The academic conference Graphic Brighton 2022, taking place in May, is to focus on the state of comics for younger audiences in the 21st century, and has issued a Call For Papers – although the request does seem to suggest a bit of tunnel vision – one that not only academics seem to be perpetuating.
Compared to fifty years ago, argue the organisers , the number of children’s comics easily available in Britain has dwindled, with only titles used to promote toys and cartoons on most newsagent shelves. However, with new anthologies aimed at children arriving in recent years, such as The Phoenix, 2000AD Regened, and the upcoming Monster Fun, it seems that new comics are now coming on to the market and appealing to new readers.
(For some reason, they haven’t mentioned BEANO, or, it appears, seem a bit dismissive of the comic and story content within several titles, such as Action GTX, Disney Princess, MEGA, Sparkle World, or the various LEGO tie-in titles. Someone seriously needs to “snapshot” one week’s worth of all the content of all titles on offer, just to see what, if any, comic strip is lurking inside some of those plastic bags – but it wouldn’t be cheap!).
In addition, the organisers say, manga and graphic novels aimed at younger readers are rapidly finding new audiences. Illustrated books for children have often flirted with the language of comics with Brighton’s own Raymond Briggs a pioneer for this crossover audience, and recent series such as Dave Pilkey’s Dog Man and Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series showing a large demand for such titles.
Also, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s award-winning books for children show the same creativity and comic book stylistics found in their graphic novels for adults. This, alongside increasing scholarship that indicates that comics reading aids literacy and educational development, suggests that comics for children and younger readers are once again gaining traction.
This symposium hopes to explore these areas further. As an event which aims to be interdisciplinary, we invite speakers and contributors from academic and creator-based backgrounds in comics, visual cultures and education, so as to open discussion across the disciplines.
Graphic Brighton 2022 invite 20-minute papers themed around, but not limited to, the following:
- YA manga, readership and translation
- Younger creators and their work
- Comics and agency – enabling younger voices and perspectives
- Comics creation, youth wellbeing and social engagement
- Adapting adult narratives for younger readership
- Adaptation and transmedia children’s comics and texts / Comics with cross-media presence (for example work that is a comic, podcast and animated series)
- Comics and literacy
- Comics and pedagogy in the classroom
- Educational comics
- The language of comics in illustrated books / crossovers between illustrated children’s books and comics
- Comics, memory and nostalgia
- Collectables and memorabilia
- Creativity in licensed comics
- Kids’ comics paratexts
- Relaunching old titles for new audiences
- New publishers for younger audiences
Comic book creators and children’s book illustrators will be attending the event, to talk about their work in panel discussions, so this is a unique opportunity for academics undertaking research in this area to meet practitioners and discuss their work in this medium.
Graphic Brighton is curated by Alex Fitch and Barbara Chamberlin. This event will be held at the City Campus at the University of Brighton on Friday 27th May and Saturday 28th May 2022 (details TBC). This event is funded by the Centre of Arts and Wellbeing at the University of Brighton.
• For more information about the symposium and previous Graphic Brighton events, please visit www.graphicbrighton.com