Despite the world falling into chaos, a pandemic raging, social movements on the march, an election swirling, and all the hectic busy-ness of a most unusual semester, the Comics Studies community at UNT managed to squeeze in some welcome comics-related activities that kept us all somewhat grounded, connected, and nourished by our shared love of graphic narrative.
The biggest event of the Fall was our participation in the virtual Flyover Comics Symposium, Sept. 24-25, 2020, a collaborative event sponsored by comics studies groups at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, and the University of North Texas, and hosted by the Digital Frontiers organization. The event featured fourteen scholarly panel sessions, two author-talks, a special plenary panel of women comics creators, a self-care with comics workshop, and even a cosplay happy hour (with two Dr. Dooms)! All of the sessions were well-attended, with an average of 20-25 participants each, and featured a wide range of work from academic scholars, librarians, creators, students, and independent scholars, including a number of folks from UNT. The event showed that we could have a lively, engaging, and serious scholarly event in a virtual space that was also a lot of fun. It also provided an outlet for the work of many scholars whose other planned conferences and events were canceled due to the pandemic.
Later in the Fall, several of us at UNT participated in Michigan State University’s Graphic Possibilities Virtual WikiData Edit-a-thon, Oct. 8-9, 2020, which gave us an opportunity to contribute to an ongoing “Comics as Data” project which makes available the metadata of MSU’s vast collections of comics and comics-related materials. We helped add some of this metadata to the larger online WikiData collection of openly-available data from all over the world. This will allow researchers to do cutting-edge data mining, analysis, visualization, and digital storytelling projects on comics publishers and creators dating back to the Golden Age. The MSU group hopes to hold another similar event in the Spring, and we’ll share details on this blog.
The UNT Comics Studies Reading Group also remained active through the Summer and Fall, though with fewer meetings than in previous semesters. All our meetings since March were conducted virtually, and the dates and readings were shared via our email listserv (see contact info below, if you’d like to be added). Among the works we read and discussed were Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote & Aaron Campbell, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagami. We also read an article by Carol L. Tilley & Robert G. Weiner, Teaching and Learning with Comics. Each of these readings offered something new and valuable to our conversations about comics, culture, race, religion, sexuality, the manga form, and the pedagogy of comics. Some of them have already been integrated into course reading lists by our faculty members, and others have been used in ongoing research projects. We hope to continue these conversations with some new titles and formats in the Spring.
Also in the Spring, we hope to host at least one or two more virtual events that will be of interest to the UNT community and beyond. Keep an eye on this blog for details of an upcoming Star Wars conference, Realizing Resistance, Episode II, coming in May. And feel free to share any ideas you have for other events in the comments below.
If you’d like to be added to our Comics Studies Reading Group email list, please contact email@example.com.