing practically didn't exist.

But there are two other parts which, to me, make Watchmen still stand out.

I'm a form / process geek, and formally Watchmen kicks freakin' ass. Page design, cover design, series design, panel arrangement, transitions, narrative / thematic cross-cutting -- all this stuff is still done with more precision, care, and effect than any Watchmen -wannabes ever accomplished. Because Alan Moore is a genius when it comes to stuff like this - most of that formal stuff is in his script, although Gibbons contributes enormously. Check out the "Fearful Symmetry" chapter. Look at the first page and the last page, then the second page and the penultimate page, etc.... The layouts mirror each other, and the narrative and themes do a bit, as well, page vs. page, panel vs. panel.

It's stuff like this that you can do in comics but you can't do in any other medium in the same way.

The other biggie is that plot is so not the totality of Watchmen. In fact, I find it practically secondary to the larger experience. (I think Moore did too - viz. the admittedly derivative SF ending.) For me, it's the fact that Watchmen creates an entire world, a mythology, a history, all in 12 chapters. It gives you a narrative density that "regular" superhero comics might begin to approach after a decade or three.

It helps, of course, that most of the characters are analogues of previous heroes. On one level they're extremely thinly veiled analogues to heroes from Charlton comics; but on a deeper level, they resonate with lots of (super)hero archetypes (just as the Charlton heroes do). The Comedian is sort of Captain America and the Punisher at the same time; Nightowl is Batman-ish; Silk Spectre is like Phantom Lady or numerous other "good girl" super heroines of the 40s; Rorschach is a "dark avenger," but with the moral compass of Ayn Rand; etc.

But most important, for me, is all the extra material at the end of each chapter. There's where you learn about history and world cultural development and politics and so much else about this world: information that opens up the story so that it's not just a superhero / whodunit / mad scientist story. If you just read the comics narrative without the back-up material, you'll get a very good superhero story, excellently presented, sure. But without the extra material, I'm convinced that today we wouldn't be talking about Watchmen as much more than a "Yeah, that was a pretty interesting" book.

It's these latter qualities that make me believe that pretty much any Watchmen adaptation will fall far short of what the original is all about. I've always said that pretty much the only way I could conceive of an adaptation working would be to make it a TV miniseries, or maybe a series of DVDs. Each episode would have a regular narrative section, but then rounding out the hour (or appearing as bonus dvd features) would be things like documentaries, news programs, talk shows, etc.: TV-type things that expand the world just like the print-type things that expand the world in the book. You can try to do some of this type of stuff in one movie with flashbacks, montages, etc., but there's no way that you could get an analogous depth and the breadth of that world in even a 3-hour movie.

Of course, I can't think of a single film adaptation of a novel that manages to convey completely the richness of its source material. Or a comics adaptation of a film, or a book. Or a book of a comic. You get the idea. Anyone who expects an adaptation to "live up to" the original -- to include everything, in exactly the same way, with exactly the same weight and emphasis -- is playing a sucker's game. No adaptation into another medium can ever be 100% faithful to its source; it's physically, aesthetically, impossible. Nor is it wise. Film has its strengths and weaknesses, as does prose, as does poetry, as does theater, as does comics.

I don't expect that Watchmen the film will reduplicate the experience of reading the Watchmen the comic. From all the hype, I know that it at least will mimic the "look" of the comic as much as it possibly can. (Except for the heroes' costumes. Most of them should look dumpier -- but movie audiences wouldn't stand for that. Or maybe that should read "movie executives.") I would like to see a film that treats its source intelligently (not just reverently) and utilizes all the tools of cinema in ways as innovative as Moore & Gibbons did the tools of comics. I doubt that could happen, though, no matter the passion of the people behind and in front of the camera. If it were too avant-garde, I doubt any major studio would have allowed it through to completion, not with so much $$$$ riding on it.

But we'll see – Friday night, I expect...

Image Credit: Milhouse knows the score. Screen-grab from The Simpsons.

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Deadline Extended: 2009 International Comic Arts Forum (April 3; Oct. 15-17)

ICAF 2009
The 14th Annual International Comic Arts Forum
October 15-17, 2009
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
ICAF, the International Comic Arts Forum, invites scholarly paper proposals for its fourteenth annual meeting, to be held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, from Thursday, October 9, through Saturday, October 11, 2009.

The deadline to submit proposals HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO April 3, 2009. Proposals will be refereed via blind review.

ICAF welcomes original proposals from diverse disciplines and theoretical perspectives on any aspect of comics or cartooning, including comic strips, comic books, albums, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, political cartoons, gag cartoons, and caricature. Studies of aesthetics, production, distribution, reception, and social, ideological, and historical significance are all equally welcome, as are studies that address larger theoretical issues linked to comics or cartooning, for example in image/text studies or new media theory. In keeping with its mission, ICAF is particularly interested in studies that reflect an international perspective.

PROPOSAL GUIDELINES: For its refereed presentations, ICAF prefers argumentative, thesis-driven papers that are clearly linked to larger critical, artistic, or cultural issues; we strive to avoid presentations that are merely summative or survey-like in character. We can accept only original papers that have not been presented or accepted for publication elsewhere. Presenters should assume an audience versed in comics and the fundamentals of comics studies. Where possible, papers should be illustrated by relevant images. In all cases, presentations should be timed to finish within the strict limit of twenty (20) minutes (that is, roughly eight to nine typed, double-spaced pages). Proposals should not exceed 300 words.

AUDIOVISUAL EQUIPMENT: ICAF's preferred format for the display of images is MS PowerPoint. Regretfully, we cannot accommodate non-digital media such as transparencies, slides, or VHS tapes. Presenters should bring their PowerPoint or other electronic files on a USB key or CD, not just on the hard drive of a portable computer. We cannot guarantee the compatibility of our equipment with presenters' individual laptops.

REVIEW PROCESS: All proposals will be subject to blind review by the ICAF Executive Committee, with preference given to proposals that observe the above standards. The final number of papers accepted will depend on the needs of the conference program. Due to high interest in the conference, in recent years ICAF has typically been able to accept only one third to one half of the proposals it has received.

SEND ABSTRACTS (with complete contact information) by April 3, 2009, to Prof. Cécile Danehy, ICAF Academic Director, via email at <cdanehy [at]>.

Receipt of proposals will be acknowledged immediately; if you do not receive acknowledgment within three days of sending your proposal, please resubmit. Applicants should expect to receive confirmation of acceptance or rejection by April 17, 2009.

Image Credit: The ICAF logo, by Gerrit de Jager.

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Applications Sought for the 2009 John A. Lent Scholarship in Comics Studies (May 1)

2009 John A. Lent Scholarship
in Comics Studies
Students of comics!

ICAF, the International Comic Arts Forum (website), is proud to hold each year the John A. Lent Scholarship in Comics Studies competition. The Lent Scholarship, named for pioneering teacher and researcher Dr. John A. Lent, is offered to encourage student research into comic art. ICAF awards the Lent Scholarship to a current student who has authored, or is in the process of authoring, a substantial research-based writing project about comics. (Preference is given to master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, but all students of comics are encouraged to apply.) The Scholarship was established in 2005.

The Scholarship is subject to the condition that the recipient present a half-hour talk, based on her or his research, during ICAF. The award consists of up to US$500 in kind to offset the cost of travel to and/or accommodations at the conference. A commemorative letter and plaque are also awarded. No cash is awarded.

Applicants must be students, or must show acceptance into an academic program, at the time of application. For example, applicants for ICAF 2009 must show proof of student status for the academic year 2008-2009, or proof that they have been accepted into an academic program beginning in academic year 2009-2010.

The Scholarship competition is adjudicated by a three-person committee chosen from among the members of ICAF’s Executive Committee. Applications should consist of the following written materials, sent electronically in PDF form:
  • A self-contained excerpt from the project in question, not to exceed twenty (20) double-spaced pages of typescript.
  • A brief cover letter, introducing the applicant and explaining the nature of the project.
  • The applicant’s professional resume.
  • A brief letter of reference, on school letterhead, from a teacher or academic advisor (preferably thesis director), establishing the applicant’s student status and speaking to her/his qualifications as a researcher and presenter.
PLEASE NOTE that applications for the Lent Scholarship are handled entirely separately from ICAF’s general Call for Proposals (which can be viewed here). Students who submit abstracts to the general CFP are welcome to apply separately for the Lent Award.

Send inquiries and application materials via email to Ana Merino of the ICAF Executive Committee, at ana.merino [at] The deadline for 2009 submissions is May 1, 2009.

Image Credit:
Photo of Prof. Lent from the website of
The International Journal of Comic Art, one of his myriad contributions not just to comics scholarship but to scholarship and international understanding in general.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

CFP: Understanding Superheroes (June 15; Oct. 23-24)

Understanding Superheroes
An Interdisciplinary Conference

The University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
October 23-24, 2009

"Understanding Superheroes" is conceived as an interdisciplinary multi-media event, held in conjunction with a simultaneous exhibition of original comic art at the University of Oregon's recently refurbished Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

This exhibition, "Faster Than A Speeding Bullet," will feature over 150 pages of original superhero comic art from the 1940s to the present, with examples of key works by many major creators in the industry, including Neal Adams, Mike Allred, C C Beck, Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Bill Everett, Lou Fine, Ramona Fradon, Dave Gibbons, Don Heck, Carmine Infantino, J G Jones, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin, Frank Miller, Joe Orlando, George Perez, H G Peter, Mac Raboy, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Marie Severin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Matt Wagner, and Berni Wrightson.

Keynote Speakers include Danny Fingeroth (author of Superheroes On The Couch and Disguised As Clark Kent) and Charles Hatfield (author of Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature).

Guests Panelists include Kurt Busiek (author of numerous Superhero titles for Marvel and DC, and creator of the award-winning Astro City series), Greg Rucka (co-creator of Gotham Central, White Out, Queen & Country, and many projects for Marvel and DC), and Gail Simone (writer on Marvel’s Deadpool, DC’s Birds of Prey, co-creator of Welcome To Tranquility for Wildstorm, and current Wonder Woman scribe)! Other guests TBA.

We invite 1-2 page proposals for 20-30 minute conference papers considering the implications of superhero fantasies for our understanding of such diverse topics as gender identity, queerness, theological yearning, and nationalist politics. We also welcome appreciative discussions of superhero comics as significant aesthetic achievements — particularly insofar as those discussions contribute to the ongoing project within contemporary Comics Studies, to map the unique conventions of the comic art form. Above all, we are interested in sophisticated, lucidly written analyses that utilize the conceptual tools and hermeneutic lenses of contemporary literary and cultural theory.

It is our hope that this conference will help all participants, student and professional, skeptic and fan, to understand the extraordinary imaginative appeal of the costumed adventurer — an appeal that overlaps significant distinctions of age, gender, nation, and culture, and which no amount of silliness or cynicism seems quite able to dispel.

Please address queries and submit proposals via email to Ben Saunders, Associate Professor, Department of English by Monday, June 15th, 2009. (Email address:

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