Changing Seasons, Changing Themes

Just as the leaves turn from green to umber, the skies turn from blue to grey, and the sale of Butter-Menthols go from steady to astronomical, so have Inkers and Thinkers changed one theme for another.

We had a brilliant success with this year’s theme, The Evolution of Comics. We were conscious of the fact that even though comics studies conferences are a relatively new phenomenon in Australia, internationally, they’ve been a staple in academia for years. We wanted to be new, different, relevant.

After writing so many notes our pens were devoid of ink and drinking so much gin we almost bankrupted the juniper berry trade, we decided that we would look at how comics were evolving. The key aspects of this theme were how comics were changing through technology; how creators adjusted to this change through their working techniques; how collaborations and fandoms were appearing online through media convergence; and of course that big one – what’s next for comics? Like any art form, it’s never content to just stay static.

As you can probably tell by the podcasts being uploaded regularly to the site, we had some stellar papers submitted and accepted by the symposium. Whether it’s Russian fans desperate for some manga goodness, motion comics paving the way for the future, fictional landscapes coming to life, avatars of the self, comics capturing the invisible worlds within war, a French meta-fiction thriller, or a scrappy little studio dear to the hearts of Melburnians, we had Australia’s best minds approaching the theme at all angles. (And to think, we still haven’t uploaded all of the podcasts!)

In my own conference paper, Social Networks and Sequential Artists, I was interested in the ways in which creators utilise social media as a site of media convergence. How creators interacted with each other to form a scene culture, and how they marketed their products as well as their selves to the consumer.

I recently chatted with the lovely Scarlette Baccini, best known for Zombolette and Jesus Reloadeth’d, on the subject of digital technologies and the creative process.

‘When I started self-publishing, I set up an online store so I could reach friends and readers who don’t visit the local conventions, and because I wasn’t exactly sure how to arrange distribution with local stores,’ Baccini said about her own experience. ‘I wanted to make it as easy as possible for my little audience to access my books, and selling online is so convenient it just seemed crazy not to give people that option.’

Unfortunately my paper won’t be uploaded as a podcast, as I want to keep it private for copyright reasons. I should tell you, dear reader, that I have a lisp, and speak in a fashion that is halfway between a yelp and a stammer, so perhaps it’s best that you don’t listen to a podcast of mine. So, instead the next podcast uploaded will be Enrique Del Rey Cabero’s delightful paper on Spanish comics culture. In the meantime, you should go buy one of Scarlette’s books: http://scarlettebaccini.com/

And lo, after the dust had settled on this year’s conference, we three organisers sat down and decided, since we’ve explored evolution, which path do we head down now? This simple question – which path to take? – sparked the theme for next year’s conference.

Whenever you’re at a crossroads, you have one way… and then you have the alternative. The road less travelled, the obscured path, the crooked alleys that lead you to places you never knew existed.

Next year’s theme is The Alternative – alternative voices, alternative forms, alternative uses. A Call for Papers will be released later this year. Keep an eye on the site for it!

A. Maynard

Inkers and Thinkers 2014: Squishface Studio: A Physical Hub for Comics in Melbourne by David Blumenstein

The third block of presentations focused on Comics Communities, specifically the comics communities of two very different yet similar countries Australia and Spain. The first presentation in this block was from writer/cartoonist/animator David Blumenstein and looked at the formation and continued success of the Melbourne based Squishface Studio, which provides a physical studio space for comic book artists, illustrators and animators. David’s presentation was extremely entertaining and informative due to his use of visual aids, but we hope the audio is exciting enough.

 

Abstract –

Squishface Comics Studio is an open cartoonists studio in Brunswick, Victoria; the first of its kind in Australia.

It is a working studio but “open” in the sense that other cartoonists and the general public are invited to come in during regular opening hours to look at and buy work, but also to draw and talk with the studio residents.

I will discuss:

  • The Melbourne comics scene and the specific circumstances from which Squishface sprang.
  • Why, in an arts capital and “City of Literature”™, this had not happened before.
  • The goals of the original group of resident Squishfacers.
  • The challenge of finding residents.
  • The tangible and intangible results of two years of existence.
  • The effect on individuals’ work of working in close quarters with other, varied artists.
  • Ways the studio could pay for itself in the future.
  • The benefits of running the studio to its de facto operations committee.
  • The future of the studio, and deciding whether it is a temporary project or something more ongoing.

 

Biography –

David Blumenstein is a writer, cartoonist and animator from Melbourne, Australia. He is also one of the founders of Melbourne’s Squishface Studio. He is currently working on an animated cop show called BE A MAN and you can see examples of his work at his website Nakedfella and at the Squishface Studios website.

More Inkers and Thinkers Sketches from Georgina Chadderton

One of the goals of Inkers and Thinkers is to bring together the academic (the thinkers) and creative (the inkers) sides of comic books at the one event, hence the name. We already directed you towards some great sketches from one of our presenters Bernard Caleo and we are pleased to share with you some more sketches, this time from one of our audience members Georgina Chadderton. Georgina is part of the local comics community Comics with Friends and Strangers and an up and coming comic book artist under the name George Rex Comics who can be fond on Facebook and Tumblr. It was great to see members of our audience sketching away throughout the day as the different presenters took the stage. This is definitely something we are looking to encourage at Inkers and Thinkers 2015. Thanks again to Georgina for sending us through these sketches from the day.

David Blumenstein

David Blumenstein

 

Elizabeth Macfarlane and Bernard Caleo

Elizabeth Macfarlane and Bernard Caleo

 

Bruce Mutard

Bruce Mutard

Inkers and Thinkers 2014: Style, Voice, and Ellipsis in Short-Form Graphic Narratives by Elizabeth Macfarlane

Elizabeth’s presentation concludes the second block of presentations at Inkers and Thinkers, which focused on Graphic Representations in comics. Elizabeth’s presentation featured a close examination of our keynote speaker Bruce Mutard’s work, presenting an interesting opportunity  where the academic and creator were in the same room.

 

Abstract –

The concepts of style and voice are well-established in literary criticism, and are of particular import to scholars writing within the often hybridised discipline of Creative Writing in the academy. This paper examines the question of how the concepts of style and voice in comics might differ from or parallel what we understand style and voice in prose to mean. I argue, via Thomas Bredehoft and Elisabeth El Refaie, that ‘style’ in comics is closely linked to the artist’s body, thus always temporally ‘available’ in the text as a traceable movement, a moment in time and space.

As El Refaie notes, the autobiographical avatar, the drawn self, without the avatar having spoken anything at all, “tells” us so much about voice, mood, tone and character. She writes similarly on the “performance” of authenticity in autobiographical comics, making the crucial distinction between expressions “given,” and expressions “given off”, the former being verbal communication, the latter nonverbal. El Refaie would like to argue that one could read the style of the visual representation itself in comics (as opposed to the written dialogue or narration, or indeed the content of the narrative) as a version of expressions ‘given off’. It’s a method and contention that has its counterpart in literary criticism in deconstruction, practitioners of which will look for the ruptures, the contradictions, the fissures in a text, the places where it gives itself away unconsciously.

The paper then closely examines and compares two short-form texts, Bruce Mutard’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’ and Adrian Tomine’s ‘Echo Ave’ articulating the similarities and differences between their style and voice as expressions “given off”. Both stories are cinematic in nature, in that they don’t necessarily partake of any ‘tricks’ with the form. They don’t use emanata or sound-words, and characters are drawn with a level of realism, they aren’t caricaturised. It’s mimetic telling, there are no narration boxes and no jumping around in time or chronology. Two seemingly minor differences between the two stories’ respective styles – their use of panel grids, and shading – prove with close reading to establish key divergences in how the narratives are perceived.

 

Bio –

Elizabeth received her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Melbourne in 2008. She is currently a lecturer at the University of Melbourne in the School of Culture and Communication. Her area of research focuses on contemporary Australian autobiographical comics and graphic novels as well as the works of J. M. Coetzee.

Inkers and Thinkers 2014: The Land is Alive by Bernard Caleo

The second presentation in the second block, on Graphic Representations, is from creator, academic and documentary producer Bernard Caleo titled The Land is Alive. On the day Bernard’s presentation was a crowd favourite, bringing an infectious energy and passion for comic books and comic book studies to the symposium. Throughout the day Bernard also sketched the presenters and aspects of their talks and these sketches can be viewed here.

 

Abstract –

In the graphic novels ‘Blue’ by Pat Grant (Giramondo, 2012) and ‘The Long Weekend in Alice Springs’ by Josh Santospirito (San Kessto Publications 2013), the Australian settings in which the narratives are set (the former coastal, the latter desert) are vital spatial determinants of meaning. They give more than a backdrop to the stories. The stories are embedded in landscape. Each of these author artists has developed a visual/verbal/design language specific to their graphic novel, able to be differentiated from the rest of their body of work. This graphic-novel-specific language is developed to sculpt a local fictional landscape. The quality of line, degree of cartooning (versus more figurative drawing) , layout of pages, colour versus black-and white, progression of panels and choice of wordless sequences and other aspects all advance a vision of country as inescapable and determinative of character and event.

In this paper I will present an analysis of the structure and design of individual pages and page sequences by Grant and Santospirito and argue that the form of comics gives their audience a reading experience of landscape significantly different to novel, film or music.

I will also consider the influence of repeated readings of these works upon my own comics practice in the construction of landscape in my comics pamphlet series ‘MONGREL’ (2012 – ongoing, Cardigan Comics), and the Melbourne 1888 based narrative ‘The Devil Collects’ currently being developed with historian Alex McDermott as part of a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship.

 

Bio –

Bernard’s Honours thesis was called ‘Tintin in the Territory of Narratology’(University of Melbourne English Department , 1994). He was the editor and publisher of the romance comics anthology ‘Tango’ (Cardigan Comics) from 1997 – 2009. In collaboration with documentary film maker Daniel Hayward he made the feature documentary ‘Graphic Novels! Melbourne!’ (Aisle 5 Pictures/ Cardigan Comics, 2012) which they have presented locally and overseas in 2013. In 2014 he is a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria, working on a historical comic with Alex McDermott, and will be an Arts Victoria funded ‘Artist in Schools’ at Fitzroy High School, running a comics studio for a group from years 8, 9 and 10 in term 3.

 

#ResistComics Kickstarter

At Inkers and Thinkers 2014 Can Yalcinkaya presented a paper on his involvement with the comics anthology #ResistComics. The recording of Can’s speech will be released soon, detailing much of the background of the project and the wave of protest in Turkey in the Summer of 2013. In the meantime the Kickstarter to help fund the printing of the book and payment of the artists is now live.

#ResistComics will be a 96 page publication of comics, illustrations, a short story and an article on comics and politics. The anthology collects stories based on experiences of the Gezi protest by writers and artists from Turkey and around the world. A particularly interesting story focuses on the plight of street animals during the Gezi resistance. The page explains the Gezi resistance and its crossover to art:

“Gezi was about reclaiming public spaces across Turkey. With art and with political action. Art was an important part of the Gezi Resistance, because cities aren’t just physical spaces. They are not just buildings and roads, streets and parks. Cities are imaginary places, or places of imagination, too. The meaning of cities emerge in thought, in songs, in novels and poems, in art and of course in comics. #ResistComics is our little effort to reclaim our cities in the imagination. “

As always backers have access to some great rewards including posters, original artwork, and a script workshop. With 15 days left the project is almost at it’s goal of $5,000 and further stretch goals will be announced if they pass that amount. It is great to see a project discussed at Inkers and Thinkers now well on the way to becoming a reality.

Inkers and Thinkers 2014 – Representations of Violence in Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Jeanne-Marie Viljoen

The second block of presentations at Inkers and Thinkers 2014 focused on Graphic Representations, the way comics can be used to represent violence, creative voice/style, and the landscape. The first presentation in this block was from Jeanne-Marie Viljoen looking at representations of violence in Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story with comparisons between the graphic novel and animated film.

 

Abstract –

Exploring comics’ unique combination of art and text allows them to represent what would otherwise be ‘invisible’.

Representing experiences of war and conflict in comics allows depictions of what has escaped from memory and is sometimes considered too horrific to represent. Comics, with their unique combination of words and images, radically blur the boundary between experience and representation. Comics are not the only medium that does this. Just as in film, in comics one is able to simultaneously experience the “‘nowness’ and ‘hereness’” of the self-conscious reading process as well as “the assault” on one’s senses as one experiences the extreme events depicted through the medium (Sobchack 2009: n.p.). This paper will explore this notion by examining Folman and Polonsky’s graphic novel representation of the Lebanese War in 1982 and the infamous ensuing Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp massacres, Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story (Folman and Polonsky 2009). This example is used because of the potential of image-rich comics to “intensify and make more self-conscious the ways our eyes and minds interact with whatever’s on the page or screen” ─ comics are both performative texts that construct experience of the moment and simultaneously draw attention to their own construction (Hatfield 2008: 130). This paper will also scrutinize the animated documentary, another representational form which attempts to cross the boundary between experience and representation. The additional power of the animated documentary to show what was hitherto thought of as ‘invisible’ to concealed from live action film – subjective emotions – (Honess Roe 2011:217) is also considered. However, this paper argues that comics, innovatively used as a combination of images, words and sequencing ─ do more because they involve the embodied reader actively in the story-telling. This paper contends that when reading a comic the reader is knowingly constructing the story that he/she is experiencing in an intense image-rich way that is not constrained by the ordinary linear logic of books. In the vein of the pre-eminent cultural critic, Edward Said, this paper will posit a position that urges readers to consider political comics as rich repositories from which to advance their knowledge of the experience of war and conflict. Following Said’s remarks in his memorable introduction to Joe Sacco’s comic Palestine, this paper declares that “[c]omics play[ed] havoc with the logic of a+b+c+d and they certainly encourage[ed] one not to think in terms of what the teacher expects[ed] or what a subject like history demands[ed]” (Said, cited in Sacco, 2003 ii). The reader’s feeling on reading the comic becomes part of the representation itself. Thus, this paper suggests that comics allow one to think beyond what is expected and show what is ‘imperceptible’ in some other representational forms. Comics broaden one’s repertoire of experience and representation in a way that is particularly useful in the representation of war and conflict when trauma has obliterated experience or it has become ‘unrepresentable’ because it is so horrific.

 

Bio –

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen is a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia at the Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding in the School of Communications, International Relations and Languages.

 

Inkers and Thinkers 2014 – M3D143N717Y: Letting the Network Take Over by Annick Pellegrin

Annick had the privilege of presenting the very first paper at Inkers and Thinkers 2014. Unfortunately the recording missed the first few minutes of her presentation. Annick’s presentation completes the first block of the Inkers and Thinkers symposium, which focused on the role of technology and digital tools in the consumption, creation and culture of comic books.

 

M3D143N717Y: Letting the Network Take Over by Annick Pellegrin

Released online in episodes from November 2012, and as a hardcover comic book by éditions Delcourtin August 2013, MediaEntity.01 is the first of four volumes in a series titled MediaEntity.[1] Marketed as a “thriller d’anticipation paranoïaque” (a paranoid science fiction thriller), the series follows the misadventures of the first victim of “mediatic mutation”, Eric Magoni, who must flee when his login is used to cause the bank where he works to lose five billion euros.[2] As is explained in the series trailer, a “mediatic mutation” occurs when an online identity takes on a life of its own and photographs of events that never took place begin appearing on screens.[3]

 

While the series, the second volume of which is soon to be released, focuses on the dangers of sharing personal information through online social networks and warns readers with statements such as “Switch off your life! Become invisible! The network will take over yout [sic] identity…” it also relies on its readers’ knowledge and use of such networks.[4] Notably the authors invite readers to get involved through a variety of media and by allowing them to copy, modify and redistribute their work under the creative commons licence.

 

To what extent does the series fit its label as a “paranoid” thriller? What is the place of social media in this series? To what extent does the use of digital and online media in this series contribute to innovate francophone comics? To what extent can the series be said to be a participative one?

 

[1]Emilie & Simon, MediaEntity. 01, MediaEntity, vol. 1, Paris: Delcourt, 2013; Emilie & Simon, “Episodes”, http://www.mediaentity.cc/net/accueil#episodes (06/01/2014); Emilie & Simon, MediaEntity, Emilie & Simon l’interview vidéo, Interview by Jacques Viel, 10/10/2013, http://www.fnac.com/MediaEntity-Emilie-et-Simon-l-interview-video/cp21776/w-4 (05/01/2014).

[2]MediaEntity: 1er Dossier de presse en Réalité Augmentée!, Paris: Delcourt, 2013 http://sd-6.archive-host.com/membres/up/f82bef8b100502c69542b56422592da04eba02a3/site/MEDIAENTITY_BD_-_DP.pdf; Emilie & Simon, “Episode 1”, http://www.mediaentity.cc/net/fr/episode1.php (06/01/2014); Emilie & Simon, “Episode 2”, http://www.mediaentity.cc/net/fr/episode2.php (06/01/2014).

[3]MEDIAENTITY, “Bande Annonce”, (26/10/2012), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5Cw12ylMd8 (06/01/2014).

[4]Emilie & Simon, MediaEntity. 02, MediaEntity, vol. 2, Paris: Delcourt, 2014; Emilie & Simon, “Home”, http://www.mediaentity.cc/net/home (06/01/2014).

 

Bibliography

Annick graduated from The University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts (Languages) (Honours) in 2009, with majors in French, Spanish, Italian and Linguistics. Her Honours thesis was completed under a joint supervision between the Department of French Studies (Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter) and the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies (Dr. Vek Lewis) and she was the first student to complete the honours program in the latter department. “Tintin and the Secret of Satire”, her thesis, was a study of the satire and the parody in Tintin et les Picaros, by the Belgian Hergé. Annick returned to The University of Sydney as a PhD candidate and recently completed her thesis “(Not) Looking Together in the Same Direction”, a comparative study of “Latin American” self-representation and the Franco-Belgian gaze on “Latin America” in a selection of “Latin American” and Franco-Belgian comics. Her full biogrpahy and list of publications can be found here.

Inkers and Thinkers 2014 – Deviants’ Art and Fanzinshi: The Quiet Riots and Pixellated Protests in Russia’s SNS- enabled Manga by Antonija Cavcic

Our second presentation from the Inkers and Thinkers Symposium comes from Murdoch University’s Antonija Cavcic. Antonija could not attend the event in person as she was away in Japan on research but we were able to arrange for this YouTube presentation and then a Skype call afterwards.

 

Deviants’ Art and Fanzinshi: The Quiet Riots and Pixellated Protests in Russia’s SNS- enabled Manga by Antonija Cavcic

In the wake of the Pussy Riot trial, it is fair to assume that anti-establishment sentiment has lingered even after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Such phenomena as the seminal samizdat works produced under KGB scrutiny, the current IT-enabled dissemination of explicit content in Russian original, parodic, and scanlated manga (based on the Japanese tradition of self-published homoerotic manga known as yaoi), and the plethora of networks where Russian fans can share files and content ordinarily filtered out by Russian ISPs, indicate a relentless desire to produce and proliferate content unfit for Orthodox ideological frameworks in Russia. By examining several web-enabled avenues of expression, file-sharing, and interaction amongst avid Russian manga artists, this paper will attempt to demonstrate the extent to which these practices have evaded Russian censors, and thus illustrate how the ideological hammer enmeshed in identity politics inevitably became entangled in the World Wide Web.

 

Biography

Currently a PhD candidate at Murdoch University, her research interests include the parallels between women’s progressive publishing practices in Victorian Britain and contemporary Japan, food media and celebrity chef culture, and gender and sexuality in Japanese culture.

An Interview with Inkers and Thinkers Poster Artist Ben Juers

In our first year, Inkers and Thinkers was a sold out event.  It was absolutely momentous, and a large part of that success should be credited to Ben Juers, who designed our poster:

Poster design by Ben Juers

Posted in bars, cafes, art hubs and bookstores all over Adelaide, Juers’ piece was an eye-catcher. Cult comic characters from Australia and beyond were crammed into every corner, and a fun game was betting people they couldn’t identify every ‘toon. (Many came close, but none claimed the metaphorical cigar).

In this quick Q & A, the affable Mr Juers discusses his working process and artistic influences:

InT:  How did you come up with the idea for the poster?

B: The idea for the poster was to satirise the ‘future’ theme of the conference. I offered the organisers two designs to choose from. The one that didn’t make the cut had a comic book cover layout with imagery lifted from 50s and 60s space stuff like The Jetsons and Jetta. It was goofier and would’ve been more in my ‘style,’ though copying other people’s stuff for the final design was interesting. It makes you pay attention to other cartoonists’ quirks that you might otherwise pass over. As a kid, I learnt to draw by copying from a “He-Man: Masters of the Universe” colouring book.

ben_roughs2

InT:  How long did the poster take to complete?

B: The poster took about a month to complete, partly because of other freelance obligations at the time. The pencilling was the longest part of the process – it involved lot of rearranging and dismantling using tracing paper. It took a while to get it to a point where it wasn’t too crowded. The inking took about a day, a bit longer for the colouring and text captions. I didn’t really think about the colours until later, which is pretty unprofessional.

ben_roughs11stmockup

InT: How would you describe your art?

B: A couple of people have called my work ‘old-timey.’ That makes sense – most of my favourite cartoonists are from the first half of the twentieth century. Nostalgia’s kind of overdone in comics right now, so I’m trying not to let the old-timey look become a schtick. Ultimately, my goal is to be the Preston Sturges of comics, alcoholism included.

ben_overland_lowres

More of Ben’s great work can be found at  benjuers.tumblr.com – we highly recommend you check it out!

 

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