March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last week, I wrote about an article from Cinema Journal–and Cinema Journal is the official academic publication of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS). SCMS was founded in 1959 as “The Society of Cinematologists,” a professional organization for film teachers and scholars, and changed its name to the Society for Cinema Studies in 1969. In 2002, “Media” was added to the organization’s name, to reflect research in new media and other forms of visual communication, including comics.

Interest in comics among SCMS members is currently spiking. In Cinema Journal 50.3 (Spring 2011), Bart Beaty edited a special “In Focus” section on comics studies, with articles by Greg Smith, Angela Ndalianis, Scott Bukatman, Catherine Labio and Darren Wershler, and and an extended conversation among Bukatman, Smith, Thomas Andrae and Thomas LaMarre about the state of American comics scholarship. (In the fall, I’m teaching an undergraduate Honors comics class, and I’ll assign my students to read this “In Focus” section; it’s a lively introduction to the field.) Also last year, scholar Matt Yockey successfully lobbied to create a SCMS Comic Studies Scholarly Interest Group, an organization-within-the-organization dedicated to promoting the “critical analysis of all aspects of comics production, circulation, and reception through original research and teaching practices.” Founding members of the Comics Studies SIG include (among others) Andrae, Beaty, LaMarre, Ndalianis, Yockey, Will Brooker, Corey Creekmur, Henry Jenkins, Derek Kompare and myself; go here for the SIG’s Mission Statement and Bylaws.

Coming up this month (Wednesday, March 21-Sunday, March 25) is the SCMS Annual Conference, held this year in Boston, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers. The final conference program is now online, and the following papers and events address comics:

Wednesday, March 21, 4-5:45pm: As part of the “Pornography Across Media” panel, Sho Ogawa (University of Kansas) will present “Imaginary Bodies and Masturbatory Desires: The Representation and Reception of Intersexuality in Japanese Pornographic Comics.”

Thursday, March 22, 9-10:45am: As part of the “Media Industries in Transition” panel, Shawna Kidman (University of Southern California) will present “Men in Tight Places: How the Comic Book Industry Collapsed and Lives to Tell about It.”

Thursday, March 22, 3-4:45pm: As part of the “Rewriting the National” panel, Andre Carrington (New York University) will present “Color Against the Real in the Bande Desinee—Aya.”

Friday, March 23, 12:15-2pm: Two papers on the “Gay Expectations” panel: Ramzi Fawaz (George Washington University) with “Consumed by Hellfire: Demonic Possession and Queer Desire in American Superhero Comics of the 1980s” and Ryan Watson (University of Iowa) with “Lewis Klahr’s Pony Glass: Queer Collage Animation, Retroactive Contingency, and the Everyday.” (In Pony Glass [1997], experimental filmmaker Lewis Klahr animates 1960s drawings by Jim Mooney, Gil Kane and Kurt Schaffenberger to chart Jimmy Olsen’s crush on Superman.)

Also on Friday, March 23, 12:15-2pm: A workshop on “Teaching Comics Studies,” with Bukatman (Stanford University), Suzanne Scott (Occidental College), Smith (Georgia State University), James Thompson (Duke University) and Yockey (University of Toledo). This workshop is sponsored by the Comic Studies SIG.

Saturday March 24, 4-5:45pm: As part of the “Video Games Industry Studies” panel, Kathryn Frank (University of Michigan) will present “Imagining the Cult Media Audience: Comics and Video Game Industrial ‘Synergy.”

There’s hundreds of other fascinating presentations (on animation and gender, on fans and fandom, on [adult swim], on films and media of all kinds) so in case you’re in or near Boston next weekend, here’s information about registering for the conference.

It’s exciting to see so many comics papers at this year’s SCMS, although my younger self would’ve been more skeptical. When I decided to write about comics, about 11 or 12 years ago, when I was burned out on (ahem) “academic discourse,” I mistrusted scholarly work on comics—I preferred (to the point of fetishization) fanzines and other fan outlets, because they felt more authentic, more enthusiastic, more subjective, more gut-level. But criticism isn’t a zero-sum game, and nowadays I value both good fan and good academic comics criticism. I suspect SCMS will provide a lot of the latter next week.


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