Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

January 4, 2014

100 Comics Positives For 2013: Back To School


One of the surprising places I found myself this year was at two academic conference, both of which took place in Columbus, Ohio: the MIX show held by Columbus College Of Art And Design; the conference opening the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum before their opening night celebration and convention weekend. The last academic thing of more than one-speaker length I attended was an ICAF in Bethesda in the late 1990s, held in conjunction with SPX. There's no reason I hadn't attended an academic conference since then. I liked those I attended just fine. They are just not usually in proximity to what I'm doing or if they are, as is the case with the papers presented in San Diego during Comic-Con International, there's something else I'm doing.

If these two are any indication, I've been missing out. They're kind of cool now. There are a lot of post-TED talk flourishes in that almost everyone seems comfortable on their feet and there's a lot of work with visual aids and video, but there's also a place for independent scholars and people that are only there to get an idea or two over as part of professional expectations for their chosen career. A generation of comics scholars raised on a kind of comics discourse I value -- lunatics screaming at each in newsprint magazines and on message boards -- are central figures now, so they sort of speak my language and share my values in a way the previous generation of scholars really didn't, although god bless them.

I also think these places are increasingly useful as idea farms -- places to find new angles aren't work that don't feel the impact of the desperate marketing pressures of commercial criticism. For instance, at those two conference, three ideas that have stuck with me I hadn't considered before are 1) black kids from the 1970s that were actually slightly embarrassed by the lack of nobility in Luke Cage's pay-for-play motivations relative to a hero like Superman, despite finding him appealing in a bunch of other ways, 2) Walt Kelly as a nostalgist for a general way of American life that was fading, independent from regional focus, 3) World War I cartooning as a dry run for the issues facing cartooning during World War 2. None of this is going to find me running the streets at night shirtless screaming "Yes!" to the heavens, but it's all new perspectives to engage on a variety of topics. I look forward to attending more.
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

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