10.-12. April 2015
The analysis of diversity and representation in comic books is an integral and growing part of Comics Studies. For example, in only the past few years, Adilifu Nama published Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes (2011), which provides a historical overview of black comic-book superheroes and racial dynamics in superhero comics; Sheena C. Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II edited Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (2013), an essay collection which explores representations of race in both comic books and comic strips; and Joseph J. Darowski came out with X-Men and the Mutant Metaphor: Race and Gender in the Comic Books, which examines and tracks race and gender identity in the Uncanny X-Men roster of heroes and villains (2014).
Mainstream comics have been increasingly open to experimenting with diversity in sexuality, race, gender, and disability. Marvel has a new Muslim woman superhero; “traditionally” straight superheroes have been coming out in new universes/continuities; and disability often crosses over into hyperability (as in the cases of Daredevil and Echo, Professor X, Cyborg, and Batgirl/Oracle). However, many of these experiments in diversity have been limited or problematic, and have at times generated controversy (for example, Batwoman’s infamously canceled wedding). Alternative and independent comics, from the underground comix scene on, have long been a space for writers and artists to depict diverse characters who do not fit into the narrow mold of the straight, white, cissexual, neurotypical, and able-bodied male hero.
The goal of “Comics Read but Seldom Seen” is to celebrate and interrogate the representation of marginalized groups in comics and related media. “Related media” can include film and TV comic-book adaptations (as well as their promotional tie-ins), illustrated blogs, video games, news stories with accompanying photographs, street art, museum exhibits, advertisements, and all other cultural objects which juxtapose image and text to create new meaning. We are looking not only for critiques of those instances where imagetexts fall short in their representations of the marginalized, but also for thoughtful examinations of how and when comics and related media “get it right.”
Possible topics may include but are not limited to:
- Race, Space and Place in the Comics (The work of the Hernandez Brothers; Jessica Abel’s La Perdida; the work of Marjane Satrapi; Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat)
- Representing Disability and Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home; autism in Keiko Tobe’s With the Light; epilepsy in David B.’s Epileptic)
- Milestone Media and its history with DC
- Queering the Supercommunity (LGBTQ representations in mainstream comics; “traditionally” straight superheroes coming out in new universes/continuities; conversations and backlash surrounding queer representation in mainstream comics; Northstar’s highly-publicized wedding; Batwoman’s canceled wedding)
- Rethinking Race in ‘Mainstream’ Comics (Robert Morales and Kyle Baker’s The Truth: Red, White & Black)
- Where Disability Meets Hyperability (Daredevil and Echo; Professor X; Cyborg; Batgirl/Oracle)
- Manga and LGBTQ issues (Trans in Moto Hagio’s Wandering Son; representations of homosexuality in shounen-ai, shoujo-ai, yaoi, yuri, bara and BL)
- Physical Disability in Manga (Inoue Takahiko’s REAL)
- Diversity and Representation in Imagetextual News Media (the visual rhetoric of diversity in photojournalism)
- Diversity and Representation in Video Games (female leads in games [Portal, Beyond Good and Evil]; gaming characters of color [The Walking Dead]; the visual rhetoric of the Lara Croft reboot; the expansion of “queer” options dictated by player choice in Bioware RPGs)
- Diversity and Representation in Cartoons and Anime (non-white leads in cartoons [anything from kids’ superhero fare like Generator Rex to satire like The Boondocks]; gender and sexuality in anime [Revolutionary Girl Utena, anime adaptations of LGBTQ manga]; “girl power” or female-led cartoons [Powerpuff Girls, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, The Legend of Korra])
In addition to traditional, 15-20 minute presentations, “Comics Read but Seldom Seen” will also consider discussion panels from multiple presenters coordinating around a central topic or theme.
Proposals should be between 200 and 300 words, and are due January 1, 2015. All proposals should be submitted to Najwa Al-Tabaa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Najwa Al-tabaa, GCO President, contact: email@example.com