CFP: Ink and Imagination: Exploring Children’s Comics

University of Florida’s Gainesville campus
April 5-7, 2024
Stichtag: 01.12.2023

The Graduate Comics Organization (GCO) at the University of Florida now invites proposals to our 20th annual conference: „Ink and Imagination: Exploring Children’s Comics.“ The conference will be held April 5-7, 2024. We welcome applicants from all stages of their careers to submit papers addressing any aspect of the conference topic. Independent scholars, as well as creative and community practitioners, are especially encouraged to apply.

We are pleased to announce Andre Frattino and Alison Halsall as our keynote speakers for this year’s conference. Andre Frattino is a professional illustrator and storyteller, having worked in a variety of mediums, from published graphic novelist to ghost tour guide to reality television and podcast personality. He is the creator of the Florida-focused graphic novel series, The Flagler’s Few, (published through Pineapple Press) and will be presenting a keynote on his Putlizer-nominated work entitled A Land Remembered: A Graphic Novel, an adaptation of Patrick Smith’s novel surrounding a family in the 1850s to 1960s Florida frontier. Alison Halsall specializes in Victorian and modernist literatures, with a particular emphasis on Visual Cultures, which includes the study of paintings and illustrations, contemporary film, comics and graphic novels. She co-edited the first-ever collection, The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader (UP Mississippi 2022), which recently won the Eisner Award for Best Academic / Scholarly Work. Her current monograph project, Growing Up Graphic: The Comics of Children in Crisis, an examination of the lived experiences of young people as represented in comics culture, was just published by The Ohio State University Press (2023).

Since the GCO held its conference on comics and childhood in 2006, the field of children’s comics has exploded—artists like Raina Telgemeier (who’s released five New York Times bestselling YA graphic novels since 2010) have become household names. Efforts like #WeNeedDiverseBooks have pushed children’s literature to include more diverse authors and stories, and YA comics imprints like First Second (founded in 2006) have heeded that call.

Despite its popularity, children’s comics are ruled by paradoxes. As much as the form of comics tries to push away from being equated with children, children’s comics are immensely popular and YA graphic novels attract the best cartoonists with promises of advances seldom available elsewhere in publishing. Given that boundaries between what’s marketed as a children’s comic and what children actually read can be blurry, how do we define and engage children’s comics as an area of study?

Possible topics or themes may include but are not limited to:

  • Comics in practice: We welcome creative presentations and cartooning workshops.
  • Audience/consumerism: Who are children’s comics for? How have the distinctions between child and adult readers been arbitrary? What makes a comic “for children”? What role does marketing and branding play in the production and distribution of children’s comics?
  • Medium: How does the form in which children’s comics are created (print, webcomics, social media, etc.) impact their messages? How does form impact reader experience?
  • Control: How and why have children’s comics faced censorship? How do child characters and readers claim agency? How do children’s comics navigate interpersonal dynamics and global issues?
  • Genre: How do children’s comics work within, expand, and resist established comics genres such as comedy, education, superheroes, memoir, fable, and coming-of-age narratives, among others?
  • Diversity: How do children’s comics contribute to the representation and understanding of transnational and diasporic stories for young readers? How can children’s comics serve as a medium for preserving and transmitting cultural heritage? How can children’s comics be used as educational tools to foster cross-cultural understanding and empathy? What ethical concerns arise when adapting and translating children’s comics?
  • Intersectionality: How do children’s comics interrogate the marginalization of race, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, et cetera?

We encourage presentations on any of these themes, including traditional academic papers. We especially welcome creative and hybrid creative/academic work by scholar-practitioners. Presentations should be 15 minutes in length. We are unable to evaluate abstracts in languages besides English, but we welcome multilingual presentations and will do our best to support such work. Sign language interpreters will be made available upon request. Please send 250-word proposals, 100-word bios that include your institutional affiliation and job title, and any A/V requirements to by December 1st, 2023.

Discussion panels from multiple presenters coordinated around a central topic or theme are welcome. Please send 250-word proposals describing the whole panel, 100-word bios that include institutional affiliation and job title for each presenter, and any A/V requirements to by December 1st, 2023.

This conference will be held in person at the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus. If you wish to participate but cannot attend in person due to financial or health concerns, please notify us to see if a hybrid option can be arranged.

UF’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature will offer tours of the collection during the conference as well as limited research appointments. We will also be partnering with our local cartooning school, the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) to hold a local comics and zines fest on the final day of the conference.

The conference is made possible thanks to support from the UF English Department, the Dortort Foundation Fund for Comic Studies, UF’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, and the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW).