#CSS19 Sneak Peek: Alexandra Lampp Berglund’s “Analyzing ‘The Truth’: An Examination of Gender and (Dis)ability in Wonder Woman”

CSS19, Comics/Politics begins in just 10 days! Continuing our Sneak Peek series is GSC Member-at-Large Alexandra Lampp Berglund on her presentation “Analyzing ‘The Truth’: An Examination of Gender and (Dis)ability in Wonder Woman.” We’ll be back next week with the final installment of #CSS19 Sneak Peek!

The 2nd Annual CSS Conference is fast approaching, and I can’t wait to learn with and from so many of you while there!

At this year’s conference, I will be presenting a paper titled, “Analyzing ‘The Truth’: An Examination of Gender and (Dis)ability in Wonder Woman.” As a part of the panel, “Feminist Theory and Contemporary Comics,” I will be presenting my research alongside Jocelyn Sakal Froese and Miriam Kent. Before the conference, I wanted to share my research with you all, including my conference proposal submission and the title slide of my presentation.

My paper began as a course project in the Spring 2018 and has continued to expand and evolve since I began. As a critical (dis)ability scholar and a lifelong reader of Wonder Woman comics, I knew I had to explore many of the poignant images featured in the Rebirth reboot, specifically the seven-part arc “The Truth.” 

I even include one of these images on the cover slide of my presentation, featured above. In addition to the image, I’ve also included the title of my presentation–a title inspired by the title of the arc itself–my name, institution, and Twitter handle. The latter three elements will appear on every slide in the presentation. Below my personal information, I have also included credit for the image used for the background (Wonder Woman (2017-2019) #15 by Greg Rucka). Each time art is featured, credit will also be provided on the same slide, as shown below. 

This will be my first time attending and presenting at a comics conference, so learning these appropriate presentation conventions before the conference from my peers on the CSS-GSC was so helpful (Thanks, Adrienne!). 

To share more about my research, I’ve included my conference proposal below: 

Wonder Woman and the sense of awe she inspires is in stark contrast to typical depictions of (dis)ability. Readers may find it difficult to associate Wonder Woman and her renowned visual representation with stereotypical characteristics of (dis)ability. Yet, one comic sought to change this. With the latest reboot of DC Comics, Rebirth, the creators of Wonder Woman designed a storyline that features Wonder Woman as a patient within Nightsong Hospital, an apparent asylum, crippled with the knowledge of her origin. The seven-issue arc explores the events that cause Wonder Woman’s admittance, her stay, and later release from the mental health facility.

This paper seeks to examine the ways in which (dis)ability and feminist theories intersect within one particular issue of this arc, “The Truth: Part One,” and how different elements of the comic enforce varying representations of (dis)ability and gender. Through the use of line style, panel transitions, and word picture relations, the writer, artist, and colorist collectively have issued a graphic text that visually depicts these conceptions. Additionally, throughout the single issue, repetitive themes and reappearances of certain elements create a sense of related narrative elements or general arthrology (Groensteen, 1999) that further assert a complex depiction of (dis)ability and gender. Throughout the presentation, these elements of the comic will be analyzed and critiqued using the feminist theory of (dis)ability to explore the myriad ways the creators have sought to portray the lived experiences of both (dis)ability and femininity.

My presentation is on Friday (full program). Come say hi, and let’s chat about Wonder Woman!

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Comics Studies Society 2018 Award & Prize Winners

The Comics Studies Society is pleased to announce the winners of its 2018 Awards and Prizes. The CSS Prizes recognize outstanding contributions to the study of comics art. Nominees should draw on original research, advance existing scholarship where relevant, and reflect the highest standards of rigor and professionalism. 
2018 prize-winners will be publicly recognized at the CSS’s next conference, to be held at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, July 25-27, 2019. 

2018 Hillary Chute Award for Best Graduate Student Conference 

Isabelle Martin(University of Illinois at Chicago)
“‘The Weight of Their Past’: Reconstructing Memory and History through Reproduced Photographs in Thi Bui’s Graphic Novel The Best We Could Do,” presented at the Comics Arts Conference, San Diego, July 2018.

2018 Gilbert Seldes Prize for Public Scholarship

Osvaldo Oyola (New York University)https://themiddlespaces.com/

  • “Guess Who’s Coming Home for the Holidays: Intergenerational Conflict in Bitch Planet,” The Middle Spaces, Dec. 11, 2018
  • “‘I AM (not) FROM BEYOND!’: Situating Scholarship & the Writing ‘I’”, The Middle Spaces, Dec. 25, 2018 
  • “YA = Young Avengers: Asserting Maturity on the Threshold of Adulthood,” The Middle Spaces, Oct. 16, 2018, which has been selected for publication in INKS.

2018 CSS Article Prize

André M. Carrington (Drexel University)
“Desiring Blackness: A Queer Orientation to Marvel’s Black Panther, 1998–2016,” American Literature 90.2 (June 2018).
*Free for next 3 months: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-4564286

Honorable Mention:
Nicholas E. Miller (Valdosta State University)
“‘Now That It’s Just Us Girls’: Transmedial Feminisms from Archie to Riverdale,” Feminist Media Histories 4.3 (Summer 2018).https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.3.205

2018 Charles Hatfield Book Prize

Lara Saguisag (College of Staten Island, City University of New York)
Incorrigibles and Innocents: Constructing Childhood and Citizenship in Progressive Era Comics, Rutgers UP, 2018.
https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/incorrigibles-and-innocents/9780813591797

Congratulations to all!

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Meet the Board: Vice President Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam

For our final Meet the Board post before the upcoming elections, we focus on our current Vice President and incoming President, Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam. Biz is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Whitman College in Film/Media Studies & German Studies. Her research focuses on graphic medicine and comics on disability, visual culture studies and Art History, East German memory culture.

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

I joined the CSS in 2014 at the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) conference at Ohio State University, where it was founded, and immediately took on one of the Member-At-Large positions. Having recently turned my focus to comics studies, I wanted to really entrench myself in the field and help define the role of graduate students as CSS grew.

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

Watchmen. I was never a comics reader as a child and only came to comics during my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island. I was struck by the political nature of the text and, as an art history student, the role of images in constructing its political undertones.

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

I’m currently reading Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey by GB Tran and loving it.

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

The way Charles Hatfield has written about authenticity in comics has been fundamental in how I think about the role of comics in representing history. His Alternative Comics (2005) opened a lot of theoretical doors for me. Hillary Chute’s work Drawing Disaster (2016) has also been essential in how I think about comics and witnessing as well as Nina Mickwitz’s Documentary Comics (2016). More recently, Maaheen Ahmed and Benoît Crucifix’s edited volume Comics Memory: Archives and Styles (2018) has helped me develop how I think about the role of memory in comics and comics in memory.

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

I am among several scholars that have started looking at comics’ relationship to the archive and I’m excited to be able to discuss this turn in comics studies with some of the field’s most promising individuals.

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

Hillary Chute and Kelly Sue DeConnick.

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

Hillary Chute. So much of her work in comics studies made my work possible. I wrote my dissertation on Anke Feuchtenberger and her role in the evolution of German comics after 1989, which was heavily informed by the way Chute talked about women in comics in Graphic Women (2010). My current project – on the role of comics in representing history – is equally shaped by Chute’s Disaster Drawn. Furthermore, as an important female comics scholar, I think of her as a role model.

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

In addition to my current book project “Paneled Pasts: History, Media and Memory in the German Graphic Novel,” I’m starting a smaller project on comics on and for blind or visually impaired individuals.

You can follow “Biz” on twitter @bizabeth.

And if you have any writing that you think might work as a feature on this blog, feel free to reach out at gradcaucus.web@gmail.com. Our editors are looking forward to hearing from you!

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Meet The Board: Web Editor Jeremy M. Carnes

We are continuing our Meet The Board posts this week with Web Editor, Jeremy M. Carnes. Jeremy is a Ph.D. Candidate and AOP Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Department of English, on the Literature and Cultural Theory track.

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

I joined CSS as a founding member at the International Comic Arts Forum in 2016 in Columbia, SC. That was my first time at a comics studies conference, and it seemed like a boon to get in on the ground floor of this new organization. Shortly after ICAF 2016, I began working with then Vice President Josh Kopin and former President Colin Beineke to develop a plan for the web presence of the Graduate Student Caucus.

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

I actually don’t remember the very first comic I read. For some reason, when I get asked this question, the comic that always sticks out is Giant Size X-Men #4 from 2005. This issue focuses in large part on the “Legacy of Thunderbird” the Apache mutant introduced back in Giant Size X-Men #1 and promptly killed off two issues later. I think part of the reason this particular issues sticks out to me though is because of my work in indigenous studies. In one bound issue, Marvel reproduces the bulk of Thunderbird’s story, and the issues of indigenous erasure are hard to miss or forget.

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

One of my favorite new publishers to keep up with is Native Realities Press, which focuses on Indigenous comics. I especially love Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe) and Jonathan R. Thunder’s (Ojibwe) “Deer Woman: A Vignette” and the accompanying Deer Woman: An Anthology. I also think everyone should read Arigon Starr’s (Kickapoo) SuperIndian and Volumes 1 and 2 of Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection (Volume 3 is coming soon).

I am also really enjoying Sina Grace’s continuation of Iceman, now with Nate Stockman on art. Nnedi Okorafore and Leonardo Romero’s Shuri is incredible, issue after issue. I still am enjoying Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther and Captain America, but understand why these aren’t appealing to everyone. Finally, I am continually longing for more issues of David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene’s Bitter Root; Tee Franklin and Alitha Martinez’s Jook Joint, and Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk’s Man-Eaters.

I also just finished Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, which is incredibly beautiful.

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

I got the pleasure of meeting Ramzi Fawaz back when I was an M.A. student at Ball State University before his book, The New Mutants, came out. It was a singular experience. His book and the more recent “Queer About Comics” special issue of American Literature he edited with Darieck Scott have been formative in my thoughts about the medium. I also find myself returning to Hillary Chute and Charles Hatfield, whose work has been so foundational to the field.

More specifically though, my grad student and early career colleagues in comics studies help me to actually do the hard work. They inspire me every day. Margaret Galvan and Nicholas Miller have been amazing writing partners and brilliant people to think alongside. Osvaldo Oyola has been singularly kind in encouraging my work, and in splitting room costs with me at pretty much every comics studies conference. Further, the work of folks like Adrienne Resha, Leah Misemer, Francesca Lyn, Rachel Miller, Colin Beineke, Josh Kopin, Biz Nijdam, Andréa Gilroy, Joshua Plencner, and Sean Guynes has been so important in my own development as a comics studies scholar. I really wouldn’t be doing what I am without these folks and their brilliant work.

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

In his 2010 article “Indiscipline, or, The Condition of Comics Studies” Charles Hatfield wrote about how comics studies has been an import discipline; approaches from other fields, like literary studies or film studies, have been brought in to make sense of comics. I think, following on Hatfield’s hope he describes later in the same piece, comics studies is beginning to flip this approach. I am very heartened by the notion that approaches to comics on their own terms can exist and that these approaches can actually help us to think differently about literature, film, language, philosophy, medicine, or art history, etc.

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

Again, Ramzi Fawaz has been a huge influence in this way. However, I also recently finished Hannah Miodrag’s book Comics and Language, which has totally made me rethink the ways we talk about the form of comics. I think this is one of the most important works in comics studies in the past five years and really affects every facet of the field.

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

I’m going to cheat and name three writers, all of whom are working or worked on related projects: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nnedi Okorafore, and Roxane Gay. I have so many things I’d love to discuss with them about the particular decisions they made in their respective Black Panther (or BP adjacent) series. The Wakanda that we’ve seen emerge in the past three years is quite different from the Wakanda of the 1960s and 1970s. I’d love to just hear them talk about these series.

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

I have a handful of articles that are going through the editorial process right now, but the main project is my dissertation. Tentatively titled Historical Dissidence: The Radical Possibilities of Comics Form, this project explores the various ways comics depict temporality and how these depictions can complicate our understanding of history. I am focusing on critical indigenous theory and queer theory to argue that comics form carries radical possibilities for the queering and decolonization of both time and history.

I’m also hoping a certain X-Men project comes together with a couple of colleagues!

You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @jmcarnes or email him at jcarnes@uwm.edu.

Next week will be our final Meet The Board Post until after elections! We get to hear more about our current Vice President and incoming President, Biz Nijdam.


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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.

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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

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