Meet the Board: Member-at-Large Hanah Stiverson

We are back again with another installment of our Meet the Board posts! This week is Member-at-Large Hanah Stiverson. Hanah is a Ph.D. Candidate (who recently passed her prelims! Yay, Hanah!) and Instructor in American Culture at the University of Michigan.

How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?

This is my first year working with CSS. I know Elizabeth (Biz) Nijdam, the CSS Vice President, from the University of Michigan where we both attended. When a position opened up she contacted me to see if I would be interested and I jumped at the chance to meet more comics folks! There are relatively few of us at my institution and I’m always looking for opportunities to branch out into the comics studies world and see what others are working on.

What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?

I read serial comics sporadically as a kid, generally ones that I would find in boxes labeled ‘free’ at yard sales and such. I grew up out in the boonies, so I didn’t have access to much beyond newspaper comic strips, which I still love for nostalgia if nothing else. The first actual comic book that I remember reading in full is one of the earlier Swamp Thing collections. I can’t be sure, but I would guess that it was during Alan Moore’s tenure because what impacted me was the cerebral darkness of the storyline. I’m not a fan of Moore in general, but Swamp Thing as a series had a way of bridging my twin interests of dark fantasy and superpowered beings in a way that I hadn’t experienced up to that point. However, a much more impactful read for me as a comics fan and scholar is Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s Saga. I started reading that shortly after it debuted in 2012 and it radically altered how I thought about comics as a medium.

What are you reading now that you think others should look into?

God, this is a hard question. I have so many titles to choose from! Probably everyone has read this already, but one of my favorites is Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. The artwork by Takeda is beyond fantastic. It’s moody, intricate, and gently morose. I love the use of the dystopian Matriarchy which reminds me of some of my favorite SF writers, namely Ursula LeGuin and Sheri Tepper. I also have to mention a relatively new comic also published by Image called Prism Stalker, written and drawn by the fantastic Sloane Leong. It’s been likened to a trippy Sailor Moon, which I’m not sure I agree with, but it is definity trippy. More importantly it explores notions of settler-colonialism, indigeneity, and cultural erasure. I don’t know that she is the strongest writer or artist out there, but her use of both has created something a bit magical.

What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?

My research is heavily focused on systems of power and representation, so three scholars that I’m deeply indebted to are Adilifu Nama, Grace L. Dillon, and Kodwo Eshun. Dillon’s use of ‘Indigenous scientific literacies’ and ‘Ceremonial worlds’ is fantastic and vital, and Nama and Eshun both explore comics, power, and blackness in uniquely important and nuanced ways.

Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?

I’m going to have to echo Josh on this and say the aspect of comics studies that I’m most excited by is the growth in the field! There are so many innovative people and ideas that are emerging that it would be nearly impossible to pin down one aspect.

Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?

There have been a lot of scholars (and writers/artists) that have at different points shaped how I view this ever expanding and evolving field we’re in, but two recent reads have been wonderful for me to see the breadth of possibilities. Kate Polack’s work Ethics in the Gutter and Carolyn Cocca’s Superwomen are both fantastic books that helped me find my scholarly footing, so to speak.

If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet, who would it be and why?

I’m going to cheat a bit and say a creative team that I’d like to meet: Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Not only are they both unbelievably talented people, but they have a really unique partnership. Vaughan is such a huge name and yet it seems like Staples is still an equal partner both economically and in creative decisions. I’d love to sit down with them and talk about their individual and collective experiences working on Saga and their other projects.

What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?

Literally nothing for at least one more week! I just finished prelims/field exams and I am exhausted. In reality though, I’m beginning work on my dissertation which is broadly about the middle spaces in the comics industry that exist between ‘mainstream’ production and ‘alternative’ products, which can hold radical potential. I’ve just started writing the framework for a chapter about digital comics and forms of cultural capital – so it should be a fun project.

Meet the Board: Secretary/Treasurer Adrienne Resha

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, Cover by Cliff Chiang

Continuing our series of posts introducing the current board for the Graduate Student Caucus, this week features Secretary/Treasurer, Adrienne Resha. Adrienne is a Ph.D. Student in American Studies at the College of William & Mary.

How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?

My one year anniversary falls on January 9th, 2019, according to the receipt for my Inks subscription. I had been working on something (“The Blue Age of Comic Books”) that was perfect for the first annual conference. I sent the proposal just before New Year’s, and knew that if it was accepted (it was), then I had to be a member to attend and present. It’s not a particularly romantic story, but it doesn’t have to be.

What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?

I’ve read comics for most of my life, but I grew up reading manga, not American comic books. The first American comic that really had an impact on me was G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan was the first Muslim superhero to have her own title. To have a character like her in a tradition that spanned, then, seventy-five years meant that she was (to borrow from Wilson) part of something bigger. A lot of people have rightfully compared her to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, but, for me, she’s most like Superman. That’s what I ended up writing my master’s thesis about, the series and Kamala Khan’s relationship to her antecedents, and I used an excerpt from that to apply to the doctoral program I’m in now. Ms. Marvel took me from reader to researcher.

What are you reading now that you think others should look into?

The new Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón. I loved Ahmed and Christian Ward’s work on Black Bolt, and recommend it to everyone, but I’m really excited to see what Ahmed gets to do with Miles Morales. I’m also reading My Hero Academia by Kōhei Horikoshi. Now’s a great time to get started with the manga thanks to Shonen Jump’s new digital subscription service. And I’m not reading it now, but when Ahmed’s run on Ms. Marvel with Minkyu Jung starts in March, I’ll be reading that.

What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?

He wasn’t strictly a comics studies scholar, but, before Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, Jack Shaheen studied representations of Arabs in comic books. He advocated for more nuanced representations of Arabs and Muslims in American popular media. His work, particularly on comics, informs my work on superheroes like Kamala Khan, Khalid Nassour (Doctor Fate), and Simon Baz (Green Lantern).

Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?

After I presented “Blue Age” at CSS18, Rebecca Wanzo tweeted, “one of the interesting things about comics studies is the interdisciplinary diversity and that there are SUCH divergent attachments to the field now. New people coming in without a long history of comics reading—producing very different perspectives.” I think that’s what I’m most excited about: that there are different perspectives emerging. I’m excited about being able to offer one of them, one of many.

Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?

I’m going to name two people since Josh gave about a dozen in one of his answers (and I could still name more). CSS Vice President Candida Rifkind and former GSC Secretary-Treasurer Rachel Miller. As much in their scholarship as in their service, they’ve shaped the way I relate to CSS and, more broadly, comics studies as a field.

If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?

G. Willow Wilson. I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for Ms. Marvel, and I’d love to be able to thank her in person. Sana Amanat, although neither a writer nor an artist, too.

What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?

I’m reading for my qualifying exams right now. I’m also writing for Women Write About Comics. And, this year, I’ll start working in earnest on my dissertation. It’ll be about Blue Age superheroes Kamala Khan, Khalid Nassour, and Simon Baz; the people who made/make their comics; and the people, like and unlike me, who they represent.

How can folks get in contact with you to talk more about comics or your research?

On Twitter @AdrienneResha or through my website adrienneresha.com.

Meet the Board: President Joshua Abraham Kopin

In the coming weeks, we will be introducing our Board Members in posts where they discuss their relationship to comics and comics studies. We are starting with our intrepid President, Joshua Abraham Kopin. Josh works in American Studies and is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.

How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?

I was at the International Comics Art Forum meeting at Ohio State University in 2014 when the CSS was voted into being, and I attended the first meeting of the CSS Graduate Student Caucus that same weekend. I have been a member ever since, and I have served on the GSC Executive Board since then too, first as the web editor and then as the vice-president and now as the president. What former GSC president Colin Bieneke has called my “tyrannical rise to power” ends this spring, when my term does. Working to grow comics studies through advocating for graduate students and early career scholars as part of the GSC has been one of the great honors and few pleasures of my time in graduate school, and I would encourage people to run for the member-at-large positions, the secretary-treasurer position, and the vice-presidency, all of which will be open this spring.

What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?

I started buying Uncanny X-Men issues in 2002 or 2003, around the time that the second X-Men movie came out. Angel and Husk were dating. Northstar was on the team. Nightcrawler was… studying to be a priest? It was a weird time. But there were some great comics then, including the first iteration of Exiles, my favorite Marvel comic of all time. Today that book is being written by Saladin Ahmed, one of my favorite prose authors, and it’s still a blast. At the same time, I was spending a lot of time at my local public library, reading their collection of graphic novels, which seemed to grow bigger every week. That was my first exposure to works that are still some of my favorites: Sandman, Transmetropolitan, Fun Home, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Concrete, Blankets, you know… the classics. The first comic that made me want to study comics, though, was Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. It’s a little on the nose: the study of comics is a variety of the study of symbols, and it’s hard to get more blatantly symbolic than a man running around wearing tights that look like the American flag. I’m glad I’ve moved on to other things. Brubaker’s Cap comics hold up, though, particularly the ones drawn by Steve Epting.

What are you reading now that you think others should look into?

Unfortunately, my comics reading has gotten kind of sparse, and I’m a little less checked in than I used to be. But Ahmed’s Exiles, drawn mostly by the very talented Javier Rodriguez, is great fun, and I like the style of the Shuri series written by another favorite prose writer, Nnedi Okorafor, and drawn by Leonardo Romero in the round, flat-colored style of Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, and Rodriguez that I’ve come to love most in the last few years. I also just read the collection of Tillie Walden’s On A Sunbeam, probably my favorite work from this past year, which is a beautifully drawn and imagined queer sci-fi romance set in a universe with big mysterious history and without men. It has some nice consonances with my favorite ongoing media, the cartoon Steven Universe, and I would love to see Walden explore it some more. Then there’s the stuff I’m always coming back to, like John Porcellino’s King Cat collections and Peanuts and Ronald Wimberly’s Prince of Cats, and then the stuff I’m reading to better round out my knowledge of European, Latin American and Asian comics, which is an easier prospect than it used to be now that so much stuff is getting translated.

What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?

I’m tempted to say that it’s someone working in the interdisciplinary cultural studies mode that I’m trying to work in, like Ramzi Fawaz and Jared Gardner, or someone whose work I really admire, like Carol Tilley, Scott Bukatman, or Chris Pizzino. I also thought about saying Martha Kennedy or Caitlin McGurk, since one of the best things about comics studies is the visibility of the work done by archivists as well as those by professors, although we, like every other discipline, could be doing better in that regard. Now that I’ve already mentioned, uh, seven, people, though, I’m going to go ahead and keep cheating, and say that it has been my community of graduate peers, more than anyone else, who have given me the will to keep going when the prospect of staying in school seemed like it was just too much. I was so, so lucky to meet Ben Owen, Frederik Kohlert, Colin Beineke, Biz Nijdam, Rachel Miller and Forrest Johnson at that first ICAF in Columbus, and then to speak on a panel organized by Margaret Galvan and Leah Misemer, who have been two of my most important mentors, at MLA in Austin in 2016. And then I went to the ICAF in Columbia, South Carolina that spring where I met Francesca Lyn and Jeremy Carnes… and that’s not to mention the folks who weren’t graduate students when I first met them, like Osvaldo Oyola, whose commitment to quality public scholarship is unmatched, and Keith McCleary, or the folks I met later. My community has only expanded as the field as continued to grow and as CSS has matured, and I believe it is my most important goal as the president of the GSC to help build structures that make it as easy as possible for as many young scholars as possible to build communities like the one I’ve been so lucky to have.

Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?

Personally, I think it’s hard for us to talk about shifts, since the field is still so new. I think the big thing is growth! I started grad school almost six years ago, and the number of scholars and high quality monographs has absolutely exploded since then. This is our golden age.

Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?

Gosh, you’re going to make me pick just one? I’m going to go ahead and cheat, again: the writer who matters the most to me in the world is Ursula LeGuin whose plain language, sympathy, and grace in constructing dangerous archipelagos and ambiguous utopias steels my will in the face of many uncertain futures. So that’s one thing, LeGuin is just everywhere in everything I do. But she also invented this sci-fi technology called the ansible radio, a piece of technology that allows the characters in her Hain Cycle to communicate with each other instantaneously across vast cosmic distances. Comics, like the ansible, are able to disrupt what should be possible in our experience of linear time, and are in fact all about exploring new ways to explicate temporal and spatial relationships. Comics are the ansible.

If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?

Sometimes I write about an Austin cartoonist named Jack Jackson, who was a part of the Undergrounds in the Bay before coming back to San Francisco and drawing these really dense, really wordy, really weird Texas history comics. He died, rather tragically, in 2006. In the second half of his career he tried to use his comics and illustration work to float his research into very specific aspects of Texas history: ranching, stuff like that. He had some interesting ideas about how to approach history in comics form and some controversial ones about what the ethics of doing history were. I would have loved to have gotten to talk to him about them, and about the breadth of his career.  

What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?

Right now, I’m writing a dissertation about the early history of the comic strip. Focusing on one particularly famous R.F. Outcault strip (you probably know the one), the project frames comics as a uniquely nineteenth century technology of time and space, one intimately tied to other nineteenth social and cultural developments. Because I find it totally impossible to sit still or pick just one topic, I’ve also got an upcoming article on Jackson and I’m co-editing a roundtable on sound in comics with Osvaldo Oyola at his online magazine The Middle Spaces. Both should be out sometime next year. 

How can folks get in contact with you to talk more about comics or your research?

Carrier pigeon or bat phone. Or kopin@utexas.edu, whatever. I’m also on twitter @iamjoshkopin and I post pictures of comics, baseball and my food as joshexclamation on Instragram. 

If you’re a grad student with questions or ideas, or somebody who was once a PhD student with questions or ideas, I’d love to hear from you. There’s nothing more important to me than supporting my peers. Good luck out there!

Welcome!

Welcome to the new website for the Graduate Student Caucus of the Comics Studies Society!

We hope that this website can become a tool for networking and professionalization for graduate students, early career faculty, and other applicable individuals working in or around comics studies. We will continue building this website in the coming months to include even more Call for Papers, various resources, and a forum for discussion between individuals about issues related to comics studies research. For now, please take a look at what we have on the website, and come back to see the work we will continue to do!

The most engaging space for this site, we hope, will be this very blog. We encourage anyone to propose a blog post based on their research, their experience working in comics studies, or any other facet related to the study of comics. If you would like to propose a longer post (750+ words), please email a short (200-250 word) proposal to our Web Editors at gradcaucus.web@gmail.com. If you would like to write a shorter post, you can send the entire post instead of a proposal. We welcome a variety of posts. We hope that this space can jump start conversations between scholars and give us all more outlets to discuss our research and make both personal and professional connections.

If you have suggestions for the website, or something you’d like to see, please send your request to the address above or use the “Contact Us” form. We want this to be a space that gets used, so we are open to hearing what would be most useful to everyone engaging with the website.

Here’s to the road ahead!

Sincerely,

The Graduate Student Caucus Board