We’ve heard from half of the new Executive Committee for the Grad Student Caucus. We continue today with our new Member-at-Large, Sydney Heifler!
How long have you been involved with CSS? What brought you to CSS?
This year is my first year being involved in CSS. I originally became interested in CSS when I heard about the excellent research being presented at the CSS annual conferences. I was thrilled to be accepted to this year’s conference, but that was understandably canceled. When I saw the opportunity to become more involved in the community as a graduate student, I jumped on it.
What was the first comic that you remember reading, or the first that really had an impact on you as a reader?
When I was about five, I became pretty obsessed with the various Archie Digest comics you could get at the grocery store. My older sister used to get them and let me read them when she finished them. My mom put an end to that when I started comparing my twin sister and myself to Betty and Veronica (I told her I was the better twin because I was nice like Betty and my twin was mean like Veronica). I hope that I have developed into a more self-aware consumer…
What are you reading now that you think others should look into?
I think everyone should read romance comics. These comics were extremely popular when they were published, and many influential comics artists and creators worked on them. They also have a significant influence on popular culture today—the style of romance comics is everywhere! In short, they are important cultural and historical artifacts that are often overlooked or underexplored.
What comics scholar has most impacted your current research, and why?
I would say that Michael Goodrum’s work has greatly influenced mine. He’s been very helpful since meeting him while I was studying for my master’s at Oxford. I really appreciate his historical approach to comics research, and he has given me some great mentorship in that area. I highly recommend his article “‘Superman Believes that a Wife’s Place is in the Home’: Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and the Representation of Women” to anyone interested in how to apply historical analysis to comics.
Is there any recent shift in the field of comics studies that you are particularly excited about?
This question is hard to answer because there are so many good things emerging, like the focus on graphic medicine. I would say, as it relates to my research, I love recent studies on the effect of fandom and memory on the development of comics scholarship. I also hope that research on fashion in comics continues to grow. I was recently introduced to this area of research by Monica Geraffo for our chapter on Janet Van Dyne (written for Jamie Brassett and Richard Reynolds’s Superheroes and Excess). It is a gratifying line of research!
Who is the comics writer/artist/scholar that has most influenced the way you think about the field?
Honestly, I do not have one person who has influenced me “the most.” At every conference I attend, I make a point of going to at least one panel that is entirely outside my area of expertise or immediate interest. I end up being influenced in ways unexpected. That is how I found Neil Cohn. He presented some of his research at the 2019 Comics Arts Conference at San Diego Comic-Con International. I would never have thought visual linguistics applied to my research on romance comics, but it does!
If you could choose one comic writer or artist to meet who would it be and why?
I would love to meet Lily Renée! Not only did she do beautiful work for Fiction House as well as some of my favorite romance work for St. John, but her personal story is also incredible. Those interested should read Trina Robbins’s Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer (2011) or watch Lily (2019). The judges put her on this year’s Eisner Hall of Fame ballot. I hope she gets voted in; she just celebrated her 99th birthday for goodness sake!
What are you currently working on and do you have plans for future projects?
I’m finishing up my and Monica Geraffo’s chapter on Janet Van Dyne and several romance comics publications. I’ll be starting a book proposal on romance comics soon. In the Fall, I am beginning my Ph.D. in History at the Ohio State University, which I’m sure will keep me busy!
How can folks get in contact with you to talk more about comics or your research?
I am easily contacted through email ( sydneyheifler [@] gmail.com ) or twitter (@romancecomicbks).