A collection organized to further the goals of Saving the Day: Accessing Comics in the Twenty-first Century, a joint outreach effort of the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain and the Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture.
(More information at https://accessing-comics-in-the-21st-century.blogspot.com/.)
Our title deliberately evokes the comic book series Classics Illustrated to offer both an investigation and a reconsideration of the ways the comics medium engages with traditional literature and related texts. Comics have long had an association with other literary works, as the medium often retells, reworks, reimagines, or continues many other narratives. Frequently, comics achieve their intended purpose by translating literary themes, elements, characters, story arcs, images, or callbacks from their referents—though sometimes the connections remain more subtle, more embedded than explicit.
This collection seeks to explore comics’ relationships with traditional literary texts and similar works by using the theoretical frameworks established by scholars, such as Linda Hutcheon and Julie Sanders. Specifically, this collection seeks to trace textual connections between comics and traditional literary classics and similar texts as well as to build and expand upon previous studies of comics adaptation.
Two definitions emerge from studies in adaptation and appropriation: On one hand, Hutcheon writes that, by calling a work an adaptation, “we openly announce its overt relationship to another work or works” and that an adaptation is “repetition without replication” (A Theory of Adaptation 6,7). On the other hand, Sanders defines “appropriation” as a text that “frequently effects a more decisive journey away from the informing text into a wholly new cultural product and domain” (Adaptation and Appropriation 35). By using these definitions as starting points, we can begin to explore how and why different comics adapt or appropriate elements of classic literature and related works to different ends, different means, and different audiences, and why those myriad elements factor into their critical receptions.
Papers can explore adaptations and/or appropriations of literary works, themes, characters, etc. as they appear in comics and other graphic narratives, and we welcome particular emphasis on papers highlighting the rationale and importance of the shift from one medium to another. Examples of such topics (as explored in previous scholarship) are, but are not limited to:
- Adaptations of pre-modern mythology and literature (such as the Odyssey, Beowulf, or the Arthurian legend)
- Adaptations of the works of Jane Austen, J. M. Barrie, Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, and others
- Appropriation of literary characters in Fables and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Fairy and folk tales in Hellboy
- The Hobbit graphic novel
- King Arthur and DC’s Aquaman
- Portrayals of Frankenstein’s Monster in DC and Marvel
- Reimaginings of the biographies of writers, like H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, and Mark Twain
- Robin Hood and DC’s Green Arrow
- Romantic ideals in The Unwritten
- Shakespearean themes and characters in Kill Shakespeare
George Kovacs and C.W. Marshall’s two-volume collection Classics and Comics and Son of Classics and Comics; Benoît Mitaine, David Roche, and Isabelle Schmitt-Pitiot’s collection Comics and Adaptation; Stephen Tabachnick and Esther Bendit Saltzman’s collection Drawn from the Classics: Essays on Graphic Adaptations of Literary Works; and Jason Tondro’s Superheroes of the Round Table: Comics Connections to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, as well as various essays by M. Thomas Inge and Derek Parker Royal. (William B. Jones, Jr.’s Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History might also be of interest.)
Send inquiries, proposals, and/or drafts of papers to the organizers at SavingtheDay2020@gmail.com. We also welcome suggestions for resources (in print or online) that might be of value to the collection and its audience.
Organizers: Nick Katsiadas, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania; Carl Sell, Lock Haven University; and Michael Torregrossa, Independent Scholar
Proposals due by 1 June 2022