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.