Monday, September 21, 2009

CFP: For Love of the Fans: Fandom, Comics and Film Adaptations (Nov. 1; Nov. 11-14, 2010)

Call for Papers
For Love of the Fans:
Fandom, Comics and Film Adaptations

2010 Film & History Conference:
Representations of Love in Film and

November 11-14, 2010
Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
Second Round Deadline: November 1, 2009

AREA: For Love of the Fans: Fandom, Comics and Adaptations

Since comic books began featuring letters to the editor in each issue, fan culture has been a pivotal and clear presence in comics. This presence and investment became even more potent as fandom culture began to reside in physical settings such as comic book shops and conventions. Fandom culture has become more present and powerful in the Internet age and while they were once solely the butt-end of jokes, they now garner the attention of producers, directors, and writers. Their love and investment in comics are now considered important by creators in generating promotion and excitement for films. Unlike the previous 50 years of comic adaptations, the last 20 years have seen significant efforts by producers to tie into fan expectations from as far back as the X-Men and Batman cartoon series of the 1990s up through the latest superhero-blockbuster.

This area welcomes multiple papers and panels that consider the following questions about comic fandom and television/film adaptation as well as additional topics in this vein:
  • How have studios used the fanbase to encourage or promote comic adaptations such as Watchmen?
  • In what ways have studios and directors relied on the fanbase to determine the direction of sequels or future seasons with regards to plot, villains, and character development in such franchises as X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman (including Smallville), Fantastic Four and the like?
  • What roles have the fans played in comic-film reboots such as Batman, Superman, the Incredible Hulk, the Punisher, and the supposedly forthcoming reboot of Fantastic Four franchise?
  • Does the role of same-universe strategies being explored by Marvel Comics with its release of Iron Man and the reboot of Incredible Hulk operate as a means to attracting fans?
  • In what ways have comic forums, such as Wizard Magazine or Comic Book Resources played in influencing the casting of particular actors and actresses for certain roles?
  • What’s to be made of the increasing and dominant presence of film studios at “comic events” such as San Diego’s ComicCon?
  • What role do famous fans (Kevin Smith, Nicholas Cage, et al) have in the construction of or success of comic book adaptations?
  • How do films target “in-crowd” moments for fans such as Stan Lee cameos in Marvel films or self-reflective comments about comics and superheroes by superhero films?
  • How has film and television represented comic fandom from the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy to movies such as Fanboys, Comic Book Villains, and Chasing Amy or Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back?
Please send your 200-word proposal via e-mail by November 1 to the area chair:

Lance Eaton, Area Chair
Emerson College
Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies
120 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
Email: (email submissions preferred)

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website:

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Now We Are (Not) Six

I'd heard, and considered with no little trepidation, that a new version of "The Prisoner" would debut later this year on the AMC channel. The reason for my trepidation: I am a huge fan of the enigmatic original series, created by and starring Patrick ("Danger Man" / "Secret Agent") McGoohan. In the new version, Jim (Jesus) Caviezel stars as “Six” (no more “Number”), with “Two” played by Ian (Magneto) McKellan.

Sure, some parts might appear a little too kitschy or mod by today's standards, but the series -- concerning a secret agent (man?) who retires, only to wake up in an incomprehensible apparent utopia called "The Village" -- is a riveting thirteen-episode examination of intrigue, intensity, and nigh-intolerable suspense.

Questions abound: Why is everyone referred to only by number not name, and why is the main character referred to as "Number Six"? Which side (or what?) do the succession of "Number Twos" work for, as they attempt again and again to break Number Six's spirit in order to discover why he resigned? Will Six ultimately succumb, or will he endure and discover the identity of the never-seen "Number One"? How on earth did McGoohan get the rights to The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" for the final episode?

We pause now for this message from The Times:

Now, back to our show:

The final two episodes, btw, are perhaps the most riveting 90mins of television I ever have seen. And that final episode is brilliant, both meeting and disappointing viewers' expectations.

But what does this have to do with comic? Not having gone to the San Diego Comic Con myself, I didn't hear about Marvel Comics' tie-in book until today. AMC has a copy of the eight-pager (no, not that kind) available as a PDF for download. As are most teasers of this sort, it's short on plot, but it sets that stage pretty well for what's to come. Yes, there seem to have been some changes, but from the little we see here, so far there's nothing to make me apoplectic. But time -- if not Two -- will tell.

Be seeing you.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

CFP: Shakespeare and Comics (collection; no date specified)

Call for Proposals
Shakespeare and Comics
edited by
Jason Tondro (University of California, Riverside)
and K. A. Laity (College of Saint Rose)

The scope of potential submissions is broad, perhaps beginning with examinations of particular plays or characters, questions of adaptation and revision, and the translation of drama to the comics form. Authors might analyze the use of Shakespeare himself as a character, or turn their talents to specific writers and artists who have returned to Shakespearean characters, plays, and themes on more than one occasion. The very presence of Shakespearean elements in comics at all suggests questions of appropriation, valuation and audience.

One requirement is especially noteworthy: The contents of this collection should demonstrate not only the expected proficiency with comics scholarship, but also an awareness of relevant Shakespeare criticism which bears on the author’s specific topic. The final “Shakespeare and Comics” project must be the comics scholar’s emissary to Renaissance studies, showing an awareness of all the criticism that the Shakespeare scholar would expect while also introducing that reader to what is, in all likelihood, the great mystery that is comics scholarship.

Proposals, abstracts, and questions should be directed to

Image Credit: Cover to
Classics Illustrated #128, Classics; Cover to Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated #6, Tebeosfera. Copyright © the respective copyright owners. Definitely check that Tebeosfera link - it's a lengthy academic essay by Jesús Jiménez Varea on Macbeth comics (en Español).

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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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Sunday, January 18, 2009

CFP: Adapting Children's Texts (4/15/09; SAMLA, 11/6/09-11/8/09)

South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference
Children's Literature Discussion Circle Panel 2009

Adapting Children's Texts

Adapted texts saturate children's culture - lining toy stores, pervading book shelves, filling television time slots, and permeating Internet websites. With so many children's texts either crossing cultural divides, or becoming multimedia franchises, adaptation seems to go beyond the discussions of fidelity. This panel seeks scholarship on the various ways of approaching adapted texts in Children's and Adolescent Literature other than questions of fidelity to an original.

Whether it involves print to screen, or television to picture book, we seek submissions that examine a wide range of adaptation topics such as adaptation across culture, textual infidelities in adaptation, and adaptation across media. Any critical/theoretical approach is welcome.

Please email one-page abstracts or eight-page papers or any questions to Cathlena Martin at camartin [at] The deadline for this call is April 15, 2009.

The South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA) will be held November 6-8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel Downtown. More information regarding the conference will be posted shortly at

Chair 2009: Cathlena Martin
Affiliation: Samford University
Email: camartin [at]

Secretary 2009: Amberyl Malkovich
Affiliation: Concord University
Email: amalkovich [at]

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