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Monitor 58: New Publications on Comic Books

Monitor is an irregularly published overview of publications from the previous six months that may be of relevance to comics studies scholars. The introductory texts are the respective publishers’. Do you have suggestions or information on new releases that have been overlooked and should be introduced on our website? Please let us know via email: redaktion@comicgesellschaft.de.
See previous Monitor posts.


UK Feminist Cartoons and Comics: A Critical Survey

Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels

Nicola Streeten
Palgrave
274 pages
January 2020
Publisher’s website

“This book demonstrates that since the 1970s, British feminist cartoons and comics have played an important part in the Women’s Movement in Britain. A key component of this has been humour. This aspect of feminist history in Britain has not previously been documented. The book questions why and how British feminists have used humour in comics form to present serious political messages. It also interrogates what the implications have been for the development of feminist cartoons and for the popularisation of feminism in Britain. The work responds to recent North American feminist comics scholarship that concentrates on North American autobiographical comics of trauma by women. This book highlights the relevance of humour and provides a comparative British perspective.
The time frame is 1970 to 2019, chosen as representative of a significant historical period for the development of feminist cartoon and comics activity and of feminist theory and practice. Research methods include archival data collection, complemented by interviews with selected cartoonists. Visual and textual analysis of specific examples draws on literature from humour theory, comics studies and feminist theory. Examples are also considered as responses to the economic, social and political contexts in which they were produced.”

 

The Phantom Comics and the New Left: A Socialist Superhero

Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels

Robert Aman
Palgrave
137 pages
February 2020
Publisher’s website

“This book is about the Phantom in Sweden, or, more correctly, about Sweden in the Phantom. Robert Aman uncovers how a peripheral American superhero – created in 1936 by Lee Falk – that has been accused of both racism and sexism has become a national concern in a country that several researchers have labelled the most antiracist and gender equal in the world. When a group of Swedish creators began their official production of licensed scripts based on The Phantomcomic in 1972, the character was redefined through the prism of New Left ideology. The plots of these comics, besides aiming to entertain, also sought to affirm for readers the righteousness and validity of an ideological doctrine that, at the time, was dominant among the Swedish public and influential in the country’s foreign policy. Ultimately, Aman demonstrates how the Swedish Phantom embodies values and a political point of view that reflect how Sweden sees itself and its role in the world.”

 

With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning, and Comics

Susan E. Kirtley, Antero Garcia, Peter E. Carlson (eds.)
University Press of Mississippi
270 pages
February 2020
Publisher’s website

“More and more educators are using comics in the classroom. As such, this edited volume sets out the stakes, definitions, and exemplars of recent comics pedagogy, from K-12 contexts to higher education instruction to ongoing communities of scholars working outside of the academy.
Building upon interdisciplinary approaches to teaching comics and teaching with comics, this book brings together diverse voices to share key theories and research on comics pedagogy. By gathering scholars, creators, and educators across various fields and in K-12 as well as university settings, editors Susan E. Kirtley, Antero Garcia, and Peter E. Carlson significantly expand scholarship.
This valuable resource offers both critical pieces and engaging interviews with key comics professionals who reflect on their own teaching experience and on considerations of the benefits of creating comics in education. Included are interviews with acclaimed comics writers Lynda Barry, Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and David Walker, as well as essays spanning from studying the use of superhero comics in the classroom to the ways comics can enrich and empower young readers.
The inclusion of creators, scholars, and teachers leads to perspectives that make this volume unlike any other currently available. These voices echo the diverse needs of the many stakeholders invested in using comics in education today.”

 

How the Other Half Laughs: The Comic Sensibility in American Culture, 1895-1920

Jean Lee Cole
University Press of Mississippi
214 pages
February 2020
Publisher’s website

“Taking up the role of laughter in society, How the Other Half Laughs: The Comic Sensibility in American Culture, 1895–1920 examines an era in which the US population was becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial. Comic artists and writers, hoping to create works that would appeal to a diverse audience, had to formulate a method for making the “other half” laugh. In magazine fiction, vaudeville, and the comic strip, the oppressive conditions of the poor and the marginalized were portrayed unflinchingly, yet with a distinctly comic sensibility that grew out of caricature and ethnic humor.
Author Jean Lee Cole analyzes Progressive Era popular culture, providing a critical angle to approach visual and literary humor about ethnicity—how avenues of comedy serve as expressions of solidarity, commiseration, and empowerment. Cole’s argument centers on the comic sensibility, which she defines as a performative act that fosters feelings of solidarity and community among the marginalized.
Cole stresses the connections between the worlds of art, journalism, and literature and the people who produced them—including George Herriman, R. F. Outcault, Rudolph Dirks, Jimmy Swinnerton, George Luks, and William Glackens—and traces the form’s emergence in the pages of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal-American and how it influenced popular fiction, illustration, and art. How the Other Half Laughs restores the newspaper comic strip to its rightful place as a transformative element of American culture at the turn into the twentieth century.”

Monitor 57: New Publications on Comic Books

Monitor is an irregularly published overview of publications from the previous six months that may be of relevance to comics studies scholars. The introductory texts are the respective publishers’. Do you have suggestions or information on new releases that have been overlooked and should be introduced on our website? Please let us know via email: redaktion@comicgesellschaft.de.
See previous Monitor posts.


Comics as Communication: A Functional Approach

Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels

Paul Fisher Davies
Palgrave
357 pages
November 2019
Publisher’s website

“This book explores how comics function to make meanings in the manner of a language. It outlines a framework for describing the resources and practices of comics creation and readership, using an approach that is compatible with similar descriptions of linguistic and multimodal communication.
The approach is based largely on the work of Michael Halliday, drawing also on the pragmatics of Paul Grice, the Text World Theory of Paul Werth and Joanna Gavins, and ideas from art theory, psychology and narratology. This brings a broad Hallidayan framework of multimodal analysis to comics scholarship, and plays a part in extending that tradition of multimodal linguistics to graphic narrative.”

 

The Comics of Alison Bechdel: From the Outside In

Critical Approaches to Comics Artists Series

Janine Utell (ed.)
University Press of Mississippi
282 pages
January 2020
Publisher’s website

“Alison Bechdel is both a driver and beneficiary of the welcoming of comics into the mainstream. Indeed, the seemingly simple binary of outside/inside seems perpetually troubled throughout the career of this important comics artist, known for Fun Home, Are You My Mother?, and Dykes to Watch Out For. This volume extends the body of scholarship on her work from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
In a definitive collection of original essays, scholars cover the span of Bechdel’s career, placing her groundbreaking early work within the context of her more well-known recent projects. The contributors provide new insights on major themes in Bechdel’s work, such as gender performativity, masculinity, lesbian politics and representation, trauma, life writing, and queer theory.
Situating Bechdel among other comics artists, this book charts possible influences on her work, probes the experimental traits of her comics in their representations of kinship and trauma, combs archival materials to gain insight into Bechdel’s creative process, and analyzes her work in community building and space making through the comics form.
Ultimately, the volume shows that Bechdel’s work consists of performing a series of selves—serializing the self, as it were—each constructed and refracted across and within her chosen artistic modes and genres.”

 

The Supervillain Reader *

Robert Moses Peaslee, Robert G. Weiner (eds.)
University Press of Mississippi
432 pages
January 2020
Publisher’s website

The Supervillain Reader, featuring both reprinted and original essays, reveals why we are so fascinated with the villain. The obsession with the villain is not a new phenomenon, and, in fact, one finds villains who are “super” going as far back as ancient religious and mythological texts. This innovative collection brings together essays, book excerpts, and original content from a wide variety of scholars and writers, weaving a rich tapestry of thought regarding villains in all their manifestations, including film, literature, television, games, and, of course, comics and sequential art. While The Supervillain Reader focuses on the latter, it moves beyond comics to show how the vital concept of the supervillain is part of our larger consciousness.
Editors Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner collect pieces that explore how the villain is a complex part of narratives regardless of the original source. The Joker, Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn, Darth Vader, and Magneto must be compelling, stimulating, and proactive, whereas the superhero (or protagonist) is most often reactive. Indeed, whether in comics, films, novels, religious tomes, or video games, the eternal struggle between villain and hero keeps us coming back to these stories over and over again.”

 

Unstable Masks: Whiteness and American Superhero Comics

New Suns: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Speculative

Sean Guynes, Martin Lund (eds.)
Ohio State University Press
274 pages
January 2020
Publisher’s website

“In Unstable Masks: Whiteness and American Superhero Comics, Sean Guynes and Martin Lund bring together a series of essays that contextualize the histories and stakes of whiteness studies, superhero comics, and superhero studies for academics, fans, and media-makers alike. The volume illustrates how the American comic book superhero is fundamentally a figure of white power and white supremacy and ultimately calls for diversity in superhero comics as well as a democratized media culture.
Contributors not only examine superhero narratives but also delve into the production, distribution, audience, and reception of those narratives, highlighting the imbrication of forces that have helped to create, normalize, question, and sometimes even subvert American beliefs about whiteness and race. Unstable Masks considers the co-constitutive nature of identity, representation, narrative, production and consumption, and historical and cultural contexts in forging the stereotypes that decide who gets to be a superhero and who gets to be American on the four-color pages of comic books.”

 

Dreaming the Graphic Novel: The Novelization of Comics

Paul Williams
Rutgers University Press
278 pages
January 2020
Publisher’s website

“The term “graphic novel” was first coined in 1964, but it wouldn’t be broadly used until the 1980s, when graphic novels such as Watchmen and Maus achieved commercial success and critical acclaim. What happened in the intervening years, after the graphic novel was conceptualized yet before it was widely recognized?
Dreaming the Graphic Novel examines how notions of the graphic novel began to coalesce in the 1970s, a time of great change for American comics, with declining sales of mainstream periodicals, the arrival of specialty comics stores, and (at least initially) a thriving underground comix scene. Surveying the eclectic array of long comics narratives that emerged from this fertile period, Paul Williams investigates many texts that have fallen out of graphic novel history. As he demonstrates, the question of what makes a text a ‘graphic novel’ was the subject of fierce debate among fans, creators, and publishers, inspiring arguments about the literariness of comics that are still taking place among scholars today.
Unearthing a treasure trove of fanzines, adverts, and unpublished letters, Dreaming the Graphic Novel gives readers an exciting inside look at a pivotal moment in the art form’s development.”

 


*The ComFor editorial board regrets the lack of diversity in this publication. We endeavour to cover the entire spectrum of comics studies, report in a neutral way and keep the editorial selection process to a minimum. But we are also aware of the problematic structures that shape our academic research environment and that frequently lead to a lower visibility of female comics scholars as well as those with marginalised identities in general. We know that this imbalance is often not intended by the editors / organisers and we do not want to imply this in any way. But nonetheless, we would like to draw attention to it to raise awareness for this problem.