Production, institution and sedition… the comic industry goes under the academic spotlight

After successful conferences in Bournemouth, Glasgow and Dundee, the 2014 Fifth International Graphic Novel and Comics Studies conference, to be held 23rd – 25th June next year in Manchester, has announced its theme – production, institution and sedition – and put out a Call for Papers.

The Fifth International Graphic Novel and Comics conference will be held at the British Library to coincide with the exhibition, ‘Anarchy between the Lines: The Tradition of sedition in British Comics’, and will concentrate on two main themes: ‘Comics production and institution’ and ‘Comics: Sedition and anarchy’.

Comics: production and institution

Despite many dire predictions about the fate of the comics industry, it continues to prosper and has increasing cultural influence, particularly in the fields of film and the games industry. National boundaries are increasingly less important for example with the spectacular international rise of manga. However, national production and distribution practices have historically been important in the narratives, audiences and cultural capital attached to comics (eg: European comics, bande dessinée compared with American comics). In academic terms it has never been more important with the two new journals, The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Routledge) and Studies in Comics (Intellect), adding to the burgeoning interest in comics from a huge and varied range of perspectives.

The theme of this conference incorporates comics production as part of but also outside of institution. Comics are unique in the mass media because the individuals who produce and distribute the products are usually fans: from creators to comics shops owners and comicon organisers. So we are inviting papers on all aspects of production: from the multinationals and media conglomerations to small scale production such as fanzines and independent presses. Related aspects of the industry are also of interest, for instance censorship and copyright issues, promotional practices (comicons, comics distribution, historical practices eg: the change in distribution from newsagents to comics shops to collecting and comics promotion).

This call for papers might include, but is not limited to the following topics:

  • Advertising and sponsorship
  • Cultural impact of comics
  • Comics conventions and conferences
  • Comics agencies and studios
  • International influences, collaborations
  • Creators rights, copyright, unionisation
  • Graphic design and graphic novels building narrative
  • Editing, distribution
  • Changing position of women in the industry
  • New technologies, digital vs special printing
  • Comics shops and distribution
  • Fans: comic collections, fans as industry producers, small press, alternative production
  • Historical aspects of the comics industry, eg. distribution, censorship
  • National and international production
  • Awards and recognition
  • Fandom and academia

Comics: Sedition and anarchy

It has long been argued that comics are a medium with the potential for anarchy, whose narratives often push against cultural boundaries and whose graphic nature can render them a target for moral panics and political objections. Although the exhibition will clearly concentrate on the collections of British-published comics held in the library, we welcome contributions in this section which deal with the following (and related) themes across any national culture or period:

  • Mirth and mayhem: irreverence, children’s comics, the carnivalesque
  • From slapstick to violence: war comics, humour,
  • Moral panics: Penny Dreadfuls, underground comix, sex, drugs and psychedelia
  • Horror comics: violence, terror, archetypes and subversion, the grotesque
  • Politics; (society, class, etc);
  • Wimmins Comix, sexualities, marginalised voices
  • Breakdowns (mental states, dreams, drugs, etc);
  • Heroes and anti-heroes (including parodies and deconstructions of icons like Superman etc.).
  • Media cross-pollination and new digital forms

The organisers also welcome proposals for specific panel topics.

• Send a 300 word abstract to: d.huxley@mmu.ac.uk, j.ormrod@mmu.ac.uk. Deadline: 5th January 2014

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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