Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comics Alternative Podcast 63: What We're Thankful for in Comics

Myself and co-host Andy Kunka,
relaxing after a long day at the 2013 Festival of Cartoon Art

It's a first for The Comics Alternative podcast this week: A show with all three of the Two Guys! That's right, I get to join both Derek Royal and - for the first time - the show's other founding co-host, Andy Kunka, for the Thanksgiving episode, in which we discuss what we're thankful for in the world of comics this year.

Andy and I start things off by gushing over the recent 2013 Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State University, which featured the grand opening of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. Not only was it a game-changing event for comics scholarship in the United States - not only did it serve to celebrate American comics in a grand fashion - but it also marked the first time I got the meet the man I have been sitting in for on The Comics Alternative! Perhaps at the next Festival in 2016, all three of the Two Guys can meet in person. (Click here to see all of my photos from this year's Festival of Cartoon Art.)

We also discuss publishers we're thankful for (mine included Fantagraphics, First Second, and TOON Books), as well as cartoonists, colleagues and friends (Hey, Robert Berry of Ulysses "Seen"! Hey, Columbia University's librarian for comics and graphic novels, Karen Green! Hey, so many other people I forgot to mention!), and lots more.

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes

PS: Thanks for the kind welcome to the fold, guys!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Comics Alternative Podcast: Interview with Vivek J. Tiwary (The Fifth Beatle)

On this episode of the Comics Alternative, Derek Royal and I interview Vivek J. Tiwary, writer of The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story. Even during the hectic opening week of his book tour, Vivek was an enthusiastic and engaging subject, eager to talk about the impact the Epstein has had on his own life (he's is a film, television, theater, and music producer) as well as the importance of illustrators Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker to this biography.

I only regret that I didn't get to ask him about his work with Bruce Springsteen. Maybe next time!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Historic Virtuoso Cartoonists Essay (OSU Festival of Cartoon Art 2001)

I attended my first Ohio State University Festival of Cartoon Art in 1998, and there I was lucky enough to get to met and talk to Lucy Shelton Caswell, curator of the Cartoon Research Library (now the magnificent Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum). I kept in touch with Lucy and was honored when she invited me (along with 30-some other writers, all of whom were better known than I) to contribute a short essay to the 2001 catalog, Historic Virtuoso Cartoonists

I'm in the middle of writing my impressions of this past weekend's Festival of Cartoon Art, and in the process I thought I'd post my 2001 essay. Here it is, as originally included on pages 31 and 33 of the catalog.

A virtuoso cartoonist creates comics which combine utterly original graphic techniques with a purely personal and artistic point of view. Much like a virtuoso violinist, a virtuoso cartoonist shapes appealing artistic experiences for the audience in a way which no one else can. Defining these qualities becomes problematic, beginning even with the question of whether to include the work of cartoonists who work in collaboration. Do we focus only on those cartoonists who "did it all?" (Of course, this distinction ignores the fact that many, if not most, cartoonists use assistants of one sort or another.)

To be sure, in some circles the auteur theory often holds quite strongly. And I would agree that, on average, it is most common that the most satisfying comic art arises from single creators; the harmonious blend of words and pictures (in those comics which use words) perhaps comes most naturally when a single intelligence judges how the two elements best combine, where neither element dominates and both are intrinsically necessary. For example, the classic comic strips which rank most highly in popularity polls are invariably those created by a single artist. The quality of the line, the turn of phrase, and the world view are themselves, in these cases, perfectly in balance.

Recall, though, that virtuoso violinists are not expected to write the music they perform - their acclaim stems from their technique and the interpretive sensibilities they convey. So too, I think, should we value cartoonists for the skills they bring to interpreting a story, whether their own or someone else's. The comics art form, after all, was nurtured (and still primarily thrives) in commercial environments - settings which, if they are not antithetical to "pure art for art's sake," are at least more at home in collaborative ventures.

But cartooning is about storytelling, shaping a narrative idea through the juxtaposition of visual elements. The script for this narrative may be written by the cartoonist or by someone else, but ultimately it is the cartoonist's job to provide its shape, a map for the reader to follow. The best source text will still translate into mediocre comics unless the cartoonist applies a strong storytelling - story-shaping - dimension to the work. Collaborative cartoonists tell the story just as much as the "writer" does, for a comic's words ultimately depend upon the images and their arrangement for their context. The best cartoonists can take any source material and, through their technique, give it shape in a way no one else would consider.

We would do well also to recall that "virtuoso" can also mean an experimenter or investigator; and certainly, many of the most highly regarded cartoonists are well-known for their own experiments with the comics form. What distinguishes these cartoonists is that their innovations, their explorations, and their re-imaginings all serve to facilitate their storytelling, not simply as ends in themselves. The work such cartoonists produce must ultimately communicate a felt experience to be appreciated for more than simply novelty value. A virtuoso experimenter may begin with Simple tricks, but the tricks themselves soon become but an expanded toolbox from which the cartoonist can draw a wider range of techniques than are available to the non-experimenter. The virtuoso uses such experiments to create humor and art which touch our emotions as well as impress our understanding. Not every experimenter becomes a virtuoso, but every virtuoso was, at one point or another, an experimenter.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Comics Alternative Podcast : Interview with Craig Yoe (Yoe Books)

On this episode of the Comics Alternative, Derek Royal and I interview comics editor, historian, and creator (and my pal) Craig Yoe. Craig is the co-CEO of Yoe Books, purveyors of classic comics reprint projects, but we speak with him about his whole career, including his time as Creative Director of Jim Henson's Muppets. Craig's story of introducing Jim Henson to Steve Ditko is worth the price of admission alone! But there's lots of other great stuff here. Bonus: Listen and score along with Craig as my critical fortunes fall and rise!

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Comics Alternative Podcast : Interview with Jeremy Whitley (Princeless)

I return to the Comics Alternative podcast today to join Derek Royal in interviewing Jeremy Whitley, writer of the all-ages fantasy series Princeless. In Princeless, a fairy tale princess realizes that she doesn't need a prince to rescue her but can do quite nicely on her own - and have adventures, to boot! Jeremy talks about the need for comics featuring girls with agency, as well as his roles with the publisher Action Lab, including his new position as "Educational Outreach Director," a position that I'll be curious to learn more about as it develops.

As always, click the link above to stream the episode, or you can subscribe via iTunes.

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CFP: Inkers and Thinkers: The Evolution of Comics / U of Adelaide (Dec 20; Apr 4)

Call for Papers
Inkers and Thinkers:
The Evolution of Comics
Keynote speaker Bruce Mutard
An interdisciplinary symposium at
the University of Adelaide, 4th April 2014

The JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice and the Discipline of Media at the University of Adelaide will host an interdisciplinary symposium exploring comics’ unique combination of art and text, on April 4, 2014. We invite researchers of all disciplines, as well as artists and writers, to submit proposals that engage with the way the landscape of comics is shifting as public interest in comics’ literary and cultural value increases, and digital technologies open new possibilities for content creation and audience interaction. 

Questions that could be addressed include, but are not limited to:
  • What can be done and said with comics that cannot be accomplished with other media?
  • How is comic book culture changing through social media?
  • How do new technologies affect the process of creating and collaborating on comics?
  • What challenges and opportunities face comics creators in Australia?
Abstracts of 300-500 words should be submitted by December 20, with accepted papers due by February 28. Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes. It is our intention that selected symposium proceedings may form the basis of a special issue of an academic journal. 

The symposium will be a free event, and refreshments will be provided. Participants may wish to note that Oz Comic-Con Adelaide will be held the following weekend.

We look forward to hearing from you.

For more information please visit

Bruce Mutard has written and drawn four graphic novels, includingThe Sacrifice (2008) and Aurealis award nominated The Silence (2009) for Allen and Unwin. He currently holds the Australian Society of Authors comics and graphic novels portfolio, and has presented papers on comics theory at Oxford University, Loughborough University and University of Arts, London.
The J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice provides a stimulating research environment for leading Australian and international literary, musical, visual arts and design practitioners. Cross-disciplinary in its outreach and project-driven in its rationale, the Centre aims to generate quality scholarly publications, and interdisciplinary collaborations.
The University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Media focuses on understanding, analysing and engaging with digital, social and participatory media, with an aim to make sense of media's capacity to transform and re-make the world.

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CFP: The Sequential Art: Bandes Dessinées as a Cultural Nexus / Prague (Nov 15; Dec 13-14)

Call for Papers for a Panel:
The Sequential Art:
Bandes Dessinées as a Cultural Nexus
(As part of the Second Global Forum of Critical Studies
organized by Euroacademia in Prague, Czech Republic)
Prague, Grand Majestic Plaza,
December 13 - 14, 2013
Deadline 15 November 2013
“Comics are just words and images. You can do anything with words and images.” Harvey Pekar
The phenomenon known as comics, bandes dessinées, graphic story or fumetti was first defined as sequential art by Will Eisner in his work Comics and Sequential Art (1985). Further inquiries were led by Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) or Benoît Peeters (Lire la bande dessinée) in trying to establish a theoretical framework for this mean of expression. After a long period of being perceived as a childish form of entertainment, nowadays the sequential art is a well-known and respected form of art and it has even became the field of academic research.
This panel aims to feature the transdisciplinarity of its subjects and its methods, to bring together different ways of approaches, and to highlight its numerous possibilities of cultural dialogue. The panel welcomes contributions regarding the following topics, but any other paper or subject related to sequential art are most appreciated:
  • Mainstream, independent and underground comics traditions
  • How comics have been a way of expression to social and historical subjects
  • Theoretical and critical approaches of comics
  • Otherness in comics: depiction of exotic places and alterity
  • The Superhero prototype: a way of understanding the American way of life?
  • The Space In Between. On Time and Space in comics
Phenomenological interpretations:
  • The connection between comics and architecture: François Schuiten – Les cités obscures
  • Comics versus Movies
Please see the complete details of the conference at:
If you are interested to apply you can use the on-line application form on the conference website or send your 300 words abstract together with the name and affiliation until 15th of November 2013 to
Reference / Quellennachweis:
CFP: Bandes Dessinées as a Cultural Nexus (Prague, 13-14 Dec 2013). In:
H-ArtHist, Nov 7, 2013. <>.

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CFP: Comics and Medicine: From Private Lives to Public Health / Johns Hopkins (Feb 14; June 26-28)

Call for Papers:
Comics and Medicine:
From Private Lives to Public Health
June 26th to 28th, 2014
Johns Hopkins Medical Campus
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Keynote Speakers:
Ellen Forney, Arthur W. Frank, and Carol Tilley

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Art as Applied to Medicine in collaboration with Graphic Medicine invites papers for the fifth Comics and Medicine conference, a gathering of healthcare professionals, artists, academic scholars, comics enthusiasts, students, and various stakeholder groups. Stay tuned for information on conference registration by subscribing to this site at the link on the top right of the homepage.

Download the call for papers here.


The theme of this year’s conference, From Private Lives to Public Health, aims to highlight the relationship between comics, personal health narratives, and public health issues such as barriers to healthcare and the stigma of illness. We invite the submission of a wide variety of abstracts focusing on medicine and comics in any form (e.g. graphic novels, comic strips, manga, web comics) including:
  • the relationship between comics, personal health narratives, and public health issues
  • comics in practitioner research and as a method of reflection
  • the use of comics in medical education and illustration
  • the role of graphic pathographies in depicting illness and disability from the perspective of patients and caregivers
  • the application of communication theories to comics in patient communication and public health campaigns
  • comics as a means of representing the role of healthcare professionals and communicating medicine and the health sciences to the public
  • the role of comics in provider/patient communication
  • ethical implications of creating comics for patients and the general public
  • trends in, and history of, the use of comics in healthcare and public health initiatives
  • the interface of graphic medicine and popular culture

Lightning talks: 5-minute presentations with up to 15 slides. This new format is meant to encourage submission of short presentations to share your work (e.g. comics, new research projects, new ideas) in a concise format.

Oral presentations: 15- to 20-minute presentations.

Panel discussions: 90-minute interviews or presentations by a panel of speakers

Workshops: 90-minute sessions intended to be “hands-on” interactive workshops for participants who wish to obtain particular skills with regard to comics and medicine. Suggested subjects for workshops are:
  • creating comics
  • understanding, reviewing and critiquing comics
  • getting comics published   
  • teaching and learning with comics
Submission Process

Proposals may be in Word, PDF, or RTF formats with the following information in this order:
  • author(s) affiliation
  • email address
  • title of abstract
  • body of abstract
  • sample images or weblinks to work being discussed
Please identify your presentation preference:
  • lightning talk
  • oral presentation
  • panel discussion
  • workshop
Please also specify what equipment might be needed (e.g. AV projection, whiteboard, easel, etc.)

300-word proposals should be submitted online by Friday, February 14th, 2014 to:

Abstracts will be peer-reviewed by an interdisciplinary selection committee. Notification of acceptance or rejection will be completed by Tuesday, March 25th, 2014. While we cannot guarantee that presenters will receive their first choice of presentation format, we will attempt to honor preferences, and we will acknowledge the receipt of all proposals. Please note: Presenters are responsible for session expenses (e.g. handouts) and personal expenses (travel, hotel, and registration fees). All presenters must register for the conference.

Image © 2012 Ellen Forney, from her graphic memoir, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me

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Monday, November 04, 2013

CFP: Michigan State University Comics Forum (Dec. 1; Feb. 21-22)

Call for Submissions
2014 Michigan State University
Comics Forum
Academic and Artist Panels 

The Michigan State University Comics Forum - - is an annual event that brings together scholars, creators, and fans in order to explore and celebrate the medium of comics, graphic storytelling, and sequential art. This year's event is scheduled to take place February 21-22, 2014 at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities in Snyder/Phillips Hall on the campus of Michigan State University.

This year the Forum is proud to announce that award-winning comics creator, Stan Sakai, will be our guest of honor and keynote speaker on Friday, Feb 21st, 2014. Sakai is most known for his long-running anthropomorphic animal series, Usagi Yojimbo, which explores the culture and traditions of 17th century feudal Japan and has been published in 12 languages. Recently, Sakai completed an ambitious historical mini-series, 47 Ronin, a comics adaptation of Japan’s best known tale with publisher and writer, Mike Richardson. Sakai’s work has garnered him numerous Eisner Awards and in 2011 the Japanese American National Museum in LA presented a retrospective of his 30-year career.

On Saturday (Februar y 22) the Forum will feature scholarly presentations in a variety of formats as well as an artist’s alley spotlighting the best and brightest comics creators from Michigan and around the United States.

We seek proposals for presentations, which may include but are not limited to:

Individual Submissions
  • Will have 15 minutes to discuss topic, 5 minutes for questions
  • Presenter will be grouped with other participants into a panel
Panel Sessions
  • The session will run for one hour
  • Must include at least 3 presenters
  • Presenters must discuss similar or connected topics
  • Presenters are responsible for finding their own panel session members
  • The session will run for 45 minutes to an hour
  • Must include at least 3 participants
  • Presenters must discuss one specific topic
  • Presenters are responsible for finding their own roundtable session members
Comic book and graphic novel related presentations from a broad range of disciplines will be considered.

Individual submissions require a 250-word (maximum) abstract of the topic as well as name and affiliation. Panel sessions require one 250-word abstract for the overarching topic and a unique abstract for each presenter’s specific topic, including name and affiliation, emailed together. Round table proposals should include an abstract, 250-word, that includes an explanation of the topic and the names and affiliations of participants. All proposals should be in PDF format.

Due to the strong community aspect of the Forum, we ask that all submitters' presentations have a strong visual component, and not simply rely on the recitation of a paper.

Proposals are due December 1st, 2013 by 11:59 p.m.

Please submit proposals to Ben Chabala at
For more information visit

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