There was a time when comics were thought of as an art form with, almost exclusively, North-American origins. While today the historical, transnational discussions allow for a more comprehensive and crossed view of older forms and international traditions, there is a more or less consensual understanding that it is a modern form. While it is indeed possible to create associations between what we call comics today and older forms of visual storytelling, from radically different cultural backgrounds, levels of social usage of said texts and whatnot, we describe it as something that had to emerge within a number of requisites: an urban environment with diverse populations, the concurrence of a number of communication technologies, a more or less free press, a complex ecology of entertainment industries, a tension between so-called elite and popular cultures, and so on. Continue reading “Jared Gardner: the “Projections” interview”
I have written a short review of Andrew J. Friendenthal’s Retcon Game, a great introduction to one of the most riveting and interesting narratological structures to have ever emerged within the production of North-American mainstream superhero comics, although arguably stemming from previous literary experiences. The author does a terrific job in creating precisely those links, as well as a broad contextualization in North American culture, delving into other social realities, so it goes well beyond comics.
A fast read, which is a plus, this could be easily turned into a classroom classic. The review is up at the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, which you can access here.
Mark McKinney has been doing a fantastic job in re-analysing French-speaking comics under the critical affordances brough by post-colonialist studies. He is indeed a leading scholar, having published the groundbreaking The Colonial Heritage of French Comics (Liverpool University Press, 2011) and Redrawing French Empire in Comics (Ohio State University Press, 2013), as well as edited the excellent History and Politics in French-Language Comics and Graphic Novels (University Press of Mississippi, 2008).
Much of his work is both a great introduction to this analytical framework as well as a profund lesson in close reading. He has created a varied and pointed genealogy of colonial themes and treatments within the medium of comics, usually dismissed to the preference of other media. However, it is precisely because of the seemingly innocent, “natural” and immediate nature of comics that colonialism principles and worldviews were transmitted to children, contributing to a “natural framework” of looking back at the colonies and their “subjects.” By creating a “visual-textual pedagogy of Empire,” comics were part and parcel of that discourse. In a time when the multiplicity of political voices and agencies act in the public sphere, and attempt revisitations of older texts (and the controversies surrounding Hergé’s Tintin au Congo precisely in 2012 were a case in point), defended as “appropriate of their time” or “just fun”, etc., critical stances such as Prof. McKinney’s are fundamental. Continue reading “Mark McKinney: the “The Colonial Heritage of French Comics” interview”
I reviewed Dan Mazur‘s and Alexander Danner’s Comics. A Global History, 1968 to the Present in early September 2014 [in Portuguese only], connecting it to an ongoing and mutating trend around the history and memory of the medium of comics which I had dubbed “the recuperation of memory”, riffing from Thierry Groensteen’s adroit criticism that this had been (or still is) an art that has some difficulties in living with its own past. But since the mid-2000’s there had been a steady flow of archival editions in a multitude of contexts that was making possible a continuous, grounded access to many texts that were fundamental to an understanding of the complexity of comic’s own history. While not perfect or exhaustive (an impossible task), that incredible supply, associated with a no less incredible academic output in the past years, pushed for the need of a balanced act of cartography, and A Global History seems to offer just that: an English-language map of worldwide comics’ production, and one which presents, as I wrote, “a smooth and broad sailing.” Continue reading “Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner: the “Comics. A Global History” interview”
Francisco Sousa Lobo’s intense output has made him put out multiple volumes in the last few years, almost all of which in English (with Portuguese translations in footnote form), and all of them interlinked by a common strategy. While I have written extensively about his work in Portuguese (starting with The Dying Draughtsman to The Care of Birds, but also paying attention to smaller work) and, on one occasion, in English, it is strangely appropriate to write about this volume, which only exists in Portuguese, in a foreign language.
Marino Neri presents us with a, at one time, laconic and loquacious book. This is the story of a young boy named Cosimo, whose interest in stars grant him the nickname Cosmo. The book starts with Cosimo running away from a social services building, and entering a dangerous, night-time journey across the country. It is not clear if he has a specific place to reach, but his purpose seems to be to be as distant as possible from the place he ran away from, in order to be closer to something else.
Twelve-cent Archie is the first volume of Rutgers University Press’ “Comics Culture” series, edited by Corey Creekmur, which in its first 5 volumes has already, unsurprisingly, carved an important niche within English-language comics scholarship. Bart Beaty’s volume, however, is a very peculiar case, not only for the continuous brilliance of Beaty’s individual contributions but the frisky freshness of the style in this book.
To a certain extent, one may read this volume not only as a project on Archie comics, specifically the ones around the gang of the red-haired all-American character – the publisher and its editorial practices and policies, the artfulness (or lack thereof) of the involved artists, the paradoxical simple-complex diegesis of its characters, and the way it bungled through the social themes of its time – but also as a comment on the state of comics scholarship itself. As the author writes right off the bat, “auteurism has been the key to the cultural legitimacy of comic books, and it is no surprise that scholars trained in a literary tradition that is so strongly structured around an auteurist canon would transpose that tradition onto comics,” an attitude that leads to a particular “cultural cherry-picking” among an incredibly varied and immense field that “has left enormous gaps in both the history and cultural analysis of comics” (pg. 5). Archie comics, then, with their “low cultural cachet,” may provide a different take on its social portrait.
The first surprising thing that comes to mind when holding this volume is how it presents itself as a “graphic novel,” which goes a long way to show how the word “comics” has been almost entirely substituted for specific social and educational purposes. After all, not only Dinosaur Empire! is much closer to an encyclopedic discourse (an impulse towards the exhaustive, the sum, the absolute), as its “story structure” is rather flimsy, just enough to make the ball roll in terms of organizing the contents that the author wishes to convey to her young readers. Continue reading “Dinosaur Empire! Abby Howard (Amulet Books)”
This large format solo book by the French artist Hugues Micol is, for all ends and purposes, an account of the life of John Glanton, the infamous settler, soldier, Texas Ranger and bloody mercenary that contributed significantly to the overall idea of a violent, bloody and painful history in the birth of the United States. While not a book with a conventional pedagogical slant, Scalp could be thought anyway of as a tool for reconsidering the conceptual and even emotional schism between history and heritage. Delving mostly into the history of the American Southwest just during and after the Mexican-American war, and its aftermath (Glanton was born in 1819 and was killed in 1850) this a look into the pre-cowboy era that would be so romantically depicted throught the history of early American popular culture. Continue reading “Scalp, la funèbre chevauchée de John Glanton et de ses compagnons de voyage. Hugues Micol (Futuropolis)”