Sunday, September 24, 2006

2007 UF Conference on Comics - "World Building: Seriality and History"

Yesterday I received the call for papers for The University of Florida's 2007 Conference on Comics, so I thought I'd post it here. This will be the fifth comics conference hosted at UF; you can find information on previous years here. I had the pleasure of attending 2003's "Underground(s)" conference, so I know that attendees will learn quite a lot from both the scholars and the cartoonist-guests.

Here's the Call for Papers:
The University of Florida's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of English are pleased to announce the 2007 UF Conference on Comics: "World Building: Seriality and History," which will be held in Gainesville, Florida, on March 3-4, 2007, in conjunction with the annual Game and Digital Media Studies Conference, which will be March 1-2.

This fifth annual conference on comics will focus on the construction of narrative worlds in comics, with particular emphasis on the various temporalities of the medium. We are especially interested in the ways temporality informs the status of comics as a serial medium (both in terms of serial publication as well as the serialization of time within the page) and the ways temporality relates to the representation of history and memory within the narrative. This could be in terms of personal and social history, as in Maus and Persepolis, or in terms of internal narrative histories like superhero retcons and crossovers.

Our keynote speakers for this year include Jeff Smith (Bone), Bryan Talbot (The Tale of One Bad Rat, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright), Dylan Horrocks (Hicksville), and Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Action Comics).

We also encourage submissions that cross over with the Game and Digital Media Studies conference, on the topic of "World Building: Space and Community," particularly those that consider the role of time and space across multiple media. We will also consider two-part submissions on related topics to be presented across the two conferences, and other proposals that push the formal constraints of a conference presentation.

Abstract submissions should be approximately 250-500 words in length. Presentations will be 15 minutes with 5 minutes of question and answer.

The deadline for abstract submissions is January 1st, 2007. Abstracts should be submitted via our online conference system, which is on the conference website at . Please direct all questions to
For a list of possible topics, please see the on-line call for papers. Actually, I've been kicking around some thoughts on this very topic lately; hmmmm. Maybe I'll see you there!

Image credit: World Building website.

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Friday, September 22, 2006


Well, not exactly. But the new book Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles and Scrawls from the Oval Office presents all kinds of - well, doodles from America's presidents. I learned about this book from a story on National Public Radio's program All Things Considered yesterday; you can listen for yourself here.

In the audio, the authors discuss the oeuvres of several presidents, including Ronald Reagan (top), whom they describe as a "one-time aspiring cartoonist." Some presidents displayed a bit more talent than Reagan, such as Ulysses S. Grant and his horse (upper), while some present work which, as the authors note, seem definite analyst-fodder, such as Lyndon B. Johnson and his bunny, three-headed woman, and, um, ? (lower).

For more information about the book, be sure to visit its official website, which includes the story of the book's genesis, as well as web-extras like a quiz, ecards, on-line presidential resources, and more.

All images from the NPR website, presumably taken from the book.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dissecting the Crossroads of Infinity

The Sunday Arts section of The New York Times often features a "Close Reading" of artwork currently on display in the city. Today, commemorating the opening of the traveling exhibition "Masters of American Comics," critic George Gene Gustines turns his critical eye toward the work of Jack Kirby - specifically, images from the landmark comic book Fantastic Four #51, cover-dated June, 1966. The column is reproduced as an interactive slideshow at the Times' website (link also currently available off this page).

Gustines does a fine job of highlighting some of "King" Kirby's techniques and quirks in this brief overview, from the cartoonist's fondness for collage (never reproduced adequately in the original comic books) to his fantastic machinery designs. (If only he'd been able to cover some Kirby Krackle, as well!)

Since you can read Gustines' comments at the link, I thought I'd take the opportunity to showcase a few more images from this story. First, for comparison, here's the collage example discussed in the article as it was originally published. When you compare it to the article's recolored version, you can see how 1960s-era comic book publication techniques did Kirby's photo collages no favors:

When it comes to machine design, the article's curiously labeled "Deep Closets" example can't compare to one of my favorite Kirby machines of all time, also conveniently featured in this issue - in fact, it's the machine Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) designs to allow him to travel to the "world of limitless dimensions" above:

And finally, no discussion - however brief - of FF #51 should ignore the issue's iconic splash page, featuring a rain-soaked, silent portrait of Ben Grimm (The Thing). True, there's some of Stan Lee's trademark, over-the-top editorial matter plastered on the page, but in terms of the story itself, the image remains silent. The absence of dialogue or even narration renders the drawing a portrait of isolation - an isolation further enhanced by the nighttime rain shower which pelts the pavement and the morose Grimm alike.

Lee rarely passed up the opportunity for snappy dialogue or "hipper-than-hip" narration, here he wisely allows Kirby's artwork to speak for itself. The somber tone perfectly prepares the reader for the story that follows, a superhero story in which "super powers" are used only twice: once when the impostor-Thing crushes a small metal canister, and once when Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, reluctantly sets his thumb ablaze to satisfy the curiosity of his gawking, fellow college students.

Here's hoping Gustines' article piques the curiosity of Times-readers who might otherwise have passed up the opportunity to visit this show. Masters of American Comics is on display until January 28th, 2007, with half at The Newark Museum (Masters Info) and half (including Kirby) at The Jewish Museum (Masters Info). The latter also is hosting a companion exhibit, Superheroes: Good and Evil in American Comics. Having missed the "Masters" exhibit's previous stops in Los Angeles and Milwaukee, I hope to visit these soon.

Update: Wow, I can't believe I forgot to mention the monumental exhibit catalog (perhaps because I haven't got a copy yet, myself):
Masters of American Comics. Ed. John Carlin, Paul Karasik, and Brian Walker. Yale University Press, 2005. 328pp.
Image credits: Top, the Times website; the rest are reproduced from the 44 Years of Fantastic Four dvd-rom. As noted on the FF images, they're all ™ and © 2005 Marvel.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

September Updates

Here are the book-entries we've added or revised recently to our bibliographies at And we've added many new weblinks as well - too many to list here.
Coogan, Peter. Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre. Introduction by Denny O'Neil. Austin, TX: Monkeybrain Books, 2006.

Foster, William H., III. Looking for a Face Like Mine. Waterbury, CT: Fine Tooth Press, 2005.

Gadducci, Fabio. Notes on the Early Decades of Italian Comic Art. Felici Editore, 2006.

George, Milo, ed. The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2002.

Groth, Gary, ed. The Comics Journal Library Volume Four: Drawing the Line. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2004.

McCabe, Joseph. Hanging Out with the Dream King: Conversations with Neil Gaiman and His Collaborators. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 2005.

Rosenkranz, Patrick. Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution, 1963-1975. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 2002.

Strömberg, Frederik. The Comics Go to Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2005.
More updates are on the way, as always!


Saturday, September 09, 2006


A week ago I had the honor of addressing a group of "First Year Experience" instructors at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY, on Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel Persepolis. I was invited by English Department head (and good friend) David A. Salomon to speak about graphic novels and comics in general, as well as some specific strategies for reading comics and Persepolis in specific.

The instructors - a mix of faculty, staff, and post-first-year students - were looking for a bit of guidance on how to talk about a comics text in a classroom setting, especially to groups of brand-new college students. Persepolis was chosen as a text that all incoming students would read, a strategy becoming more and more poular on campuses throughout the country - see, for example, this article from Thursday's Roanoke [VA] Times.

Over a pizza lunch, I presented a quick-n-dirty run-down on comics as a unique form of expression (like drama, or poetry, or prose narrative, or film), followed by a close reading of a few pages from Persepolis. I tried to demonstrate ways in which the arrangement of images and text on the comics page can combine to suggest ideas above and beyond simply "what the words say" and "what the pictures represent."

We had a lively question-and-answer session, where discussion ranged from broad topics like "why comics in the first place?" to parallels with and differences between Persepolis and the other text the new first-year students had read for the course, Firoozeh Dumas' Funny in Farsi. I hope to hear how the semester progresses; it seemed like a very enthusiastic and dedicated group of instructors.

Site Update News: As part of my preparation for the talk, I created a " In-Depth Information Page for Marjane Satrapi". These Info Pages (see also our page on Art Spiegelman's Maus) collect information on interviews, media appearances, on-line reference entries, shorter print resources, publication histories, and more. Watch for announcements about more of these in-depth pages soon.