Meet the Board Members: Austin Kemp

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

I’ve been a member of CSS since last year (2021). At the time I was very much searching for a community in this emerging field and feeling as if I was at a deficit in terms of knowledge and scholarship. I came across CSS and gravitated towards its commitment to creating a space for comics scholars to put their own voices out there, to feel heard in a field that still hasn’t fully overcome the institutional biases levied against it. Since joining I’ve made friends out of colleagues who are always there to discuss research or the newest comics-based addition to popular culture, but at a deeper level we are all unified by our passion for comics. That alone is something I am extremely grateful for and if one thing we do as part of the GSC/CSS can have the same impact on one scholar as it had on me, I’ll be happy.

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

I actually have an answer for both. The first comic I ever read was Batman #315.
It was Batman versus Kite-Man on the cover and I spent years tracking it down just to say I owned the first comic I ever read. In terms of impact I’d say Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle had a big impact on me. As an individual who experiences mental illness it was gripping to see aspects of that experience translated through comics composition for the first time. I used to be a standard capes and cowls reader beforehand but Mister Miracle expanded my idea of what comics could do in a personal sense.

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

Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera. Like all four volumes. I literally just finished the most recent trade volume in a scrap of spare time and it’s well-roundedly horrifying. Frequent spreads and concise paneling create an almost cinematic tension that I found unique.

I’ve also just cracked into Dr. Barbara Postema’s Narrative Structure in Comics: Making Sense of Fragments so I can learn more about the structure of comics. This book is broadening my perspective on comics as a meaning-making structure, which is always a welcomed journey.

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

Richard McGuire’s Here has actually had the biggest impact on my current work. McGuire’s composition allows the reader to perceive the actual “history” of a given place. Here depicts the corner of a room along with inset panels as windows into the varying temporalities of that space. The past, present, and future collide on every page. I’m obsessed with this idea of manipulating time and space in comics to imbue a sense of history.

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

I’m really excited about the idea of comics in the digital humanities. The idea of guided reading programs alone creates space to explore how we interact with the comics “page” as readers. The inclusion of sound in many popular webcomics offers a new dimension to the comics experience. I look forward to seeing our understanding of comics expand as digital media grows even more.

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

Albert Monteys. Monteys delivered some killer artwork for Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel and it got me hooked on exploring uses of temporality in comics. There are definitely other people I could mention but Monteys comes to mind having added dimensionality to how I think about comics. I love the idea of being able to separate time/space into “time” and “space” and exploring what that means within a given page or narrative.

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

Neil Gaiman, hands down. I’ve always felt a genuine love for stories in all of his work. Sandman was a revelation to younger me who grew up being told that, like Trix cereal, comics were for kids. A lot of his stories influenced my academic interests and passion for stories overall. Though I honestly don’t know what I’d say if I did meet him other than thank you.

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

Currently I’m outlining and researching for an article concerning the temporal/spatial elements of comics composition. If I’m being really honest I’d say I’m at the stage of writing when I must compile vagrant thoughts into a coherent direction.
I always have plans for future projects, though I caution you to imagine these plans with less organization and more random post-its scattered haphazardly.

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

Feel free to reach out on Twitter (@AustinKemp13) or through email (austinheath2017@gmail.com)!

GSC Vice-President, Sydney Heifler, Talks Winning the 2020 CSS Article Prize

In this feature interview, GSC President, Zachary J.A. Rondinelli, talks with GSC Vice-President, Sydney Heifler, about her 2020 CSS Article Prize winning publication, “Romance Comics, Dangerous Girls, and the Importance of Fathers.”


ZR: As a graduate student, can you tell us how it feels to win CSS’ prestigious Article Prize?

SH: Well, it means a lot that my article was considered such a strong contribution to our field. It was, obviously, something I cared a lot about. I had the idea for this article while writing my undergraduate honors thesis and carried it around with me for quite a long time. I worked on it after I finished my master’s program and before starting my Ph.D. program, so it was something that I devoted myself to. I cared about it, and it matters to me that others also cared about it. Also, it’s nice to feel like you’re contributing to your community and this prize made me feel I had offered something worthwhile to my peers. 

ZR: Tell us about your experience publishing with the Journal of Graphic Novels & Comics (JGNC). What did you learn from it?

SH: I worked mainly with Nancy Pedri and Irene Velentzas as they were the editors for this special collection, Sexuality and Mental Illness in Comics. They were fantastic editors. At first, we tackled the main issue of how exactly I was intervening in the field of comics studies. They really helped me make that as specific as possible, which I think is quite essential. You have got to be able to explain why your research is important to the field to even begin to make your argument. And then, we honed in on language and made every sentence and word as specific as possible, which, in turn, made my research and interpretations as honest as possible. They challenged me in the best way. The journal itself is obviously great, many of the comics studies scholars I admire are on the editorial board, and I am happy to have my work there.

ZR: As your article discusses, romance comics (in general) seem to be an oft-neglected area of focus in contemporary comics scholarship. Do you see that trend beginning to reverse itself? Why or why not, and how has your research been a part of that?

SH: They have been neglected, especially when you compare the work that has been done on them to the amount of work that has been produced on superhero comics. Scholars have been interested in them, though, but they’re usually thrown in as a subtopic in a broader study of comics. But the general reception to my work has been proof that the field cares about romance comics. I’ve been very intentional in situating my work within comics studies and within the broader comics fandom, and everyone knows I talk about it quite a lot, for about eight years now, and I think that has helped. I’ve had students reach out to me, telling me that my work has made it possible for them to research romance comics, which is one of my favorite things.

ZR: In my view, one of the most important things that your article offers to comics scholarship today is the way that it positions romance comics as a force within the larger societal structure of the post-second-world-war era. Your paper articulates this by revealing the role romance comics had in reinforcing traditional gender hierarchies. Can you speak to other ways in which romance comics influenced society at that time?

SH: Thank you for saying that. One of my main objectives in my work is to place comic books 

in broader historical narratives. I want people to understand that comics were important to history and that history goes beyond what happened in the comic book industry. Aside from reinforcing traditional gender hierarchies, they also reinforced post-war notions of class, race, and fulfillment, sexual and otherwise. They are also a great way to comprehend how men were trying to understand women and how they felt about what they perceived about these women. For instance, during the 1970s, in women’s lib romance comics, writers challenged dominant ideas within the Women’s Liberation Movement, which reveals much about their potential anxieties concerning masculinity and security within their own lives. 

ZR: Extending this line of thinking, your paper also comments on the ways in which romance comics contributed to the social construct of “fatherhood” and a father’s role in safeguarding his daughter. Without giving too much from your paper away, can you tell us a bit about how the echoes of this influence still exist today?

SH: Oh, I don’t think the father-as-safeguarder for daughter is going away any time soon, but the more sexual and romantic elements of this father-daughter relationship have faded. Unlike in romance comics, when such relationships are depicted today, they are problematized though there are always exceptions to the rule. There are still echoes in both popular media and real life. In popular media, I see echoes the most when there is an older man acting fatherly toward a younger woman and then using the consequent power imbalance they create to date her or instigate sexual relations with her. In real life, we have purity balls, in which fathers take their daughters to formalized dances in order to signify her commitment to remain a virgin until marriage and, by implication, her father. 

ZR: Finally, what advice would you give other graduate students who are looking to publish in peer-reviewed journals?

SH: If you’re currently enrolled in grad school, use one of your seminars as an opportunity to craft the article, or at least the beginning stages of an article–don’t create extra work for yourself if you don’t need to! Really narrow down your topic. In an article, you don’t have as much space as you think you do, and you need to be able to address your topic from every angle, or at least have the room to justify the angles you aren’t examining. There is so much I could have written about teenage romance comics, but I picked one thing that I thought was very important, and I stuck to that one thing, which was rather hard at times (my editors kept me on point!). That is another crucial thing, pick something you care about because the article process is quite long, and I think if I hadn’t cared about what I was contributing to my field, I would have felt beat up by the whole process. 

I would also have a senior person in your field look over your work and offer insights, or at least have someone you trust that you feel comfortable running things by. My person was Michael Goodrum, who I asked many questions regarding historiographical anxieties and framing issues. I also had someone who knew nothing about comics, or post-war history read my article to make sure it was accessible to a broader audience. Not everyone cares how accessible their scholarship is, and they only want to speak to the experts in their field, but accessibility is something I care about, and I think it is something our field generally strives for.

Last thing is, pick your journal carefully. You want to make sure that the journal is a good fit for your work. I responded to a call for papers, so I already knew my work fit nicely within the general project. It’s important to be strategic about where you’re publishing so that you are marketing yourself for the future job you want. I wanted to mark myself as a comics studies scholar, which also has the benefit of signaling that I’m interdisciplinary in my approach to history, so a comics studies journal made sense.. However, as someone who hopes to end up in a history department, I also have to publish in a history journal, which will likely change how I approach my next article. 

ZR: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us all, Sydney!

SH: My pleasure!


Sydney Heifler’s article, “Romance Comics, Dangerous Girls, and the Importance of Fathers,” can be found in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics volume 11, issue 4. Follow this link for more information.

Meet the Board Members: Frida Heitland

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

I joined the graduate student caucus in May 2021. I had been following the contents of the listserv for a while and when the call for applications for the GSC came up, I was immediately interested. I was between my master’s degree and the PhD, so the GSC promised a great way to stay in touch with the academic world and get to know some of the researchers alongside whom I hoped to work in the future.

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

I believe somewhere in between illustrated children’s book and comics were the Swedish Pettson and Findus books my parents read to me when I was little. They tell stories of an old recluse living with his talking cat and chickens – they’re still quite popular in Germany. The watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and full of little details for kids to explore, like small creatures inhabiting the nooks and crannies of their house. A single image often contains different moments in time to express movement and Findus’ (the cats’) body is especially fluid and “morphable” to show how he jumps, races, and wiggles around.

The first comics proper were Donald Duck (soon to be followed by Franco-Belgian productions that are commonly found in Germany, too). Without realizing it at the time, these works often brought me in touch with re-tellings of famous or even canonized texts and figures, such as Gulliver’s Travels, Jules Verne and the Nautilus, or Marco Polo. I might be romanticizing here, but I like to think this early contact laid the first cobblestone of my path to studying literature.

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

Since my plan is to combine comics studies and ecocriticism/environmental humanities, I’ve been delving into the latter recently. Ursula K. Heise’s concept of eco-cosmopolitanism (a self-aware, transnational, multi-scalar dialogue) provides a great framework, I think, for combining the two fields, so her book Imagining Extinction is an obvious recommendation.

I’m currently reading Jennifer Wenzel’s The Disposition of Nature, which promises to be an application of eco-cosmopolitanism which I hope can help guide my own future research. Wenzel discusses world literature and proposes to read “from the ground up”, shifting between the local and the transnational – not exactly a simple feat, so I’m eager to see how it can be done.

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

I’ve focused on reading up on philosophy (Merleau-Ponty in particular) and ecocriticism recently, in preparation for ecocritical comics studies. I haven’t yet had the chance to assess the work that already exists in this direction in comics studies – I’m eager to hear from or about anyone active in this area, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

For my last bigger project, I investigated visual strategies of expressing highly subjective, potentially traumatic experience in autobiographical comics. Andrew J. Kunka’s Autobiographical Comics gave me great pointers for considering the specificities of these kinds of comics.

Since then, hearing a variety of scholars present their exciting work at online conferences has filled my head with all kinds of ideas during the pandemic.

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

I’m not sure this qualifies as a shift; I am excited by comics scholars taking ecocritical approaches – or ecocritics considering comics. Ursula K. Heise, for example, has a section on the comic Virunga in Imagining Extinction (2016), and Elizabeth Hewitt and Jared Gardner curated an exhibition on “comics and the environment” in 2021. I’m thrilled to see these works and hope to contribute to the dialogue here – within and, hopefully, outside the academy, too.

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

Hillary Chute. Finding her research as an undergrad helped me overcome any skepticism I had harbored about whether comics can be pursued with “serious academic attention.” It shifted my perspective on the medium I had been acquainted with since childhood and sharpened my senses to all its complexities and intricacies. Chute is such a powerful advocate for the breadth and depth comics can cover and present; I have had no room for skepticism since.

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

I’d be thrilled to watch Nick Sousanis work. I probably wouldn’t even have any clever questions for him, I would just sit and guess which abstract idea is taking concrete shape in the panel(s) he’s working on, fully mesmerized.

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

I’m hoping to get my undergraduate thesis into publishable shape. It looks at identity construction in David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. There still isn’t that much scholarship out there that engages with this comic, but it’s such a fantastic work that I hope I can contribute my small piece and perhaps lead some readers to it.

As for the future, we will see where this ecocritical approach takes me. I’d love to work on Miyazaki Hayao’s Castle in the Sky, as well as Fiona Staples’ and Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga – once I have finished the tome of the collected Saga volumes, that is.

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

I’m easily available via email (frida.heitland@gmail.com)

And my Researchgate profile gives an impression of former (not necessarily comics-related) research https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frida_Heitland

Meet the Board Members: Maite Urcaregui

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

I was a founding member of CSS when it first began (I think that was 2015?). At that time, I was in my MA program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and was still pretty new to comics studies. I think I was so drawn to CSS and to comics studies because it felt like an emerging field and community where I could really find a place of academic belonging and where there was space for my ideas. To be a part of an academic society from its inception and to be able to shape the direction of the society and the field has been really exciting for me and is something I haven’t really experienced in other academic spaces. I definitely feel that CSS, especially the GSC, and other comics spaces (like ICAF) are where I’ve found friends, colleagues, and an academic home. 

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

I have fond memories of reading the newspaper with my father, Angel Urcaregui. I think the newspaper was an important mode of literacy for both of us, as he used it to practice reading and writing in English and to learn about the U.S. and I used it to be near to him and to read the funnies. I didn’t necessarily have any favorites, but I remember reading Dilbert, Peanuts, Family Circus. However, I didn’t necessarily love comics or see myself as a comics reader until much later. My first real introduction to comics within an academic setting was when I read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home in an English course in my sophomore year of undergrad. It was a text that I fell into and fell in love with, in part because of my newfound love of and obsession with the form and in part because it made my own queerness visible to me. Fun Home holds a special place for me for bringing me to comics and to myself. (Warning: shameless plug) You can check out some of my writing on Fun Home in The Routledge Companion to Gender and Sexuality in Comic Book Studies, edited by Frederick Luis Aldama!

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

I’ve just added DC’s The Monkey Prince by Bernard Chang (artist) and Gene Luen Yang (writer) to my pull list! I definitely see connections to some of Yang’s previous work in American Born Chinese and love to see the Monkey King (or Prince) picked up within the superhero genre and with an entire creative team. There’s a great red envelope variant of issue #1 to celebrate the Lunar New Year. 

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

I can’t name any single scholar. I have been influenced by a number of comics scholars working within feminist, queer, and antiracist comics studies. I frequently return to Hillary Chute’s work. Her book Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere is a really accessible introduction to contemporary comics history, and I often return to Graphic Women to think about questions of visual representation. The scholar who has impacted me the most recently is Rebecca Wanzo. I reviewed her book The Content of Our Caricature: African American Comic Art and Political Belonging for Inks. Wanzo’s work has been really influential for the ways I think about how visual culture and comics construct citizenship and national belonging and also model possibilities for alternative political frameworks. Finally, the work of Ramzi Fawaz, Darieck Scott, Kate Polak, Jorge J Santos Jr.,  and Qiana Whitted has been really useful for thinking through how the formal elements of comics speak to social and political formations of gender, sexuality, and race.

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

I’m a literary scholar by training, so questions of form (both literary and visual) have always interested me. I think there is a long genealogy of thinking through comics’ formal affordances, such as Thierry Groeensteen’s The System of Comics (translated by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen). Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics also engages questions of form, although I now only ever teach or cite it alongside Johnathan Flowers’ really vital and necessary critique in his chapter “Misunderstanding Comics.” I’m really interested in a newer shift I see within literary studies writ large and comics studies specifically to connect formal aesthetics to questions of social violence, identity formation, and politics. For instance, I frequently return to Kadji Amin, Amber Jamilla Musser, and Roy Pérez’s “Queer Form: Aesthetics, Form, and The Violences of the Social” to think through the political possibilities of form. I see the work of the cluster of scholars I mentioned above, particularly Ramzi Fawaz and Darieck Scott’s “Queer About Comics,” as thinking through some similar formal questions through the specificity of comics. Essentially, I see really exciting futures for a revitalized and politicized attention to form in comics, particularly as it intersects with feminist, queer, and critical race theories. 

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

Again, it’s hard to pin down any single scholar. In terms of how I think about the field and the future of comics studies, I have been significantly influenced by fellow graduate student scholars and junior faculty, who I think are really working toward breaking down barriers between scholarship, artistic praxis, and politics. Collectives like #WomenOnPanels and the Eisner Award-winning Women Write About Comics (WWAC) are largely led by underrepresented, junior, and precarious scholars. These organizations are doing a lot of great work to increase the visibility of women, queer, trans, and non-binary scholars as well as creating comics scholarship that speaks to wider audiences outside of academia. Some of my early publishing opportunities came from WWAC. I know that our beloved former president of the GSC-CSS, Adrienne Resha, has been very involved with both #WomenOnPanels and WWAC.

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

Alison Bechdel and her work will always hold a special place for me, both personally and professionally, and I’d love to meet her and just say thank you.

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

I’m currently working on finishing up my dissertation, Visual Poetics, Racial Politics: Seeing Citizenship in Multiethnic U.S. Literatures, so that I can graduate in June 2022. In this project, I examine a wide range of visual forms and aesthetics that authors employ to think about the relationship between race and citizenship and how they get visually coded and circulated. While this project examines a wide range literary forms and genres that collage word and image (such as Claudia Rankine’s poetry in Citizen: An American Lyric, Deborah Miranda’s multimedia memoir Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, and a collection of Latinx editorial cartoons), it is fundamentally shaped by my investments and training in comics studies. After graduation, I plan to revise this into a book manuscript. I’d also love to finally submit and publish an article that has been in progress for some time on James Baldwin and Yoran Cazac’s children’s picture book Little Man, Little Man. A conference version of this paper received the Comics Studies Society’s Hillary Chute Award for Best Graduate Student Paper!

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

I’d love to hear from fellow grad students and support in any way I can! You can reach me via email at murcaregui@ucsb.edu or on Twitter at @MaiteUrcaregui

The Graduate Caucus Welcomes Submissions for a New Logo!

The Grad Student Caucus of the Comics Studies Society is soliciting graduate student artists who are interested in designing our NEW CAUCUS LOGO! The chosen artist will be compensated $250.00 US for their work!
Interested graduate student artists should complete the form (at the link below) by the call deadline (FRIDAY MARCH 4, 2022). Artists will be contacted by the GSC Executive to discuss ideas following the deadline. Though we invite all graduate student artists to apply, preference will be given to graduate student members of the Comics Studies Society.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScGIUXTj9PsK6Znb1UPO22-YnwgbXzXqbRxa5Wc38LjtjV6Fw/viewform?usp=sf_link

New Year, New Us!: An Executive Update from GSC CSS President, Zachary J.A. Rondinelli

Around here, most people know me as the guy with the really bad jokes. So, even though I’m a little late (it’s only February, ok?!), I thought, what better way to start off 2022 in my new role as GSC President than with an awful joke?

Are you ready? Ok.

Why should you always put your calendar in the freezer on January 1st?

I bet you’re bursting with anticipation… stick around ‘til the end of this address to hear the answer!

2021 was a turbulent year for countless reasons, but we have all soldiered through admirably. So, before I say anything else, I want to say congratulations. Whether you presented at many conferences or zero, whether you published countless papers or none at all, whether you read twenty books, just a couple, or simply added to your stack of “to reads,” we should all be proud of our persistence and resiliency through a difficult year. Now, here’s to hoping that I’m not writing a similar message next year as 2022 turns to 2023.

Here at the Comics Studies Society’s Graduate Student Caucus (CSS GSC), we’ve seen a lot of change recently. I’m grateful that both Maite Urcaregui and Frida Heitland will be continuing with us in their roles as Secretary-Treasurer and Member-at-Large respectively. We’re so lucky to have them and their amazing commitment to graduate students and comics studies on our Executive! That said, I did want to take this opportunity to share some of the changes to our team happening in 2022.

First, I want to thank outgoing President, Evan Ash, for his commitment to graduate students within the Comics Studies Society as both 2020/2021 Vice-President and outgoing President of the Graduate Student Caucus. We on the Executive will certainly miss Evan’s enthusiasm, drive, and passion for service, but we look forward to his continued contributions to the health and prosperity of our field and graduate students’ position within it.

Next, I’d like to congratulate Sydney Heifler for her appointment to the position of Vice-President. Sydney has been a dedicated member of the GSC since she joined as a Member-at-Large in 2020 and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the position. I am looking forward to working alongside her on all of the important work that we hope to accomplish in 2022 and beyond.

With Sydney’s stepping into the role of Vice-President we found ourselves with a vacant Member-at-Large position. An email of interest was sent to all eligible graduate student members of the Comics Studies Society and, today, we are pleased to welcome Katlin Marisol Sweeney-Romero to this role and are incredibly excited to work with her over the course of this term. Katlin will be actively assisting Sydney with the 2022 Mentorship Program (which will be returning summer 2022) and assisting with our new social media initiatives as they begin!

Next, we would like to congratulate and thank our outgoing GSC Web Editor, Dr. Jeremy Carnes, who has recently been appointed to the position of Web Editor with the CSS Executive. We have been preparing ourselves for Jeremy’s departure since he completed his doctoral studies in 2019, and, though it will be very difficult to see him go, we cannot express enough how elated we are that he will continue working with the CSS in his new role. Jeremy has been a stalwart and important member of our Caucus for many years, and I can’t thank him enough for his service to graduate students in our field.

As a result, we have also had to search for someone to replace Jeremy on our Executive board. Last year, we sent out a call inquiring about interest from grad students in the CSS, and we are very pleased to be introducing independent early career scholar, Austin Kemp, to the position. We’re all looking forward to working with Austin this year! You will learn more about him, and our other new(ish) GSC Executive Members, in the coming weeks when he posts our “Meet the Board” interviews!

Finally, we have some exciting projects planned for this year and we are very much hoping that all of you will get involved! Please keep an eye out for emails from the CSS listserv, posts on social media, and general calls for participation with the GSC. If you haven’t already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@GSC_CSS).

That’s it from me! So, as promised, here is the end of the joke that started this address!

You always put your calendar in the freezer on January 1st as a guarantee that you’ll start the new year off in a “cool” way!

It might be February, but toss those calendars in anyway! It’s never too late to be cool!

Happy New Year, comics scholars! Let’s make it a great one!

Onward,

Zachary J.A. Rondinelli (He/Him/His), M.A., B.Ed., B.Mus
Ph.D. Student [Educational Studies], Brock University
President, Graduate Student Caucus of the Comics Studies Society

WelcomeToSlumberland Social Media Research, Principal Investigator (@LittleNemo1905)

“Comicbook should be written as one word… I want you to remember that. I never want to see the word comicbook written as two words. They are not funny books. They are not comic books, they are comicbooks! Remember that, or incur my wrath.” – Stan Lee

Graduate Student Caucus Call for Nominations 2021

The Graduate Student Caucus (GSC) of CSS calls for nominations and self-nominations for positions on its Executive Board. The GSC Board meets virtually once a month, and GSC Board members serve on GSC committees as well as CSS Executive committees.

All graduate student and recent graduate (within 3 years of degree) members of CSS are members of the Caucus, can vote in GSC elections, and are eligible for positions on its Executive Board. To join or renew membership, please consult the Society’s website. The GSC Board will have four elected positions open this spring, to serve May 2021 to May 2022: Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and two Members-at-Large.

GSC Vice President commits to a two-year term of office, serving first as Vice President (one year) then as President (one year) the following year.

GSC Secretary-Treasurer serves a one-year term.

GSC Members-at-Large serve one-year terms.

More information about each of these roles may be found in the GSC’s Constitution.

The GSC Executive Board has one appointed position, Web Editor. If interested in serving in this role, please contact the GSC here.

Please submit nominations and self-nominations to comicssociety.secretary@gmail.com. Nominees should submit a short bio (100-200 words) no later than March 15, 2021.

Results of the elections will be announced in early May 2021.

CFP: Comics Studies Society Conference | Re/Building Community

The 4th Annual Comics Studies Society Conference
August 6-7, 2021

The fourth annual CSS conference seeks to bring together scholars, artists, and other members of the international Comics Studies Society to examine, explore, and work to re/build the various communities of which we form a part. Following in the wake of an exceptionally tumultuous year that necessitated distance and isolation like few of us have ever had to experience, the 2021 conference hopes to spark thoughtful conversations about the intersections surrounding comics and communities of all sorts, from comics shops to web comics, cons to cosplay, creative collaborations to comics collectives, and the graphic narrative communities we study to those that we ourselves inhabit.

In keeping with the theme of re/building communities, we hope to bring to the forefront of this conference connections between communities big and small, global and local. Above all, we want to bring our own community back together in a way that is safe and inclusive, and that also celebrates and invigorates the local communities of our members. In short, we will be working in 2021 to help share what the many diverse communities that compose our membership are doing with our larger CSS community.

To these ends, we are currently inviting proposals for two different modalities for this conference: virtual presentations, panels, and roundtables; and small, local pop-up panels or symposiums to be created with contacts in your local or regional comics community. It is our hope that this offering of two distinct modalities will allow for the utmost degree of flexibility in accommodating individual concerns, safety, and comfort, while also maximizing our points of contact with each other and our communities – what we’ve all been missing in the increased distance and isolation of 2020.

As per our custom, presentations may take the form of traditional 20-minute research papers (either proposed alone or as part of a planned panel) or shorter contributions in roundtables organized around a specific theme. This year we will simply be organizing those virtually rather than in-person. In the spirit of the conference theme, we also welcome innovative collaborations that enact as well as address communal forms of comics studies.

The pop-up panels are an opportunity for you to host your own panel and invite members from your own local community to take part in the excellent work being done in CSS. This can be done in-person, if social distancing needs in your area allow for it at the time of the conference, or via videoconferencing, if an in-person event is not advisable. Whether in-person or online, we hope that this presents an opportunity to encourage your local colleagues and contacts to join us at CSS, albeit virtually, and to enjoy some of the benefits of a small, in-person symposium without the travel associated with the larger in-person conference. More details are available on the pop-up panel template.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

– Comics communities IRL, from academic societies to cosplay communities
– The virtual communities surrounding comics
– Graphic narrative depictions of communities in comics
– Character “travel” from one graphic narrative community to another
– Considerations of various subject positions in comics communities
– Comics and re/building communities in time of social distancing
– Historical and contemporary comics fandom as community
– communal comics production (the underground “jam,” creative teams, comics collectives,
the anthology as community, etc.)
– Community activism, organizing and comics
– The local comic book shop as community space
– Comics and marginalized/underrepresented communities
– The comics of specific localities
– Scholarship as community
– Community and CSS
– Curating comics collections for local or academic libraries

Guidelines for Submission

We are accepting submissions for the following (templates are hyperlinked):

Pop-up panels
Individual papers (20 min., presented virtually)
Panels of three papers (presented virtually)
Virtual roundtables of short (5 min.) presentations by 4-5 presenters followed by discussion

All proposals should be sent as Word files by email by January 30, 2021 to:
conference@comicssociety.org

The conference organizers will send out notifications of acceptance by the end of February. Please add our conference email to your trusted senders to ensure email delivery.

A presenter’s name may appear twice in the program.

In lieu of our usual set conference registration fees, this year we invite our conference participants to name their own registration fee. In keeping with the spirit of our conference theme, rebuilding community, all fees collected from conference registration proceedings this year will go to special funds to 1) support future graduate student and contingent faculty travel awards and to 2) support future annual CSS awards prizes, as well. When you complete your registration via EventBrite, you will have the option to either “purchase” a free ticket or to make a donation (which also comes with a free ticket to the conference). If you make a donation you will be able to choose which initiatives your dollars will support.

All presenters must be members of the Comics Studies Society at the time of registration.

Conference Chair: Brittany Tullis (St. Ambrose University)

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.

CSS GSC Call for Nominations

CSS GSC Executive Board Nominations Now Open

The Graduate Student Caucus (GSC) of the Comics Studies Society (CSS) calls for nominations and self-nominations for officers on its Executive Board. The CSS GSC represents the interests of graduate students and recent grads (within three years of receiving a degree), contingent faculty, and postdocs in the larger CSS, with the GSC President sitting on the CSS Executive Board. The GSC welcomes nominations and self-nominations from GSC members from any stage in their academic career (off or before the tenure-track) for the positions of Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, and two Members-At-Large.

Vice President: The vice president shall work with and assist the president in various duties, acting as a stand-in if necessary. They shall manage internal committee affairs, such as overseeing and delegating various tasks to committee members working cooperatively on rendering the GSC functions operational (building online presence, delivering news, organizing workshops/events, etc.). Additionally, the vice-president is in charge of recruitment of new grad student members. The vice president serves a one-year term. Upon completion of the term, the vice president will assume the functions of the president for one year.

Secretary-Treasurer: The secretary-treasurer assumes the responsibility of managing the society’s finances, keeping minutes from all meetings, and keeping a membership list. The secretary-treasurer serves a one-year term.

Members-At-Large: Two members at large provide advice and aid to the officers of the Caucus. Early career scholars holding contingent positions such as postdoctoral fellowships are encouraged to apply for these positions. The Members-at-Large serve one-year terms.

Details about the responsibilities of each position are outlined in the GSC Bylaws, available here. Information for joining the Society is at CSS website. We encourage nominations and self-nominations from comics scholars working in diverse locations and on all aspects of comics studies.

Please submit your nomination and self-nominations to Biz Nijdam (elizabeth.nijdam@gmail.com). Nominees should include a short biography (100-200 words) no later than March 15, 2020. If a nominee is not currently a CSS member, one must join the society by then.

Results of the election will be announced in May 2020.