Meet the Board: Zachary J.A. Rondinelli (Secretary-Treasurer)

Today we wrap up the introductions of our new board members with Secretary-Treasurer Zachary J.A. Rondinelli’s “Meet the Board” interview.

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

I first joined the CSS in 2017 when I began my Master of Arts in Studies in Comparative Literatures & Arts at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON Canada. At that time, I was ravenously consuming as much comics-related scholarship as I possibly could and was desperate to find some like-minded folks who shared my interests in comics (particularly the communicative/meaning making abilities of the comics form). I wanted to have meaningful and critical conversations that could challenge my own thinking.

As my desire to represent graduate students on the Grad Student Caucus may attest to, I certainly found what I was searching for with the CSS! As a result of my joining, I began to “meet” (both online and in-person) many amazing people who have helped to constructively challenge my views and help me grow as a scholar and theorist. I’ve attended conferences and submitted for opportunities promoted through the CSS Facebook page and listserv that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. It’s been wonderful to be a member of this community!

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

Ha! I have two very different answers for those questions!

The first comic that I remember reading was Batman: Hush as a TPB in or around 2007. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a late comer to comics; I never read them as a kid, opting instead for the Animated television Batman, Justice League, Spider-Man, and X-Men series’ and films. To this day, I’m not actually sure why I decided to pick up that first comic book… but I can tell you that I haven’t put them down since.

The first comic that really resonated with/impacted me was Jeff Lemire’s Essex County. I remember meeting Lemire in 2011 at “HEROES: Cards and Comics” in London, ON so that I could get my New 52 Animal Man #1 signed (which, I might add, is still framed and hanging in my office). While I was waiting in line to meet him, I saw Essex County (2009) on the shelf and decided to pick it up on my way through because I had heard great things about it (it had just recently been nominated for the prestigious Canada Reads award) and was interested to see what comics beyond the mainstream were all about. Lemire’s unique signature art style, intensely character driven narrative, meaningful thematic mediations, and True North setting affected me intensely.

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

I need to get in an obligatory plug for Canadian comics here! Michael De Forge is a Canadian comics powerhouse and has recently published some really incredible work. For example, Leaving Richard’s Valley (2019) which is a comics allegory about friendship, belonging, meaningfulness, and the unforgiving nature of life in our “big city” (a.k.a. Toronto). His most recent work, Familiar Face (2020) is an artistic masterclass in comics surrealism that juxtaposes itself against a powerfully grounded narrative about humanity. These are must reads.

Something that certainly isn’t new, but always worth checking out anyway, is Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo comic strips. I recently received the two-volume XXL Alexander Braun collections as a gift and it has prompted me to return to Slumberland like never before! I’ve read the strips randomly throughout the years, but never chronologically. It seems to me that any comics scholar interested in formalism should certainly know at least a little bit about McCay’s work. My interest in McKay actually led me to start a Twitter project, #WelcomeToSlumberland, where I’ve been tweeting one strip per day and documenting my own reading experience, encouraging others to share theirs, and opening up discussion for collaborative transactions. If interested, I’d encourage people to follow @LittleNemo1905 and join in on the fun! It’s been a blast!

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

There are a number of scholars that I can easily identify as influential to my own thinking about comics. As a formalist/educator, I’ve tended to rely heavily on scholars that do a lot of theorizing about the comics form; scholars such as Barbara Postema, Thierry Groensteen, Hannah Miodrag, Nick Sounsanis, and Aaron Kashtan stand out for me. While each of these people have impacted my work in numerous ways, Dale Jacobs’s writing about comics and multimodality have truly helped to define it.

When I began my M.A., I was headed down a totally different comics-related road. My thesis proposal surrounded one of the first female superheroes and prominent WWII Canadian comics star, Nelvana of the Northern Lights (introduced about four months before Wonder Woman; eat your heart out, Diana!) and the elusive concept of Canadian Identity. As I began my research and started working on it, I just didn’t feel like it was going where I wanted it to go; my heart wasn’t in it. Then, I stumbled across Dale Jacobs’ article in the English Journal, “More Than Words: Comics as a Means of Teaching Multiple Literacies” (2007) and my world was flipped upside down.

Without exaggeration, I can easily say that “More Than Words” forever altered the trajectory of my post-secondary studies. It irrevocably changed the way that I see and read comics, introduced me to the concept of multimodality (which has since become a primary focus for my work in education), and gave me a new, exciting direction that reinvigorated my M.A. work!

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

There are two that I’m particularly excited about!

The first, which has, admittedly, been ongoing for almost a decade now, is the “multimodal turn” in comics. By this, I don’t just mean the recognition that comics are a multimodal medium constructed with modes like the linguistic, pictorial, spatial, temporal, colour, gestural, (etc.) communicating in relationship with each other and the reader, but also that this recognition has started to inform theoretical work. The application of multimodal analysis to comics is becoming more noticeable each year in texts like Paul Fisher Davies’s recent Comics as Communication: A Functional Approach (2020), which embraces elements of multimodal discourse analysis in its framework. Personally speaking, I believe that the application of multimodal analysis to the comics form opens up many new avenues for investigation into how modal relationships impact the experience of reading comics. This is something that my own research hopes to explore more fully.

The second, a shift related to (particularly K-12) education and pedagogical practice with comics, is the idea of teaching comics not as a tool to be used for the goals of studying other ideas and concepts, but rather studying comics as comics. Using comics to teach other ends has been common practice in K-12 education for years and has predominantly resulted in a conceptualization of the medium as leverage for the instruction of other (loftier?) pedagogical focuses. That comics can be explored as a “fully interdisciplinary endeavor” (Jacobs, 2020) has been previously promoted through work like that of James Bucky Carter’s “PIM Pedagogy: Towards a Loosely Unified Model for Teaching Comics and Graphic Novels” (2015). Other similar research can continue to support this shift in comics pedagogy from a view that sees comics as a means to an end in the K-12 classroom to one that recognizes them as valuable contributors to interdisciplinary knowledge-creation.

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

I don’t know if I would say that he has impacted my view of the field, in general, but Tom King is a writer whose work I tend to gravitate towards.

I recognize that King tends to be a bit controversial, and I totally understand that. His work isn’t without its problems, and I’m all for recognizing and challenging those elements. I also think that a lot of King’s work leans into the formal brilliance of comics. Admittedly, King has been blessed to work with some of the best artists in the mainstream comics business today, including Gabriel Walta, Clay Mann, Joelle Jones, Lee Weeks, and Mitch Gerads. Though not perfect (as nothing ever is), these collaborations tend to really reflect the sorts of powerful formal communication that is possible within the medium. I’ve written about this before, but I appreciate the way that the form is just as much a storytelling agent in his work as are the more commonly recognized “words and pictures”. When I began reading King’s work, it wasn’t something that I felt I’d seen a lot of in mainstream superhero comics, so I think I became that much more attuned to it when reading his work. That isn’t to neglect the other creators out there embracing experimental design and communication in mainstream comics (J.H. Williams III and Brian Michael Bendis immediately jump to mind here), or even ignore the potential publisher impact around allowance/flexibility for experimentation. For me, both The Vision (2018) and Mister Miracle (2019), which I’ve published about in tba: Journal of Art, Media, and Visual Culture, were groundbreaking superhero stories and very impactful for me as a reader.

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

Oh, this is a really easy answer: Chris Ware.

Many scholars that I deeply admire, our own Martha Kuhlman, Shawn Gilmore, and Gene Kannenberg, Jr. chief among them, have spilled gallons of ink (metaphorically, of course) writing about his comics and I’ve read many of them in complete and utter awe at what he’s able to accomplish with the comics form. Truly, I think you can sum up Ware’s contributions in two simple words: next level.

My personal journey with Chris Ware has been interesting. Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (1995) was one of the first non-genre comics I bought after I caught the comics bug. Oh, how naïve and innocent I was. I remember reading the first, maybe 50 pages, before putting it down and letting it collect dust for a couple of years. I just wasn’t ready for it at that point. I barely had a vocabulary to describe how comics communicated, but I knew that what Ware was doing was very atypical and I just needed to develop my own understanding of the form before trying to tackle it again. I think that I finally read Jimmy Corrigan in its entirety about two or three years later and loved it!

Fast-forward to quarantine during COVID-19 and I finally bit the bullet and ordered a copy of Building Stories (2012) to occupy some of my time. I’d been tentative to buy the book simply because I was afraid I had nowhere to put it (Aaron Kashtan had made it’s intimidating size very evident during an anecdote in Between Pen and Pixel). The massive box that it comes in certainly doesn’t fit on a bookshelf, and I have limited physical space at my place, but I decided that now was the time to experience it for myself. I’ve had a lot of fun constructing the book’s overarching narrative out of the disparate parts. It is probably the work that demonstrates most for me just how brilliant Ware actually is! That the experience of reading Building Stories can be different for each person, yet still completely unified in narrative, is a major accomplishment

Rusty Brown (2019) is on my shelf, but I haven’t started it yet.

Honestly, Ware’s work is like no one else in the industry and getting to hear him talk about his process and philosophy would, I can only assume, be just as unique an experience.

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

Well, the most current project I’m working on right now is my #WelcomeToSlumberland Twitter Project. The main purpose of the project is to investigate transactional occurrences between myself and the text, others and the text, as well as collaborative meaning-making. I’m hoping that the account will become an archive of diverse readings that I can come back to at its conclusion and interrogate more deeply. I think that there could be something meaningful in there about critical discussion and inspired transactions framed within a digital community.

I chose “Little Nemo” for many reasons. First, they are public domain so I can legally tweet the strips which, I hope, will encourage others to join into conversation because the strip is right there for them to read. Second, I felt as though there was a bit of a void on Twitter for McCay. With all the “Let’s Talk” or fan-related accounts celebrating the work of great artists, there wasn’t really anyone doing anything for McCay, which I felt was a travesty. Finally, discovering McCay’s Northern heritage (he may have been born in Canada) was exciting and got me interested in learning more about his life and other works. John Canemaker’s Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (2018, 3rd ed.) is a really fantastic overview of his life and one of the only biographies on him. He’s just an interesting guy and his work is so incredible; it all came together really well.

As I mentioned previously, anyone can follow the account and join in!

In terms of future projects, I’m really proud to have been given the opportunity to be a part of an exciting National-scale project to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Canadian Comics! 2021 will see Better Comics #1 (1941) turn 80-years old and we’re hoping to commemorate that by collaborating on multiple projects in order to promote Canadian comics culture across Canada! More on that in the future…

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

I’m pretty active on Twitter as @zjarondinelli and am always looking for opportunities to chat about comics and comics research! If social media isn’t your thing, zrondinelli@brocku.ca!

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Meet the Board: Sydney Heifler (Member-at-Large)

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.

Young Romance Comics (1947-63) Vol. 11 comic books

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!

Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book ...

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).

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Meet The Board: Joshua Roeder (Member-at-Large)

We continue along this week introducing our new Executive Board members! This week the focus is on our new member-at-large Joshua Roeder, a Ph.D. student at Drew University.

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

I remember in 2017 my advisor telling me about an upcoming new journal named Inks
and a new scholars society. I was lucky enough to jump on board to become a Comics
Studies Society Founding Member back then and I’ve been following its development
since then.

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

Hellboy by Mike Mignola. Hands down my favorite character and Mignola’s artistry is too
beautiful for us mere mortals. After watching Ron Perlman portray Hellboy on the big
screen back in 2004, I had to get my hands on more material which lead me to comic
books.

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

The Immortal Hulk (2018 – Present). Al Ewing’s writing makes this superhero into a real
monster horror series. The imagery and panels Joe Bennett, Paul Mounts, Belardino
Brabo, Cam Smith, and Ruy Jose create are just as amazing. It really shakes up the
typical superhero formula. I also just started using the Shonen Jump’s smart phone app
to keep up on Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece series.

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

Jean-Paul Gabilliet and his work Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American
Comic Books
, which is a true interdisciplinary study that covers the rise of the American
comic-book industry in the 1930s to present day. I love this multifaceted approach. At
the end of his work, Gabilliet acknowledges the lack of analysis on audience history
through letter columns. This has helped in validating my current research.

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

I’m super excited about the recent connectedness of all us comic scholars since the first
CSS conference! For a long while, being an American historian and comics scholar felt
like being on a small, isolated island. Now, not only have different perspectives become
accessible, but making important connections has been amazingly easier now.

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

Scot McCloud and Understanding Comics was the first piece of comic book scholarship
that opened up the field of study to me. While more nuanced works have come out
since then, his was the one that opened up the theoretical possibilities.

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

Mike Mignola. Again, I love his art style so much and the character writing for Hellboy is
superb. I would like to personally thank him for getting me hooked into reading comic
books.

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

I’m about to be working on my prospectus and then move on to my dissertation phase.
I’m hoping to work on audience reception history of mainstream comic books. With that
in mind, I’ll hopefully have more presentations and articles to give and publish!

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

I can be found on Twitter @joro_89, Facebook, or email at jroeder@drew.edu.

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Meet the Board: Evan Ash (Vice President)

The recent elections for the Executive Board both in CSS and in the Grad Caucus has brought new scholars into leadership roles. We want to continue highlighting the new board members as they step into these roles. This week, we focus on the new Vice President of the Graduate Student Caucus, Evan Ash, who is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Maryland.

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

I have been involved with CSS since shortly before its 2019 conference. Like many important things in my life, I can’t remember exactly what brought me to CSS. Probably a lucky Google.

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

I started to get more interested in comics after seeing The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. I think Watchmen was the first comic that I can recall reading, but Preacher was probably the first series I read all the way though in the summer of 2014.

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

I’ve been reading some older Justice Society comics, and wrapped up America vs. The Justice Society. I’ve also been reading Ben Katchor’s Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay. Those comic strips are rich for analysis in many ways.

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

Amy Kiste Nyberg wrote the book (Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code) that pointed me to the eventual topic of my MA thesis. She was influential in the personal development of that project as well, serving as a reader and meeting with me out in New Jersey.

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

I’m eager to keep broadening the historical dimensions of comics studies. There have been a few books recently (for example, by Lara Saguisag and Qiana Whitted) that have interested me, but that I just haven’t had the time to get through them yet.

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

Carol Tilley, without a doubt. Her observations about youth, power, and censorship have been integral in my thinking, writing, and research. I’m very lucky to be able to count Carol as a treasured mentor.

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

I would love to meet Leah Williams. She’s probably the current writer that I’ve read the most, and I really enjoy her social media presence.

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

I’m very busy finishing up Ph.D. coursework, but I’m writing a dissertation prospectus that focuses on American anti-comics criticism, moral politics, and their impact on children set within midcentury America.

I have a paper that I’m hoping to whittle down into an article on the partnership that National Comics (now DC) had with the National Social Welfare Assembly to produce public service comics. I also have an entry in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of the American Left on left-wing graphic novels since 2000 and an article on a decent literature group in my hometown of Green Bay, WI coming out Fall 2020/Winter 2021. As long as it is still happening, I will be presenting at ICAF@SPX on my National-NSWA project.

As far as future desires are concerned, I’m plotting a web article on portrayals of the 1950s in modern comics, and far down the road, I would love to start an edited collection that expands historical thinking about the American anti-comics movement beyond Fredric Wertham and the senate hearings that transpired.

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

For serious questions and conversations, my email inbox (erash@umd.edu) is always open, and I’m eager to build working relationships.

If you just want to see what’s up, follow me on Twitter @evanthevoice.

Stay tuned for more Meet the Board interviews in the coming weeks!

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Meet the Board: Member-at-Large Bryan Bove

In this installment of “Meet the Board” we hear from current Member-at-Large, Bryan Bove. Bryan is an M.A. student in Interdisciplinary Studies at New York University in the Center for Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement.

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

I first learned of CSS in March or April of 2018. I went to the three professors in my department at NYU who I was taking classes with and told them how I wanted to become more involved with other scholars in my field, and they encouraged me to find listservs and websites that suited my academic interests. Once I found CSS, I knew immediately it was the right community for me.

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

The first comic I remember reading was Giant-Size X-Men #1 that was part of a bigger volume I bought on vacation at Universal Studios in Florida when I was about 13. I was drawn to the diversity of the team, and in later issues, to the sci-fi melodrama of writer Chris Claremont. I started buying other X-related titles that were out at the time, like Generation X, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force/X-Statix, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men. As a closeted, lower-middle class queer teen living in Long Island, New York, the themes of tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion were deeply appreciated.

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

Recently I re-read America by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones and Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie for a paper I was working on about queer Latinx diaspora in Marvel comics, and I remembered how much I loved the inventiveness and boldness of both series. I’m also currently tearing through The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and trying to stay up-to-date on all the X-Men titles. I loved Multiple Man and New Mutants: Dead Souls by Matt Rosenberg.

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

I’m still fairly new to the field of comics studies and working on exploring it more deeply, but so far I’d say Ramzi Fawaz and Hillary Chute have had the greatest impact on my current research. Fawaz’s The New Mutants has been extremely helpful in shaping the ideas for my thesis, and Chute’s Why Comics? was a great read that allowed me to make connections outside of the world of mainstream comics.

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

I’m mostly excited about how much more respected comics studies is as a field compared to when I was first applying to masters programs in 2013, and I hope it continues to grow and find its place within the world of academia.

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

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of influential writers and artists who I admire within the comics industry at various conventions, like the New York Comic Con or Flame Con, but I’d say the one writer/artist who has most influenced how I think about comics and what they can represent is Sina Grace, writer of the Iceman solo comic. I love what he’s done with that character, and how he’s made this unabashedly queer comic/hero while staying true to the mythos of the character. For the same reasons I really admire Gabby Rivera and her work on America. Grace, Rivera, and other LGBT+ writers and artists (like Kris Anka and Kevin Wada) are taking the preconceived notions of what a superhero is and can be and revolutionizing them in really fantastic ways for a wider audience, and I think that’s amazing.

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

It’s really hard to choose only one, but I’d love to meet Mike Allred. I was introduced to his work first through X-Force/X-Statix, but I’ve loved everything he’s ever done, from the obscure Citizen Nocturne and Red Rocket 7 to Madman and his run on Silver Surfer. I love the classic 1960s pop art vibe of his drawing style, and his wife Laura Allred’s color work is brilliant. I also love his storytelling, which is often nostalgic and heartbreaking. I may or may not have a tattoo of a scene from X-Force on my arm, that’s how much I love his work. Can I also give honorable mentions to Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson? Because it seems like every time I find a new favorite, it’s written by one of them. They are geniuses.   

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

I’m currently working on my thesis for my master’s in interdisciplinary studies at NYU, which deals with sexual identity, non-normative masculinity, and continuity in Marvel’s X-Men comics. It focuses on three characters specifically (Iceman, Rictor, and Shatterstar) and has the working title “‘How Can They Be Gay?’ Writing Marvel Heroes Out Of The Closet And Into The Cape.” I plan on doing it as a comic, so right now I’m editing the written portion of it. I’m also working on my own comic and website, which I’m hoping to launch sometime this spring.

You can follow Bryan on Twitter @nerdbove and on Instagram @bboveart.

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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.

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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!

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