Raisa Aho: Embodied metaphor and traumatic memory in Becoming/Unbecoming by Una and Today is the last day of the rest of your life by Ulli Lust
In my presentation I propose to show how two female graphic memoirists materialize history, both personal and national, and retrace their traumatic memories as legible, drawn marks on paper. These works are “Becoming/Unbecoming” (2015), a self-published memoir that began its life as a web-comic by British author going by the nome-de-plum Una, and “Today is the last day of the rest of your life” (2009/2013) by Austrian cartoonist Ulli Lust. Both explore the sexual exploitation and rape of a young woman (the autobiographical I) in a society that mainly values women for their ‘purity’ and blames them for their own violation.
What does it mean to render traumatic memories in visual form, and how can it be achieved? Hillary Chute (2010) suggests that autobiographical graphic narratives undertake complex visualizing that suggests “[the] need to rethink the dominant tropes of unspeakablity, invisibility and inaudibility that have tended to characterize trauma theory”. By revisiting and repicturing their pasts, the authors materialize history, Chute claims, borrowing the phrase from Art Spiegelman. Both Una and Lust use visual metaphors to communicate their traumas to the reader. I will analyse these metaphors in light of conceptual metaphor theory that posits a material, embodied base for metaphoric expressions: that we use concrete sensory-motor experience to make sense of abstract phenomena. For example, both Lust and Una concretize their experience of post-rape trauma with the GOOD IS UP/BAD IS DOWN conceptual metaphor. For Una this means body language as well as metaphor: she shows her past self climbing up the hill to overcome her trauma (also utilizing the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor), in stooped over position, burdened by the empty speech bubble which I interpret to symbolize the need to witness. Lust on the other hand conceptualizes trauma as a deep water or a labyrinthine basement.
Laura Antola: Cutting up comic books. Adapting Marvel’s superheroes in Finland
Although superhero comics are widely regarded as a typically American product of popular culture, throughout the decades they have been globally distributed and translated into several languages. In this presentation, I analyze the Finnish adaptations of two of Marvel’s superhero comic books, X-Men (Ryhmä-X) and Spider-Man (Hämähäkkimies), during their first years in the 1980s and 1990s.
While currently film adaptations of the colorfully clad comic book heroes raise the interest of both audiences and comics scholars, I want to explore another type of superhero adaptations: translations. Much of the scholarship on the translation of comics is focused on the textual elements in comics, so called “translation proper” (e.g. Zanettin, Viren). To call the Finnish versions of Marvel’s superhero comics translations would however not do justice to the different stages in the process of their adaptation; they are adaptations, made specifically to be published in Finland and altered in many other ways besides translation. This is where materiality comes to play: the Finnish editor has cut pages and panels from the original comic books, arranging them to form new stories for the Finnish audience. The editor’s role in the adaptation process is very interesting, as he was, at the same time, also responsible for the readers’ column in the Finnish comic books. By answering readers’ questions and explaining his editorial choices, he became a gatekeeper between the comic books and their audience.
In my presentation, I outline the strategies of adaptation used by the editor of Hämähäkkimies and Ryhmä-X. In addition to that, I analyze his role as a gatekeeper between the Marvel Universe and the Finnish readership.
Kristy Beers Fägersten: The case for applying conversation analysis to comics
Images tend to be credited with doing the bulk of work in progressing the comics narrative, and as such, they have long been assigned greater significance than text in comics. The tradition of focusing on image in comics is reflected in McCloud’s (1993) tone-setting definition of the medium which has helped to establish the pre-eminence of image by omitting any mention of text. Continued focus on the pictorial aspects of comic strips echoes Eisner’s (1985) definition of comics as “sequential art”, which in turn is reminiscent of Kunzle (1973, 2), whose definition includes a “sequence of separate images” and a “preponderance of image over text”. Accordingly, current scholarship either addresses text only in relation to image or outright privileges the image, thereby aligning with Groensteen’s (2007, 8) assertion of its superiority, since, “except on rare occasions, in comics [the image] occupies a more important space than that which is reserved for writing.”
In this paper, I argue that dialogue dense comics such as Martin Kellerman’s Rocky and Lena Ackebo’s Fucking Sofo exemplify such “rare occasions” and necessitate a linguistic apparatus that can account for the evident primacy of text. I propose the inclusion of Conversation Analysis (CA) in comics scholarship to remediate the marginalization of text and highlight details of image-text collaboration. The application of CA allows the analyst to determine how the affordances of the comics medium are exploited to represent features of face-to-face conversation. Furthermore, CA encourages the analyst to push back against the “effect of concealment” (Groensteen 2007, 70-71) attributed to speech balloons, asking instead how the textual features of a comic strip create a space for image to contribute the conversational structure. Thus, the approach outlined in this paper does not aim to reduce the critical role of image in comics, but rather showcases image as a vehicle for foregrounding textual content.
Giorgio Busi Rizzi: All possibilities: exploring the mediality of webcomics through Lorenzo Ghetti’s To Be Continued
This contribution aims to discuss the web-based comic series To Be Continued, created in 2014 by Lorenzo Ghetti.
Digital comics (a label that encompasses that of webcomics: Dittmar 2012) potentially offer endless possibilities, maximizing the multimodality and interactivity that are only virtual in paper comics. Nonetheless, as Kukkonen (2014) observes, most often they take the form of an ordinary comic strip or page, adopting the principle of skeuomorphism. This way, Groensteen (2013) claims, “all the relationships of juxtaposition, organization, […] and all the effects of dialogue, braiding, and seriality among panels are also safeguarded, and the comic is still displayed within its own spatio-topical system”.
On the contrary, ToBeCo’s weekly issues require the reader to actively navigate their infinite canvas or panel delivery systems, thus altering her reading experience in terms of spatiality and temporality. At the same time, they modulate their iconic solidarity (Groensteen 2007) by the frequent use of fixed perspectives and steady backgrounds that recall and mirror one another.
ToBeCo also relies on the incorporation of animations and video clips, as well as the remediation of social medias, online newspapers, instant messaging apps and so on. Now, Dittmar asserts that when digital comics “contain film- and/or audio- elements, they are no longer comics in accordance with the established definition of this class of media, but animated film or multi-media products. They have to be understood as being another medium” (2012).
The hypothesis of this paper, then, is that webcomics that try to make the most of their nature are a new, hybrid medium, whose relatives are videogames and cinema as much as ordinary paper comics. The example of ToBeCo will serve to show how and why they differ from ‘proper’ comics.
Kin Wai Chu: Comic documentary: pencilling the past in portraits
This paper explores the comic documentary Sheung Ha Wo Che, created by the Hong Kong comic artist Rainbow Leung, from a material and narratological approach. Sheung Ha Wo Che is a village with two hundred years of history, built along a sloped rural area in Hong Kong. It consists of various types of houses, from squatter huts, old Chinese brick houses to Western-style villas. Due to its inconvenient location and the squalid conditions of the squatter huts, many families or the younger generation have moved out. This comic book documents the life stories of the author-artist and her family as well as their neighbours who have spent most of their lifetime in their vulnerable huts which are prone to adverse weather, burglary and clearance by the government.
In material terms, colour-pencil and water-colour portraits constitute the major visual imagery, followed by the detailed portrayal of the huts, objects and pets. In comic forms, the more conventional, but not essentialist, sequential depiction using panels and gutters is absent in this comic documentary whereas close-up portraits and drawing of single scenes frequently appear.
The analysis focuses on the materiality of pencil drawing as well as non-sequential storytelling in comics. First, it is proposed that these comic forms are narratological strategies to highlight the temporariness of the villagers’ home, transcending their long-standing psychological threat of losing their temporary home which they have settled for decades. Second, the still portraits and detailed drawings of the objects manifest the documentary tropes, like comic journalism, in preserving and presenting the truth or ephemeral.
Harriet EH Earle: ‘Margin in the Middle’: Why the Gutter is Central to Trauma Comics
In comics, the gutter is where the story happens. Comics theorist Scott McCloud discusses the importance of the ‘gutter’– the space between each panel of a particular comic. He argues that what goes on between the individual panels – ‘closure’ – is essential to effective comics writing and reading: ‘comics panels fracture both time and space […] but closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality’ (McCloud, 1994: 45). Closure, he claims, is the grammar of the form and the entirety of the form hinges on the arrangement of elements, a point that Thierry Groensteen readily agrees with in his concept of arthrology: ‘the true magic of comics operates between the images, the tension that binds them’ (2007: 23).
Thanks to the gutter the comics reader has control of their own time scale. Not only can this make comics difficult to read, it can be used for the recreation and representation of trauma, mimicking the shattered chronology of a trauma experience.
This presentation considers what the reader must do in order to make the leaps of ‘closure’ required by the panel transitions in two post-9/11 comics – ‘Unreal’ and ‘The Real Thing’. Both comics are two pages long and both require a page turn. How does the movement across margins assist in representing the traumatic? And, more basically, how does this demonstrate the importance of the margin in the comics form?
Charlotte Johanne Fabricius: Superhero Comics as Affective Surface/ing
In scholarly discussions of comics materiality, superhero comics seem to go unnoticed in comparison to more ‘obviously material’ comics that experiment with printing and/or digital technologies. Although significant attention has been paid to the materiality of serialized publication, considerations of the materiality of superhero comics can go beyond discussions of print culture. In this paper, I will explore how formalist studies of representation can use material perspectives to account for the interfacing of comics and reader.
I will approach the materiality of reading superhero comics through Sara Ahmed’s discussions of ‘wonder’ as an affective stance and Rosi Braidotti’s work on figuration . Wonder, according to Ahmed, affects us by making the world see-able as a surface upon which anything could unfold. This surfacing has the power to re-orient our relation to the world, and I argue that superhero comics use the affective power of wonder in their work of representation. Using Braidotti’s terminology, I investigate the becoming of the superhero on and with the comics page, as a ‘surface of intensities’ with which the reader can engage in affective relation.
To explore this co-becoming of superhero and reader, I will read across the gaps between formalist considerations of the comics page, cognitive scholarship on comics reading, and affectively oriented materialist reading. Situating myself in this ‘gutter’ of comics scholarship, I will attempt to shed light on the material aspects of my ongoing research into superhero comics and representation. Finally, I will venture into a discussion of print comics and digitized comics, and how the page as a surface of intensity might change as the materiality of the reading experience changes. This is intended as an avenue of exploration, which I imagine will benefit greatly from the context of diverse perspectives on comics materiality.
Marco Favaro: Superheroes Comics: How the medium defines the genre
Today superheroes have a huge success in movies and television series, but originally the superhero genre is born on the pages of comics. What are the comic’s characteristics that helped the superhero genre to obtain so much success? How are these characteristics linked to the aspects that define this genre? How a different approach to the artistic potentialities of comics can change the perception we have of superhero, villains and antihero? These are the questions I will try to answer with this work. I analyse different comic media’s aspects like the colour, the symbolism, the “gutter” (the space between the panels) and the time of comic and graphic novels.
I will refer to Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, Reading comics by Wolk Douglas and to Umberto Eco’s essay The Myth of Superman. I argue that comics and graphic novels have spurred the success of the superhero not only for economic reasons but mostly because of their peculiar characteristics. I show also how a different use of the potential offered by this medium modifies the characters themselves, sometimes breaking down the barriers that divide hero, villain and antihero.
Alex Fitch: Comic Buildings
While buildings have been the subject of a variety of comics since their early days as a medium, over the last decade there have been a number of examples of comics being transcribed actually onto the surface of buildings. Examples include the hoardings outside Foyles Bookshop, London (2013) displaying vignettes from the history of the shop on boards to cover the building works behind, and a similar exercise around the perimeter of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Dundee during a period of its construction in 2016, showcase a 150m long comic by Will Morris.
In Amiens, comic creators have painted comics on the sides of buildings, to illustrate stories by Jules Verne, and curated the layout of interior spaces during the city’s annual comic festival. Elsewhere, projects as diverse as Chris Ware’s exterior mural for 826 Valencia, San Francisco and Joost Swarte’s stained glass comics in Haarlem and Grenoble have shown the malleability of comic artists to display their work on a much larger canvas.
This paper will look at these various examples of comics in and on buildings, how the work relates to the space it is displayed in compared to the ‘normal’ practice of each artist, and how this relates to the history of sequential art in buildings, from the Stations of the Cross to biblical scenes in church windows.
Bernhard Frena: Digital Comic’s Queer Materiality: On Physical Entanglements with Virtual Forms
When thinking about materialities of comics, digital comics seem to provide a unique challenge. The concrete materiality of a digital comic seems to depend on and change with the device we use to view it. Furthermore, despite our modes of physical engagement changing from device to device, we still seem to fundamentally engage with the same comic. Consequently, we might be tempted to think of a digital comic as not even having an actual materiality, or as that materiality being irrelevant to our aesthetic experience.
Instead of dismissing the materiality of digital comics entirely, I would however propose to think about them as having a queer materiality. This queer materiality does not solely reside in the concrete matter of the physical device, but – following Karen Barad’s agential realist account – emerges from an intra-active entanglement between the reader, the physical device and the stored comic. This materiality queers the boundaries between viewer, device and comic in the process of the aesthetic experience.
By looking at examples of digital comics that try to engage the viewer physically with the device (e.g. Daniel Merlin Goodbrey: A Duck Has An Adventure; Horang: Bongcheon-Dong Ghost), I want to show how materiality does not precede that entanglement but emerges through it. I want to argue that each part of that entanglement actively participates in creating the specific materiality of that digital comic. Digital comics would thus offer a unique opportunity to show how materiality is not a static given, but a dynamic process. This perspective not only allows us to inform our views on the queerness of digital comic’s materiality, but potentially the queerness of materiality proper.
Lisbeth Frølunde: Graphic medicine: How do the materialities of ink, image and illness relate?
The presentation concerns graphic medicine with focus on materialities regarding two examples of texts about Parkinson’s disease, discussed in light of how ink, image/text and illness interrelate.
Graphic medicine can broadly be seen as texts that draw on comics and graphic novels and offer personal stories about illness aka graphic pathographies, graphic medicine novels (Czerwiec et al., 2015; Williams, 2012), as well as a cross-disciplinary field at the inter-sections of narrative medicine, medical humanities, literature, visual communication, artistic research and arts therapies.
The two examples are unfolded in terms of: 1) how the images of illness use graphic storytelling and media conventions, and 2) how the texts are created, published and distributed as printed books. The first example is the 106 page autobiographical My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s (Dunlap-Shohl, 2015) by one author-illustrator, in color, and published in a book series. The second example is a 7-page long How Can I Understand (2018), that I authored-illustrated, and self-published within a Danish book anthology along with 3 other debutants from the Comic Arts School at Gladiator, Copenhagen.
The two examples share a reflexive way of showing the production process, for instance, characters talk about creating the ink drawings by hand or with software, and have dialogues on how to depict illness. There are obvious material differences between the two books, such as binding, size, length, color, print quality. The fact that an academic publisher distributes Dunlap-Shohl’s book impacts on its credibility and spread. While our collaborative, self-published book follows a tradition by newcomers of distributing comics and graphic novels online and at events.
The discussion reviews how ink, image/text and illness relate as well as future directions for graphic medicine in the Nordic countries.
Jacob Habinc: Authorship and Instagram – Swedish comic book artist’s creative process on social media
Many of the newest comic book debutants to enter the Swedish comic book market are active on one or several social medias, primarily Instagram. Their accounts tend to have been their private accounts that have transformed into marketing platforms as they’ve become public persons. As their comic book careers have taken off their feed (a collection of posts structured into a grid) tend to sway between private pictures, illustrations and comic book panels, and pure marketing posts. Through their feed many of the new Swedish comic book artist provide their followers and readers a unique opportunity: the possibility to observe and influence the comic book artist’s creative process.
During the two year of writing their debut graphic novels, Moa Romanova and Agnes Jakobsson frequently posted panels from their novels on Instagram, sometimes accompanied with comments. What kind of persona did the two artists portray through their posts during this timeframe? How do they relate to their own creative process on Instagram compared to how they’re portrayed in old media, such as magazines and newspapers?
Both comic book artists’ graphic novels are autobiographical. Is the persona portrayed on Instagram an extension of the author or the protagonist self-image in their novels?
Each Instagram-post is available for anyone to comment and “heart” (the Instagram equivalent of a “like” on Facebook). An Instagram user is instantly notified whenever another user interacts with their post (unless the user has tampered with the app’s properties). How does the constant access to feedback from followers affect the creative process, and can the influence be spotted in the final product?
These are the questions I’ll attempt to answer or reflect upon as I map the creative process of Romanova and Jakobsson.
Ian Hague: Incompatible Futures?: Incompatibility as Technical Constraint and Historical Process in Digital Comics
Although the digital is often conceived of in terms of “virtual” dematerialised forms lacking substance, its reality is inextricable from a complex network of hardware and physical equipment that enables and constrains particular types of encounter. The digital comic, while it may lack some of the sensual pleasures of the printed object (such as the scent of paper) nonetheless engages the reader in a material encounter that exceeds the limits of the visual text. Yet the interconnected nature of digital physicality poses particular challenges to the digital object, among which is incompatibility.
Digital incompatibility can be understood in a range of different ways. It might be cultural/geographic (in terms of languages or legal territories, for example), technical (in terms of platforms and software/hardware interfaces) or historical (in terms of obsolescence or redundancy). In this paper, I will explore a range of these issues, and seek to show how incompatibility can play a role in determining the material, sociocultural and historical configurations of digital comics.
I will draw upon a range of illustrative examples, including Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little App and Comixology to demonstrate the myriad ways in which incompatibility permeates the digital comics reading experience, as both technical constraint and historical process, and show why we should be concerned about incompatibility’s role in determining the history of digital comics even as we look forward to an increasingly digitised future.
Anssi Hynynen: The Kontent of the Form: George Herriman, Krazy Kat and the Wild Early Years of Newspaper Comics
George Herriman was already a well-established newspaper comics artist when he created Krazy Kat, his lasting monument to the ingenuity of man. From the times of the first World War up to Herriman’s death towards the end of WWII, Krazy Kat baffled the minds of the readers with — at times — seemingly nonsensical happenings in a fictional version of Coconino County, Arizona.
Most of the thousands of daily strips and the hundreds of Sunday pages deal with one thing only: a triangle drama between a cat, a mouse, and a dog. Krazy Kat is in love with Ignatz Mouse, who hates the cat, and shows it by throwing bricks at it. Offissa Pupp (the dog), who in turn loves the cat, puts the mouse in jail for this offense. (This is further complicated by the fact that Krazy Kat actually loves being hit on the head with a brick — he believes this is a sign of affection from the mouse’s side.)
The background in Krazy Kat usually changes from panel to panel, thus creating a lasting illusion of separateness between the panels — and quite right, one could take pretty much any panel from any Krazy Kat strip or Sunday page, and frame it as an individual work of art.
The language in the strip is varied; Krazy himself speaks rather dialectically, whereas some of the other protagonists use Shakespearean language. Spanish words and phrases are often thrown in, and sometimes French — less often, German and Japanese.
As if his experiments in language and the pictures had not been enough, Herriman tested the limits of the newspaper comic medium even in the layout of Krazy Kat — and not only in the celebrated Sunday pages, but also in quite a few of the dailies (especially in the so-called ˮpanoramic dailiesˮ of 1920).
In my paper, it is my intention to delve deeper into this exciting period in the history of the comics art using examples from Krazy Kat from different decades. What was the relation between the daily strip and the Sunday page? What did the placement of the comic strip in the newspaper mean to the comics and their readers? How did the readers perceive the ever-elusive poetic content and the changing format of Krazy Kat? The questions I am seeking answers to should also serve to illuminate the overall evolution of the comic strip and Sunday pages.
Gunnar Krantz: New ways of making comics
The praxis of applying ink with brush or pen on paper goes way back to Rodolphe Töpffer’s use of lithographic ink and a steel-nib fabricated from a clock-spring, to create artwork for the autographic lithography of his littérature en estampes (Kunzle 2007). Since then inking comics is still much of an unquestioned norm within the comics industry and most comic educations. It is even present in digital drawing tools in the form of emulated, pre-formatted brushes and pens.
Up to a certain point in time, the praxis of inking comics was well motivated by inaccurate printing techniques requiring stringent, reproduceable lines that sometimes also served the purpose to contain the likewise crude coloring by ben-day dots. Today, with easily accessible digital tools (scanners, cameras and smartphones) capable of reproducing the faintest nuances in millions of colors, “inking” is still regarded as common praxis among most comic artists.
Using modern digital production and reproduction techniques, instead of emulating traditional graphic tools raises interesting questions on comics from a multitude of perspectives. The comic I am going to discuss in regard to this is my own “Katarina Matilda från Vendel”, a story using pigment as a narrative component, inspired by artists of the French l’art informel movement of the 50s. such as Dubuffet and Fautrier.
Find the comic “Katarina Matilda från Vendel” online here: http://www.seriekonst.se/?page_id=1807
Ilan Manouach: Conceptual Comics. An Industrial Form of Expression
This paper regards the complex relationships between comics, conceptual art and post digital affects. Conceptual comics explore the very substrate of their medium not as a culturally neutral site, but as a way to build alternative historiographies, replete with their own material properties and signifying potential. The conceptual project Noirs that is discussed in this paper is a detournement facsimile of Les Schtroumpfs Noirs: the same cover, the same number of pages and the same format. Noirs comes as closely as one can get to the original edition, except of one single difference; its colours: The four different colour plates have been uniformly replaced by four plates of cyan. By shedding light on the industrial fabrication of a book though offset printing technology, a supposedly transparent and mechanic process, it reveals it to be a powerfully meaningful signifying device. Noirs problematizes the innocuous naturalisation of the ideological potential of colour through a formal experiment into a language (offset technology) acting upon another language, the book’s content.
Aura Nikkilä & Anna Vuorinne: Empathy through multimodal storytelling. Graphic and photographic representation in Hanneriina Moisseinen’s The Isthmus
During recent years the connections between reading and empathy have been widely discussed in literary studies, but in the field of comics studies theorisations of empathy have been less frequent. Suzanne Keen has discussed the relationship between narrative empathy and anthropomorphism and Katie Polak has explored empathy in historical fiction, but there is still much to be analysed in regard to the possibilities of the comics form to elicit empathy in the reader. Drawing on philosopher Elisa Aaltola’s discussion on the varieties of empathy and focusing specifically on the embodied and reflective layers of empathy, we aim to expand how empathy is conceptualized in comics studies as a way to understand the experiences of other beings.
In this presentation, we explore empathy in multimodal storytelling by analysing Hanneriina Moisseinen’s historical comic The Isthmus (2016) which portrays the end of the Continuation War and the evacuation of the Karelian Isthmus in 1944. Instead of going through the well-known events of Finnish military history, The Isthmus centres on experiences evoked by the war and fleeing from it. Empathy plays a central role in Moisseinen’s comic; on the one hand, the story portrays empathetic encounters between displaced people and between different species, on the other hand empathy serves as an important strategy of creating understanding towards marginalized and even incomprehensible experiences of others. In the comic, the past is visually re-examined through the interplay of archival photographs and hand-drawn images, and our interest lies especially on this altering of graphic and photographic representation and the different ways these two modes of expression create empathy.
Anna Nordenstam & Margareta Wallin Wictorin: Draw the line – Swedish feminist comics artist’s material contribution to the #MeToo movement
One of the big issues that changed the discussions about sexual relations in Sweden as well as internationally, was #MeToo. In the autumn of 2017 it emanated from the film branch in US, and revealed that sexual harassments have been ubiquitous in all parts of the world, not least in the culture sector where uncertain working conditions have given superior power to men in leading positions. In Sweden women in this sector and in society at large got together to give witness of how they had been badly treated and abused, as a way of setting the issue on the agenda.
As a direct result of this, with an ambition to help the movement consist, a couple of comics artists in Sweden, Malin Biller and Karin Didring, immediately started to make plans for an anthology with comics about the issue. They wanted to make a book with stories that could be used in discussions and educational activities. They mobilized their network of colleagues, fellow artists, and asked for contributions. In September the year after, they published the anthology Draw the line, with 19 selected comics stories, and started to arrange exhibitions, presentations and discussions based on its stories. The anthology is a well designed and materially durable comic book (Thon & Lukas 2016), thanks to funding from several NGOs.
In our presentation we will argue that this kind of feminist comics can be seen as a response to the need of reflecting important issues, and a form of political activism, employed to advance feminist critique of existing gender and sexual norms (Felshin 1995, Chute 2010). In the analysis we concentrate on the comics in Draw the line by Hanna Petersson, Lina Neidestam and Lisa Medin.
Felix Kühn Paulsen: Instagram webcomics – Danish mommy blogging comics
Comics research have always been interested in the ways in which the standard forms, styles and themes of comics have been and are being explored and challenged. In recent years, the research has also turned its eyes towards the works and artists negotiating the medialities as well as the materialities of comics. One of the places where we can see the art form challenged on all flanks are in social media such as Instagram. Here, questions are proposed to the present and future of comics, and not just by the effect of swiping through panels! Instagram has a specific mediality with a set of affordances very different from that of a physical comic book. The social aspect diffuses the already sparse boundaries between work and context, and it is impossible to distinguish clearly between the different paratextual layers. This is clear in the works of the Danish artist Line Jensen Kjeldsen who does drawings from her everyday life on her Instagram profile and later has transformed a selection of these into a book (Hver dag starter det forfra 2017). This mommy (micro-) blog turned graphic novel is the subject of this paper. Through a comparative analysis of the Instagram profile and the book we can observe how the mediality and materiality of comics are being challenged, and not only directly because of a new media platform and the ever present smartphones. The affordances of Instagram as a digital, social medium vibrates indirectly back onto the book version that, in turn, transforms and poses new, interesting questions to the general mediality and materiality of what we still tend to call “regular comics”.
Barbora Pýchová: Materialities of Comics – Verbal pictorial narrator in autobiographical comics
What are the difficulties when we use literary, especially narratological, concepts by analysing comics? What is the difference between mostly textual literature and textual-pictorial comics? What are the possibilities for comic theory by recreating or redefining the literary terms? Answering these questions will be key part of my proposed paper.
I will show on the example of the narrator in autobiographical comics, how the pictorial and thus corporeal representation of the narrator can influence the interpretation of comics. How can the narrator be described in comparison to literature? I will suggest some definitions of the narrator based on narratological terms according to Gérard Genette and comic theoretical terms from the newest research according to Thierry Groensteen, Jan-Noël Thon or Martin Schüwer.
Using some concrete examples of autobiographical comics (Ulli Lust, Sascha Hommer, Kati Rickenbach), I am trying to explain how the pictorial representation of the narrator can influence the interpretation and the authenticity of the story. I will also examine the techniques how the artists make clear who the narrator is among the showed characters and how the reader can identify the narrator with the author, what is one of the conditions for the conclusion of the autobiographical pact required by Philippe Lejeune in his theoretical study Le pacte autobiographique. I consider these aspects of autobiography for the material elements that are performed by the medium of comics (for example significant clothing or some objects materializing character traits). This performed materiality is specific for the autobiographical pact in comics, in my view. I will focus on the pictorial-textual connection, typical for the medium comics, and his possibilities by creating the authenticity and credibility of autobiographical comics.
Oskari Rantala: “Some things tucked inside have fallen out” Intermedial Materiality and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alan Moore Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s comics series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999–) appropriates events and characters originating in other narratives – the eponymous league includes such protagonists as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Bram Stoker’s Wilhelmina Harker and Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo. These appropriations form a convoluted temporal continuum in which, for example, the Martian attack from H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds is followed by a World War waged by Adenoid Hynkel from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. In this manner, story-matter from hundreds of different sources is interwoven to form the storyworld of the comics series.
Moore and O’Neill employ intermedial narrative strategies and play with the mediality and materiality of comics in interesting ways. The album Black Dossier (2007), for example, includes assorted facsimiles of imaginary in-storyworld texts, book excerpts and comics which comprise “the black dossier”, a collection of annotated documents which the protagonists struggle to smuggle out of England. The tactility of different paper stocks, a comics section to be read with 3D glasses, and the insertion – in some editions – of a vinyl record offer the reader various possibilities to engage with the materiality of the comics artefact. Another case in point is the currently ongoing series finale The Tempest (2018–) in which scenes of a subplot featuring the League’s antagonist James Bond are drawn as a series of black-and-white strips mimicking the drawing style and format of classic James Bond newspaper comics.
In my paper, I examine these strategies of utilizing different media and representing their mediality and materiality in comics narrative. An inherently multimodal or intermedial medium, comics and its affordances seem to be somewhat well-suited for this kind of medial play.
Leena Romu: Women comics artists in Finland and the conditions of comics production in the 1990s
In the presentation, I will approach the materiality of comics by concentrating on the socio-historical ground of women’s comics in Finland. The aim is to understand when and how women appeared on the male dominated field, and how they changed it. The presentation situates women into the field of comics by considering the historical, material and social conditions of comics production.
I suggest that the 1990s marks a change in the Finnish comics scene. Until that, women had been practically invisible in the comics scene but suddenly several comics zines and magazines dedicated issues for women cartoonists and published critical articles about women’s representations in comics. Women cartoonists themselves established a network for female cartoonists and started to publish their own comics magazine Naarassarjat (“She-Comics”, 1992–1993) which included only comics made by women. The magazine took its inspiration from the American underground magazine Wimmen’s Comix (1972–1992) that began as a reaction to the male dominance in the American underground comics. Both publications depicted women’s lives from various perspectives ranging from fairytale fantasies to observations of the everyday life. It seems that in the 1990s Finnish comics scene opened its eyes to see how male-dominated the field was and welcomed women to join the culture.
What were the historical, material and social conditions that led to this change? Did women have to struggle to get visibility and acknowledged position in the field? The presentation aims to answer these questions with the help of Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural production, which provides conceptual tools for considering the comics scene as a field of different kinds of power relations.
Gill Sampson & Christian Skovgaard: Materiality, narrative and place
In back-to-back talks Gill Sampson and Christian Skovgaard will offer their different perspectives on materiality, narrative and place. These themes are central each of the two practitioner’s artistic work and research. Themes deployed in distinct and parallel ways.
The two talks will be followed by a short workshop run by Sampson and Skovgaard, here the audience is invited to participate in the co-exploration of the themes from each of their art and research practices.
Sampson’s talk will focus on her work for her upcoming solo show at the Market Gallery in West Yorkshire. Work that uses found objects and materials as canvas for her imagery. An example is slate roofing tiles. Slate or shale was quarried locally in West Yorkshire, with its extraction and use in construction peaking in the 19th century. Sampson overprints the slate with landscape illustration, using advanced UV-printing techniques. The interplay between material and imagery evoking the social and industrial history of the area as well as ideas about landscape as resource and motif.
Skovgaard will deliver a visual essay that looks at his work as architectural model maker in Copenhagen 2009-11 and London 2014-17. These periods were bracketed by the financial crisis and the Brexit vote, events that fi§rst tied Skovgaard closely to the built environment and then threatened to eject him from his home and job. It will also look at how these events and the techniques and modes of representation from model making and the architectural profession has bled into his graphic novel work.
Maxim Kirs Thomasen: Poland cannot into space. Exploring the re-structuring of the East-West narrative in Europe
A meteor heading for Earth and an apparently random selection of spacefaring – and non-spacefaring – nations represented by crudely drawn balls hurry up to leave the planet, leaving behind an equally badly drawn Poland-ball in tears uttering the words “Poland cannot into space”. This short and inconspicuous comic did not just create laughs on the imageboard where it was first posted, it also established a subsequently larger media for commentary on national narratives and agency for previously disenfranchised voices. Countryball comics as a short form of comics, containing very few frames, have the ability to ex-press different perceptions of national stereotypes and exemplifies how memes can turn from a particular and little known inside joke, to an established way for anyone to express specific intercultural inter-actions. It is of my particular interest how Countryball comics manifest a re-structuring of the way West-East European narrative is being performed on social media today. Traditionally, the historical and political development of normative/narrative power relations have been dominated by a Western public sphere and mostly excluded Eastern European voices from partaking in the construction of the idea of Eastern Europe. Through their comprehensible iconography, low stylistic quality and the ease with which these comics are reproducible by anyone, we are lead to an understanding of how Countryball comics become one expression among many of a broader move towards increased agency for Eastern European voices in telling their own story. At the same time, these comics help us to deconstruct the idea of Eastern Europe itself as a conceptual entity.
Essi Varis: It Figures: Multimodal Characters as Experience Products
Not only our pages and screens but also our homes and shopping malls are littered with fictional creatures. Everybody has owned at least one T-shirt or keyring depicting their favorite film or comic hero. Action figures of popular franchises are sold to kids and collectors
alike. Even everyday food items might suddenly seem more enticing with a familiar cartoon face on the packaging. But how do these products we buy connect to our experiences of these characters’ narratives, and why do we even buy them?
One of the most peculiar features of comics storytelling is that the panels and the pages function simultaneously as temporal and spatial units. From this follows that the storyworlds and characters they depict can also be viewed not only as sequentially unfolding functions of the plot but also as sensory, object-like particles of the pages’ aesthetic, collage-like compositions. The visual bodies of the characters are often repeated from panel to panel and chapter to chapter, which creates cohesion and invites different kinds of arthrological connections – but these often unique, recognizable designs can just as well be reproduced outside of the page, in different media and on different products. The pictorial corporeality of comic book characters – and other multimodal characters – thus functions as a contact surface that allows the narrative potentialities of characters to converge with the affordances of various materials and objects. Both of these facets determine how the fans and consumers interact with these objects: the characters imbue the material objects with narrative, anthropomorphic and affective meanings, while the material objects allow the fans to or play with or attach themselves to the characters in certain ways. In my presentation, I will explore these interminglings of fictional figures, material products and fan-consumers from the viewpoints of experience economy and extended, enactive cognition.