The San Diego Comic-Con is just around the corner, and though there are going to be a lot of television, movies, and video game panels, presentations, booths, giveaways and more, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two about comic books. The Comics Arts Conference returns once again, and its programming schedule will make you feel smarter just by reading it.
Here is a sampling of some of the panels the CAC is putting together.
THURSDAY – July 20
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Phillip Vaughan (University of Dundee) examines the troubled development and short run of the British horror weekly Scream!, its impact on the British comics industry, and its eventual demise. Andrew Lamprecht (University of Cape Town) discusses the relationship of past and present in contemporary South African comics and the ways that these comics reflect concerns, fears, and utopic dreams after apartheid. Nicole Larrondo (Brown University) investigates how the Chilean government is involved in publishing comics and the ways in which comics have been used inside and outside the classroom as a pedagogical tool to encourage the study of Chilean history.
Comics and Literacy
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Lisa Smith (Pepperdine University) presents her approach to teaching analytical writing in a first-year composition class using Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon, providing practical, constructive advice on how to use comics to improve students’ analytical writing skills. Chris Kuhlow (University of Akron) examines her local comic book shop as a sponsor of multimodal literacy and the pedagogical implications of this sponsorship on the teaching of writing in freshman composition. James “Skip” Harvey (University of Missouri School of Journalism) reports on a two-year study investigating the literary practices of high school students working with a local artist to create comics and digital compositions.
FRIDAY – July 21
Lassoing the Truth: Marston Versus Wertham in the Wonder Woman War
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Psychologist William Moulton Marston created the world’s most famous female superhero. Using outdated examples and falsified evidence, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham attacked both Wonder Woman and the deceased Marston in his book Seduction of the Innocent. Doctors Travis Langley and Mara Wood (Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth) call together a panel of experts to examine how one crusader’s fight with a ghost affected both comics and comics studies: Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman), Trina Robbins (The Legend of Wonder Woman), Danny Fingeroth (Superman on the Couch), Alan Kistler (comics historian), and Mike Madrid (The Supergirls), with special guest Christie Marston (Wonder Woman Network and Family Museum). Be a sensation, not sensationalistic!
It Came From the Pulps! The Weird, Lurid Origins of the Comic Book
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
For 50 years before the birth of the modern comic book, pulp magazines were the predominant source of popular fiction in America. Many of the creators, and readers, of the pulps helped to nurture the nascent comic industry, and their influence and legacy can still be felt to this day. Author Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (The Texas-Siberia Trail, granddaughter of DC Comics’s founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson), Jason Ray Carney (Christopher Newport University), Bram Stoker Award-nominated comic and pulp scholar Jeffrey Shanks (The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales), Patrick Scott Belk (Empires of Print: Adventure Fiction in the Magazines, 1899-1919), and Eisner-nominated comics and pulp historian Nathan Vernon Madison (Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comic Books, 1920-1960) discuss the connections between pulp magazines and early comic books, as well as the relatively recent growth in academic study dedicated to exploring those connections.
Voices and Visions of Native American Superheroes
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Native American heroes’ comic book adventures often explore identity and culture. Kerry Fine (Arizona State University) shows how Arigon Starr’s reservation hero Hubert Logan, a.k.a. Super Indian, fills a representational gap for the non-native audience while taking up distinctly Native issues in the ongoing fight against injustice. Rebecca Lush (California State University San Marcos) makes the case that Jeffery Veregge’s art in Marvel’s recent Red Wolf provides a Native inter-text that contrasts with naturalistic narrative panels for commentary on the storyline and characters. Sara Spurgeon (Texas Tech University) argues that Maya Lopez’s vision quest in David Mack’s Daredevil: Echo Vision Quest is twofold: both a spiritual journey she takes as a Native American guided by the shaman she meets on the reservation and a quest for a visual form of language with which she can communicate as a deaf person in a hearing world, while still maintaining her identity as a Native American in a white world.
SATURDAY – July 22
Make Ours Marvel: Media Convergence and a Comics Universe
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Since the debut of the Fantastic Four in 1961, Marvel has steadily invested in worldbuilding strategies that have in more recent years culminated in the company’s globally successful forays into film and television production. Drawing on the anthology Make Ours Marvel: Media Convergence and a Comics Universe (University of Texas Press, 2017), Matt Yockey (University of Toledo), Anna Peppard (York University), and Derek Johnson (University of Wisconsin, Madison) chart significant aspects of the development of the Marvel brand, including Marvel’s exploitation of affect to foster brand and reader identities in the 1960s, the company’s checkered history publishing comics with strong female protagonists, and Marvel’s problematic attempt to widen its reading audience with the “Share Your Universe” campaign.
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
J. Richard Stevens (University of Colorado, Boulder) examines how Marvel is positioning Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in the lead-up to her film as a credible feminist icon in order to more explicitly address the interests of a rising female readership. Chris Richardson (Young Harris College) argues that Bourdieu’s notion of the field, a place in which actors compete for status through symbolic capital, allows us to better understand how Jessica Jones, as a strong, independent, heroic woman, a victim of abuse, a vulnerable and insecure lover, and the product of two men’s imagination, has dramatically reshaped the industry in subtle yet important ways. Samantha Langsdale (University of North Texas) sees Marvel’s new run of Spider-Woman as feminist in its defiance of the trend in mainstream superhero comics to characterize motherhood as untenable for superheroines by presenting a markedly woman-centered model of motherhood.
SUNDAY – July 23
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Angela Chiarmonte (University of Colorado Boulder) analyzes how Ms. Marvel resonates with the Millennial generation by rejecting and subverting stereotypes of Millennials. Caitlin O’Shea (Reed College) addresses how women as comic fans, retailers, and creators navigate a space that is traditionally masculine and hostile to their gender. Angelica Kalika (University of Colorado Boulder) uses fan interpretations of Spider-Gwen texts to define Spider-Gwen’s connection to feminist and millennial speech communities.
All of these sound fantastic and engaging, and if you pay attention you may just learn a thing or two before it is done. If you are looking for even more panels, the complete Comics Arts Conference panel schedule can be found here.