• CXC Symposium

2016 CXC Scholarly Symposium

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Our theme for this inaugural year is “Canon Fodder,” seeking to test and remix the still-damp concrete of comics histories and canons before they set. The goal for the symposium is to launch an extended conversation among participants that will continue into the CXC weekend and beyond. Some of the questions we hope to begin answering at the symposium are:

  • What is missing from the dominant narratives of comics history?
  • What unites and what challenges the emerging canon of comics scholarship? What unites and what challenges the emerging canon of comics taught in the classroom?
  • What isn’t being written about that should be, and why? What isn’t being taught that should be, and why?
  • What happens to our sense of the field when we focus on X or decenter Y?
  • What are the institutions (industry, fandom, scholarly) that define and defend canons in comics?
  • Are there problems inherent with applying the concept of canonicity to comics (or comics studies)?
  • How can academic comics scholars and historians contribute to a field whose foundations were laid by cartoonists and independent scholars without f&*%ing it all up?

CXC 2016 will be October 13-16. More information about the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus festival can be found at www.cartooncrossroadscolumbus.com

This year's Symposium is hosted at the Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in partnership with the Ohio State University's Popular Culture Studies program, Sol-Con: the Brown + Black Comics Expo, the Columbus College of Arts & Design, and the Comics Studies Society.
Thursday October 13

8-9:00 COFFEE

9:00 Jared Gardner, Welcome

9:15-10:15 Notes from Canon-makers (& -Breakers) (Chair, Jared Gardner)

  • Tom Spurgeon, “Good Intentions, Bad Math and Not Thinking Twice: The Making Of The Comics Journal Top 100 Comics Of The 20th Century List”
  • Dean Mullaney, “Bridging the Camps: Notes from a Career in and around the Canon Wars”

10:30-12:00 Panel I (Chair, David Allan Duncan)

  • Benjamin Woo, “Comic Book Publishers and Consecratory Power”
  • Benoît Crucifix, “Curating Canons of Comics: Daniel Clowes and Art Spiegelman’s ‘Private’ Museums”
  • Ally Shwed, “To Pander or to Play the Game: Fan Interaction and Comics Canon in the Digital Age”
  • Matthew Smith & Randy Duncan, “The Secret Origins of Comics Studies—Revealed!”

12:00-1:15 LUNCH BREAK

1:15-2:30 Panel II (Chair, Michelle Ann Abate)

  • Ian Gordon, “Arguing for Comparative Histories: Genre”
  • Brittany Tullis, “Cultivating Transnationality in the Comics Canon: On Spain and Latin America”
  • Leah Misemer, “Taking Serial Comics Seriously: International Feminist Comics Anthologies”

2:30-3:00 COFFEE

3:00-4:30 Panel III (Chair, Laurenn McCubbin)

  • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt, “How Lust Was Lost: Genre, Identity, and the Neglect of a Pioneering Comics Publication”
  • Mora Beauchamp-Byrd, “Beyond Superman: African American Newspaper Comics in the Golden Age”
  • Andrew Kunka, “Scribbly, Inkie, and Pre-Underground Autobiographical Comics”
  • Johnathan Flowers, “Decentering and Recentering in the Field of Comics”

4:30-5:45 Panel IV (Chair, Robyn Warhol)

  • Jean-Matthieu Méon, “Whatever Happened to Byron Preiss? The Retrospective History of Graphic Novels and its Disqualifications of Early Endeavors”
  • Susan Kirtley, “Ack!: Female-Created Comic Strips and the Scholarly Canon”
  • Brannon Costello, “American Flagg!, 1980s Independent Comics, and the Comics Canon”

5:45-7:00 Joint reception with Sol-Con (Hale Hall)


8-9:00 COFFEE

9:00-10:15 Panel V (Chair, Ben Novotny Owen)

  • Nhora Serrano, “Borders, Walls, and Canon (De)Constructions: The Immigrant in Comics From Joseph Keppler to Chris Ware”
  • Brian Cremins, “‘A Fabric of Illusion’: C. C. Beck’s Critical Circle and His Theory of Comic Art”
  • David Nuss, “Palmer's Picks”

10:30-12:00 Panel VI (Chair, Karly Grice)

  • Jonathan Alexandratos & Daniel Yezbick, “Articulate This!: The Action Figure as Embodiment and Extension of Comic-Book Continuities”
  • Nick Miller, “Continuity and Orientation: Revisiting the Canonical Sexuality of Jughead Jones”
  • John Jennings, “How to See a Superhero in Total Darkness: Marvel Comics’ Original Cloak and Dagger Series as Anti-miscegenation Narrative”
  • Jenny Blenk, “Seeing Deafness: Representing an Invisible Disability through the Visual Rhetoric of Superhero Comics”

12:00-1:00 LUNCH BREAK

1:00-2:00   Keynote

  • Seth, in Conversation with Craig Fischer

2:00 Closing remarks


The organizing committee for the symposium is Jared Gardner, Elizabeth Hewitt, Laurenn McCubbin, Caitlin McGurk, Rachel Miller, Ben Novotny Owen, Jenny Robb, and Theresa Rojas.

Special thanks to the symposium’s sponsors: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, Ohio State University’s Popular Culture Studies program, and Columbus College of Art & Design, and of course Cartoon Crossroads Columbus itself. Thanks as well to our partners at Sol-Con and the Comics Studies Society!

For schedules of all the events taking place during the CXC Festival, please visit www.cartooncrossroadscolumbus.com
Michelle Ann Abate is Associate Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults at The Ohio State University.  Michelle has published articles on comics and graphic novels in Jeunesse and The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics.  With Karly Marie Grice, Michelle co-curated the exhibit “‘Good Grief!’: Children and Comics,” which was on display at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Summer 2016.  The exhibit was accompanied by a collection of catalogue essays, titled “Children’s Comics, Past and Present,” which Michelle co-edited with Joe Sutliff Sanders.  Finally, with Gwen Athene Tarbox, Michelle co-edited Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collection of Critical Essays.  The book will be released from the University of Mississippi Press in Spring 2017.

Jonathan Alexandratos is a Professor of Remedial English at Queensborough Community College in New York City and co-program manager of Page 23, the pop culture literary conference that operates under Denver Comic Con.  He is the editor of Points of Articulation: Essays in Action Figure Studies, the first edited collection of academic essays revolving solely around action figures, which is due out from McFarland next year.  In addition to his academic work, Jonathan also works as a playwright, creating work that involves action figures and comics on stage, which has been seen internationally.

Jenny Blenk is a Master’s student at Portland State University, earning a MA in English Literature and a certificate in Comics Studies. Her area of expertise lies in the representation of disability in comics, with a special focus on invisible disability and superheroes. Currently she is the intern for Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, and lives in Portland with five houseplants, a rabbit, and a typewriter.

Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and Curatorial Studies at Spelman College.  An art historian, curator, and arts administrator, she specializes in the art of the African Diaspora (including artists engaged with feminist theory, and African American cartoonists and animators); curatorial studies; 18th- century British art (with an emphasis on William Hogarth’s graphic narratives); and contemporary British art with a particular focus on British artists of African, Asian and Caribbean descent.   

Brannon Costello is Associate Professor of English at Louisiana State University, where he teaches and writes about comics and southern literature and directs the Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts program. He is the author of two books, including the forthcoming Real Things: The Comics of Howard Chaykin (2017), and editor of volumes including Howard Chaykin: Conversations (2010), Conversations with Michael Chabon (2015) and (with Qiana Whitted), Comics and the U.S. South (2012).

Brian Cremins is an Associate Professor of English at Harper College. His essays have appeared in Studies in American Humor, Comics and the U. S. South,  and The Routledge Companion to Comics. The University Press of Mississippi will publish his first book, Captain Marvel and the Art of Nostalgia, in December 2016. He lives in Chicago.

Benoît Crucifix is a FRS-FNRS doctoral fellow at the University of Liège and UCLouvain in Belgium, where he writes a thesis on ‘authors’s histories of comics,’ mapping how contemporary cartoonists frame and recirculate the history of comics. He is a member of the ACME Comics Research Group and his writings on comics have appeared in European Comic Art, The Comics Grid, du9, Graphixia and Töpfferiana.

David Allan Duncan (who goes by Duncan) is Professor of Sequential Art at the Savannah College of Art and Design where he teaches comics history, theory & practices, hand-lettering, mini-comics, and Franco-Belgian comics. He makes comics, writes papers, runs an annual mini-comics expo, gives workshops, and travels to conventions and conferences.

Randy Duncan is Professor of Communication at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he created an interdisciplinary minor in Comics Studies. His latest book is Creating Comics as Journalism, Memoir & Nonfiction (Routledge, 2016), co-authored with Michael Ray Taylor and David Stoddard. He is also co-founder of the Comics Arts Conference, the nation’s longest running academic conference devoted to the study of comics. His pioneering work has been recognized by Comic-Con International with its prestigious Inkpot Award.

Craig Fischer is Professor of English at Appalachian State University. His recent writings on comics have been published in The Blacker the Ink and The Routledge Companion to Comics, while his column “Monsters Eat Critics” appears intermittently on the Comics Journal website. Fischer was a judge for the 2010 Eisner Awards and the curator of an art exhibit celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Center for Cartoon Studies; he also serves on the editorial board for the Comics Culture series from Rutgers University Press.

Johnathan Flowers is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale where he is currently working on his dissertation which seeks to bring Japanese aesthetic theory in conversation with gender theory. In addition to his dissertation work, he teaches undergraduate courses focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups in the department of women, gender, and sexuality studies and the college of education. He combines his love of comics and his love of philosophy by engaging with the intersection of popular culture of philosophy, particularly where race, gender, and sexuality are concerned.

Jared Gardner teaches comics, popular culture, and American literature and film at the Ohio State University. He is the author of three books—including Projections: Comics and the History of 21st-Century Storytelling (Stanford UP, 2012)—and editor of a few other things, including, with  Lucy Shelton Caswell, the Studies in Comics & Cartoons book series at OSU Press and Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, launching in 2017.

Ian Gordon teaches cultural history, comics, and media at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of Comic Strips and Consumer Culture. His Kid Comic Strips: A Genre Across Four Countries will be published by Palgrave in December 2016 and his Superman: The Persistence of an American Icon by Rutgers in February 2017. He is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, Studies in Comics and Popular Communication.

Karly Marie Grice is a doctoral candidate in Education: Teaching & Learning at The Ohio State University. She teaches undergraduate children’s literature courses emphasizing multicultural and visual texts. Her research includes comics, graphic narratology, visual culture, and multicultural children’s literature. She has a published article on Sara Varon’s graphic novel Robot Dreams as graphic medicine, and she co-curated the comics exhibit “‘Good Grief!’: Children and Comics” at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum with Michelle Ann Abate.

Robert Hulshof-Schmidt is a lifelong comics collector and historian who recently obtained his certificate in Comics Studies from Portland State University. By day he works as a mild-mannered Development Director, the civilian identity for his work as a researcher of vintage romance and genre comics. On the side, he runs a online comic store. His current research focuses on the publications of St. John comics and the work of Matt Baker.

John Jennings is a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside. Professor Jennings received his MA in Art Education in 1995 and the MFA in Studio with a focus on Graphic Design in 1997 from UIUC. He is an interdisciplinary scholar who examines the visual culture of race in various media forms including film, illustrated fiction, and comics and graphic novels. Jennings is also a curator, graphic novelist, editor, and design theorist whose research interests include the visual culture of Hip Hop, Afrofuturism and politics, Visual Literacy, Horror and the EthnoGothic, and  Speculative Design and its applications to visual rhetoric. Jennings is co-editor of the Eisner Award winning collection The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art (Rutgers) and co-founder/organizer of The Schomburg Center's Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem. He is co-founder and organizer of the MLK NorCal's Black Comix Arts Festival in San Francisco and also SOL-CON: The Brown and Black Comix Expo at the Ohio State University. Jennings' current projects include the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's Kindred (with Damian Duffy), Tony Medina's police brutality themed ghost story I Am Alphonso Jones (with Stacey Robinson), and his Hoodoo Noir graphic novella Blue Hand Mojo (Rosarium Publishing). Jennings is also a Nasir Jones Hip Hop Studies Fellow at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University.
Susan Kirtley is an Associate Professor of English, the Director of Rhetoric and Composition, and the Director of Comics Studies at Portland State University. Her book, Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass, was the 2013 Eisner winner for Best Educational/Academic work. She served as a judge for the 2015 Eisner Awards and is currently the Secretary for the Comics Studies Society and a member of the Executive Group on Graphic Narratives for the Modern Language Association.

Andrew J. Kunka is Professor of English and Division Chair at the University of South Carolina Sumter. He is the author of the forthcoming book Autobiographical Comics from Bloomsbury’s Comics Studies Series. He has also published on Will Eisner, Kyle Baker, Gene Luen Yang, Jack Katz, comics noir, and race and comics. He is co-founder and co-host of the Comics Alternative podcast and website with Derek Parker Royal.

Laurenn McCubbin is a large-scale installation artist and illustrator, and the house designer for Milkfed Criminal Masterminds (PRETTY DEADLY, BITCH PLANET). She’s drawn comics and graphic novels for McSweeneys, Marvel Comics, Vertigo, Last Gasp and Dark Horse. She was the Art Director for Image Comics, the co-creator of the graphic novel Rent Girl (with writer Michelle Tea) and is currently an Assistant Professor at the Columbus College of Art and Design, in the new Comics and Narrative Practice major.

Jean-Matthieu Méon is senior lecturer in media and communication studies at the University of Lorraine. He is a member of the Centre de Recherche sur les Médiations, for which he co-directs the Praxitèle research team dedicated to arts, culture and mediations. He has published extensively on censorship, musical amateur practices and popular culture (comic books, pornography). His works on comics explore, in particular, the institutional, professional and artistic dimensions of their legitimization. They’ve been published in Studies in Comics, International Journal of Comic Art, European Comic Art or Image & Narrative.

Nick Miller is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Hollins University, where he teaches American literature, culture studies, and comics. He has essays forthcoming in Literature and Medicine, The Oxford Handbook of Charles Brockden Brown, and The Encyclopedia of African American Culture. Nick is currently working on a project that explores representations of asexuality in twenty-first century comics.

Leah Misemer earned her PhD in English Literature from University of Wisconsin-Madison where she currently teaches in the English Department.  Her dissertation, "The Great Crossover: Readers and Authors in American Serial Comics" explores how serial comics form counterpublics of marginalized readers, particularly children, women, queers, and geeks.  She has published on her comics teaching and research in Composition Studies and Forum for World Literature Studies, as well as been a guest blogger on popular culture for Skepchick and To the Lamp Post.  Her primary research interest is in contemporary American media, with emphases on visual rhetoric, popular culture, and literature in social movements.

Dean Mullaney  created The Library of American Comics in 2007 and has won multiple Eisner Awards as writer, editor, and book designer. He has been an influential force in the comics field since 1978, when he published Sabre, the first graphic novel for the comics specialty market. His pioneering efforts, as founder and publisher of Eclipse Comics, brought many milestones to the field, including creator copyright ownership, the first line of Japanese manga in English translation (in 1988), and the first digitally-colored comic book. He created the EuroComics imprint for IDW in 2015. Dean lives in Florida with his wife Lorraine Turner.

David Nuss is the publisher of Revival House Press, a small press comics company that has released a variety of pamphlets, anthologies and a graphic novel. He’s worked with a number of comics and art focused groups in the past, such as Tender Loving Empire, Pony Club and Alternative Comics.  

Ben Novotny Owen is a PhD candidate in English at Ohio State University. He studies 20th century American literature, art, comics, and film, and is working on a dissertation connecting cartooning and conceptual art. He’s published on race and early sound film in Screen, and has essays on Joe Sacco and Charles Schulz in edited collections.

Nhora Lucía Serrano is Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature at Hamilton College, and serves as Chair of the MLA Forum on Comics and Graphic Narratives as well as an Elected Board Member and Treasurer of the newly founded Comics Studies Society. She is co-editor of Curious Collectors, Collected Curiosities: An Interdisciplinary Study (2011). She is currently finishing her edited anthology Immigrants and Comics: Graphic Spaces of Remembrance, Transaction, and Mimesis as part of Routledge Advances in Comics Series, set for 2018.

Ally Shwed is a cartoonist and writer, as well as a visiting professor of sequential art, scriptwriting, and art direction at the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Querétaro, México.  She has a paper forthcoming in the fall volume of Intima: a Journal of Narrative Medicine, a comic due out on The Nib about México and immigration, and is also editing a comic anthology with works exploring the world of online dating, set for Summer 2017.

Matthew J. Smith is professor and director of the School of Communication at Radford University, where he teaches Graphic Storytelling. In collaboration with Randy Duncan and Paul Levitz, he is co-author of The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture, 2nd Edition. Smith’s previous collaborations include It Happens at Comic-Con: Ethnographic Essays on a Pop Culture Phenomenon; Icons of the American Comic Book; and the Eisner-nominated Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods.

Tom Spurgeon is festival director at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, the editor of The Comics Reporter and the author of We Told You So: Comics As Art (Fantagraphics, 2016).

Brittany Tullis is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Women and Gender Studies at St. Ambrose University, where she teaches Hispanic and feminist comics. Along with work published in Hispanic Issues On Line and the International Journal of Comics Art, she is co-editor of Picturing Childhood: Youth in Transnational Comics, which will be published this spring by the University of Texas Press. She is currently working on a project that explores representations of women and girls in Latin/x American comics.

Robyn Warhol is Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor and Interim Chair of English at The Ohio State University, where she is also a Project Narrative core faculty member.  She teaches narrative theory, feminist theory, Victorian and TV serials, and graphic memoir.  Her most recent book (co-authored with Helena Michie), Love Among the Archives won the NAVSA Best Book of the Year for 2015.  

Benjamin Woo is assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). He is co-author (with Bart Beaty) of The Greatest Comic Book of All Time: Symbolic Capital and the Field of American Comic Books and co-editor (with Stuart R. Poyntz and Jamie Rennie) of Scene Thinking: Cultural Studies from the Scenes Perspective.

Daniel Yezbick has a comics problem. It follows him to work as Professor of English and Media Studies at Wildwood College in St. Louis, MO. It forces him to write essays for anthologies like the Eisner-winning The Blacker the Ink, and it has even transformed him into the author of Fantagraphics’ Perfect Nonsense: the Chaotic Comics and Goofy Games of George Carlson. Finally, it drives him to seek out all of the other wonderful people who explore comics and culture at conferences and public forums like this one. He usually deals with his comics problem in South St Louis, whenever his wife and kids will let him.