The first annual conference of the Comics Studies Society (CSS) will take place from 9 to 11 August 2018 under the motto “MIND THE GAPS! The Futures of the Field”. There will be a panel of the Comic Studies Working Group (AG Comicforschung) of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM) with German comic scholars. The panel, organized by ComFor-member Björn Hochschild, brings together three contributions on “Disregarded Gaps, Blanks, and Discontinuities in the Comics Reading Experience”.
Panel-Contributions & Abstracts:
(1) “Towards a Phenomenology of Comics: Conceptualizing Discontinuities as Movement” – Björn Hochschild (Berlin)
“Phenomenological conceptions of perception have developed into their own theoretical field when researching the aesthetic experience of films. Comic studies, however, have thus far shown little interest in phenomenology. Focusing on movement, my talk demonstrates how phenomenology can offer fruitful perspectives for studying the reading experience of comics.
Mostly seen as a still medium, comics are often defined by the contiguity of images, the juxtaposition of word and image, or discontinuities between panels and the gaps between them. Thus far, concepts of movement seem to focus either on the representation of movement – through gestural lines, body poses, etc. – or, more recently, on movement in eye tracking studies. I would like to propose a more general concept of movement for studying reader’s experiences by drawing on Maurice Merleau-Pontys “Phenomenology of Perception”. His work served as the foundation for film-phenomenology, starting with Vivian Sobchack’s “Address of the Eye”. However, in the light of the moving image, it was mostly read as a concept of perceiving movement. By arguing that Merleau-Pontys work is also a theory on movement in perception, I will propose ways to critically adapt his and Sobchack’s ideas for comic studies. My presentation will use an analysis of Chris Wares “Jordan Wellington Lint to show why and how gaps, ruptures and discontinuities in reading experiences can and should be understood though a phenomenological concept of movement.”
(2) “Musclemen, Toys, and Career Opportunities: Advertisements and the Reading Experience in 1970s Marvel Superhero Comics” – Felix Brinker (Hannover)
“While the study of other paratextual elements (like editorials and letters pages) has enriched our understanding of comic books, the role of advertisements within the reading process has not yet received a similar degree of scholarly attention. Only marginally present in today’s comic books, advertisements were omnipresent during the 1970s, when a typical 36 pages-long issue might have included up to 16 pages of advertising content. Focusing on Marvel superhero titles released between 1971 and 1979, my paper considers the placement, form, and content of various types of ads and argues that their navigation constitutes an integral part of the reading experience. Due to its placement throughout the comic book, advertising from the period tended to interrupt the flow of narrative content, forcing readers to glance at, scan across, or flip over wanted and unwanted commercial messages. Many ads furthermore established a close affinity to the accompanying narrative by echoing the themes of superhero comics or including multi-modal arrangements of words and images. Accordingly, the paper suggests that these advertisements call up similar reading protocols as the comics narratives that accompany them, which are already defined by a contiguity and juxtaposition of different codes and signifying elements. Ultimately, the paper suggests that the strong presence of ads turned the 70s comic book into a multi-purpose medium that, aside from carrying narrative content and providing a forum for a public exchange between producers and consumers, also served as a mail-order catalogue for a variety of different (and often explicitly fan-oriented) products.”
(3) “Blanks as a materialization of forgetting in Emmanuel Guibert’s La Guerre d’Alan“ – Bettina Egger (Salzburg)
“Comics, and more particularly autobiographical writing in comics, have been widely discussed as a medium which materializes memory in a specific and multilayered way. My talk offers a fresh perspective and focuses on comics as a medium of forgetting, by considering the example of La Guerre d’Alan by the French comics artist Emmanuel Guibert. To do so, I will examine the role of the blanks to show how the comic negotiates the idea of forgetting – as opposed to remembering – on a graphic level. My talk focuses on the role of blanks within panels, rarely considered in existing comic studies work. I will examine such white, left-out spaces and framing techniques by connecting Aleida Assmann’s theories about cultural memory and forgetting to Hillary Chute’s discussion of embodiment in comics. By showing several examples from La Guerre d’Alan I want to analyse the idea of forgetting in Guibert’s comics. My talk will demonstrate how a metadiscourse is produced on the graphic level, which questions the life narrative given by the verbal track of the comic. In this way, La Guerre d’Alan appears as a comic which stages processes of remembering/forgetting through the interplay of the visible and the invisible and puts them up for discussion through the mutual questioning of the verbal and the visual.”