Inkers and Thinkers 2014: Author Avatars, Lecturing and Authority in Educational Comics by Aaron Humphrey

This is the final presentation from Inkers and Thinkers 2014 and it comes from one of our co-organisers Aaron Humphrey. Aaron’s bright and engaging presentation style was the perfect way to end a long, but enjoyable day of comics. The 2014 event was such a success that we are coming back and better this year. Over the coming weeks we will be introducing you to the presenters and workshop leaders we have chosen for the 2015 event. In the meantime enjoy Aaron’s presentation on the multimodality of comics in relation to educational comics with insights from his own work as a cartoonist.


Author Avatars, Lecturing and Authority in Educational Comics

The use of comics for education dates back to before World War II. However, social stigmas attached to comics in the West largely kept them out of schools, libraries and classrooms until around the start of the 21st century. The cultural and economic capital accumulated by literary graphic novels has helped to create space for book-length comics on the shelves of school libraries, and increased the market for educational comics and “graphic textbooks.”

Several new book-length, non-fiction educational comics are published in North American every week, on topics ranging from xxx to xxx, and recent research into the benefits of using of comics in classrooms at all levels of education suggests that this trend may continue to increase.

One benefit of using comics over traditional textbooks is that they are multimodal, incorporating many different ways of interacting and interpreting the text. Modern theories of education champion “active learning” led by students. However, most textbooks create a passive experience where readers are meant to be led through a text by it author. The multimodality of comics may offer a way to make textbooks more active.

To explore how this works in practice, I will examine several educational comics through two theoretical lenses: information design, particularly the work of Edward Tufte, which asks what meanings and actions are made possible by visual presentation; and curriculum alignment, as articulated by John Biggs and Catherine Tang, which examines how well particular learning activities support intended outcomes.

My paper will show how educational comics that align their design with their content and outcomes are able to support deeper levels of learning and student engagement. I will also identify several principles that can help guide the creation of effective educational comics, and show how I have put these principles into practice in my work as a cartoonist.



Aaron is a PhD candidate in the Discipline of Media at the University of Adelaide. His research is focused on the crossover between comics and education, specifically the idea of comics as an educational tool. He is also one of the co-founders and organisers of the Inkers and Thinkers Symposium and an artist in his own right, producing the Echidna Dirgible mini-comics and examples of educational comics for his thesis project.

Inkers and Thinkers 2014: Graphic Representations of Translation, Cultural Exchange and Journalistic Practice in Joe Sacco’s Comics Journalism by Brigid Maher

The work of Joe Sacco was another popular topic at Inkers and Thinkers 2014 and Brigid Maher provided a look at how Sacco’s comics journalism also represents an act of reflection on journalistic practice and the role of foreign journalists in conflict zones.


Graphic Representations of Translation, Cultural Exchange, and Journalistic Practice in Joe Sacco’s Comics Journalism


Joe Sacco’s comics journalism is unique in the way it uses various features of the comics medium to shed light upon journalistic practice, reporter subjectivity, and the role of language and translation in the news-gathering process. Journalists and foreign correspondents often work in a multilingual environment, dealing on a daily basis with problems of translation and cultural difference. Yet accounts of these challenges rarely reach consumers of news and reportage; in the case of print journalism, in particular, there is a preference for a finished product that presents information and analysis exclusively in the target language, with all trace of translation and mediation hidden in the background.

In Sacco’s work on the conflicts in Palestine and Bosnia, however, the multimodal nature of comics is exploited to full effect, incorporating multiple voices and perspectives in such a way as to present the complexities of working in a multilingual environment, with translators, interpreters, fixers, and wider a network of more informal contacts. Comics also lend themselves to irony, through the contrast between different textual and/or graphic representations of a given scene, and Sacco uses this technique in an ironic critique of his own struggles as a cultural outsider seeking to understand complex debates on sensitive and divisive issues. The medium also allows him to create a visual juxtaposition between objectivity, on the one hand, and the journalist’s inner state, particularly his doubts and fears, on the other.

All these carefully deployed features of comics allow Sacco to take readers beyond the illusion of unmediated research and reporting towards a more nuanced depiction of the involvement of different stakeholders in the newsgathering process. By synthesizing the written word and the graphic image, the journalistic and the socio-cultural, Sacco’s work sheds light on the complex role foreign journalists have in a community in conflict: they bring outside influences, power, wealth, and status, but also compassion and a sense of humor. At the same time, Sacco depicts the problematic aspects of this relationship, exploring his own vulnerability and naivety as he weighs up the obligations of friendship against the demands of his profession.



Dr Brigid Maher is Lecturer in Italian Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of Recreation and Style: Translating Humorous Literature in Italian and English (John Benjamins, 2011), and co-editor of Words, Images and Performances in Translation (with Rita Wilson, Continuum, 2012) and Perspectives on Literature and Translation: Creation, Circulation, Reception (with Brian Nelson, Routledge, 2013). She has published in a number of journals in the fields of literary studies, Italian studies, and translation studies. Her research interests include humour, irony and satire in literature; crime fiction; and the translation of literature, comics, and film.

Inkers and Thinkers 2014: #ResistComics: Online Activism and Collaborative Comics by Can T Yalcinkaya

We are on the homestretch now. Our final session was titled Beyond Literature and focused on the different uses for the comic book format. Can Yalcinkaya starts us off with a look at comics as a form of resistance through his project #ResistComics, which has since been successfully funded through Kickstarter.


#ResistComics: Online Activism and Collaborative Comics

There is now a substantial amount of literature on the role of social media on the organisation of revolts and mobilisation of protesters in the past few years, particularly during the Arab Spring of 2011. In authoritarian states where the local media are often censored, the social media have been invaluable for dissenting voices to be heard, and for spreading the news that were not published or broadcast on other channels. This paper explores the possibilities provided by the social and participatory media to create collaborative works of art as part of political movements. In particular, I use a work-in-progress comics anthology as a case study which features collaborative works by contributors from across the globe.

The paper will reflect on my own experiences of online activism as a Turkish-born Sydney-based academic following the mass demonstrations in Turkey in June 2013, known as the Gezi Resistance. “Online activism” was the only possible outlet for me to contribute to the protests against an oppressive government and police brutality. The idea for a comics anthology was inspired by a creative explosion that was associated with the Gezi Resistance, and by previous examples of comics with activist contents, such as Occupy Comics. As a group of writers, academics and artists, my collaborators and I used the social media to organise, to workshop ideas and scripts and to find other enthusiastic contributors. Our project #ResistComics was born out of this transnational conversation and collective thinking. Currently, the project is near completion and we are preparing a crowdfunding campaign to fund printing.

This paper delivers an account of the #ResistComics anthology’s creation process, with particular attention to what opportunities and challenges are posited in a collective work produced through online communication. It also reviews the project’s crowdfunding experience within a creative economy framework, and questions whether online technologies have made it easier for alternative and independent publications to meet production costs and reach an audience.



Can recently completed his PhD thesis “Wounds of Difference: Melancholy in Turkish Film and Popular Music” in the Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies department at Macquarie University. Can worked as an editor of a comics studies journal in Turkey called Yeni Seruven between 2006 and 2007. The journals aim was to publish a semi-academic journal in Turkey, where comics studies is a neglected area.

Inkers and Thinkers 2014: Comics in 21st Century Spain: Challenges and Opportunities of an Emerging Medium by Enrique Del Rey Cabero

We’ve been very busy organising Inkers and Thinkers 2015 and unfortunately neglected our commitment to posting the recordings from Inkers and Thinkers 2014. We are rectifying that right now and over the next few weeks we will post the remaining presentations from the 2014 Symposium. First up we have Enrique Del Rey Cabero providing an insightful look into the nascent Spanish comic book market, one many people may be unfamiliar with but can surely relate to through the same struggles for legitimacy and opportunities to turn comics into a viable career.



Comics, contrary to historical prejudices that classify the medium as light reading or exclusively addressed to a young audience, are becoming more and more important in the cultural sphere. Moreover, the unique language and features of this medium in our image-dominated world, as well as the versatility to tell very different stories shown by authors during recent years, have placed comics in a unprecedented place that would have been difficult to foretell ten or twenty years ago.


The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the position of the comics industry in Spain, which has seen the rise of a new generation of authors, the consolidation of the graphic novel and a progressive acceptance of the medium in general culture.


In spite of the continuing crisis of the medium in the country (many Spanish authors are forced to migrate, work for other markets or publish their work first in a foreign language), it cannot be denied that comics are now more widely appreciated among many audiences and, more relevant, not only as a cultural subproduct or humorous pastime. As is known, the rise of the graphic novel at a global level (with famous examples such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis) has played a very important role and has produced notable examples in the Spanish context. Comics are also increasingly present on-line through websites and webcomics. Moreover, the role of the state and the Ministry of Culture (since 2007, a National Comics Prize is awarded annually), public libraries (which have considerably extended their comics catalogue in recent years) and universities (which organize more frequent seminars and now are even starting to teach whole degrees on comics) have also contributed to the visibility of comics in Spain.


The analysis of all these factors and agents will allow me to draw some conclusions about the challenges and opportunities of the medium in Spain, which will also be relevant to the Australian context, where comics are also rising in the cultural sphere and sometimes facing similar processes of change.



Enrique is based at La Trobe University in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. After finishing his studies, Enrique gained experience teaching Spanish in Spain (in international programs at the Universidad de Salamanca and the UIMP in Santander and for the Engineering Team at Aramco and Técnicas Reunidas in Madrid) and Belgium (Haute École de la Ville de Liège). His research interests include pedagogy of Spanish as a foreign language, 20th century Spanish and Latin American poetry and the relations between Music and Literature and Literature and Comics.

Pat Grant to Be Keynote Speaker at Inkers and Thinkers 2015

The Inkers and Thinkers organisers are proud to announce that acclaimed comics artist Pat Grant will be the Keynote Speaker for next year’s symposium, Inkers and Thinkers: The Alternative.

pat grant

Pat Grant is a cartoonist, a wharfie, and try-hard academic. His first graphic novel, Blue, about race relations on the Australian beach, was published in Australia, the USA, France and Italy. Blue was listed as one of the ten great graphic novels of 2012 by and one of the top three graphic novels of all-time by Pat’s mum, who has read exactly three graphic novels. Pat has a Ph.D in Media from Macquarie University, his scholarly work is concerned with materiality and movement in the cartooning process. When he is not drawing comics or taking stuff off boats he is teaching graphic storytelling at UTS. He is currently at work on his second graphic novel about teenage con-artists in a greasy post-industrial future. The book is on-track for completion some time in the next 100 years.


Call for Papers for Inkers and Thinkers Interdisciplinary Symposium 2015: Alternative Forms, Alternative Voices

Call for Papers:

The University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Media will hold its second annual interdisciplinary symposium on comics and graphic narratives on May 15 and 16, 2015. We invite researchers of all disciples, as well as artists working in the comics field, to submit proposals for conference papers. The theme of this year’s symposium is ‘Alternative Forms, Alternative Voices’.

Questions that could be addressed by research papers include, but are not limited to:

  • How have comics historically been considered alternative and subversive?
  • How have comic creators used new technologies and emerging cultural practices to shape comics as an alternative or radical medium?
  • How have comics operated as a medium of expression for marginalised groups or ideas?
  • What publishing practices and formal properties have been used to position certain comics as alternative, or opposed to accepted ideas about literacy and discourse?

Abstracts of 250-300 words for presentations of 15 minutes should be submitted to by October 31, 2014. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by November 30, 2014.

Call for Workshop Proposals:

As part of the Inkers and Thinkers 2015 programming we are seeking proposals for 90-minute hands-on creative workshops on comics and graphic narratives to be held on May 15 and 16, 2015. The workshops should be thematically tied to the academic symposium, which explores the ways that comics have experimented with forms, uses, and content. Proposals are welcomed from both writers and artists, either working as individuals or in a team. Please note that we are seeking funding to provide stipends for accepted workshops.

Workshop classes could include, but are not limited to:

  • Technical Aspects of Comics Production: Such as how to write effective dialogue, unfold action in sequence, portray character emotion, etc.
  • Crafting Comics Content: Such as how to illustrate a wordless comic, working with historical and autobiographical material, using comics for political or educational purposes, etc.

Submissions should include an overview of the proposed workshop, including a draft lesson plan, and information about the presenters, including any relevant teaching and/or artistic experience, as well as what equipment and materials will be needed for you and the class. Workshops should be designed to accommodate up to 40 participants.

Pitches for workshop sessions should be submitted to by October, 31, 2014. Please indicate whether your session is designed for a beginner or intermediateaudience, or both. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by December 1, 2014.

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:

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.

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