Call for Papers for a proposed panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, 3-6 Jan. 2013, in Boston. Sponsored by the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives.
Since representation is at the heart of graphic narrative in all its forms—including comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, webcomics, and panel cartoons—analyzing comics should be of central importance to scholars of race. To take but a single example, one of the pioneers of the newspaper strip, George Herriman, was a Black Southerner whose work offers subtle and complex commentary on race and color. Herriman—like Homer Plessy a mulatto from New Orleans—produced Krazy Kat, perhaps the most critically acclaimed and artistically influential strip in American history, from 1913 up to his death in 1944. Yet the realities of Herriman’s origins remained obscure in his own lifetime, and even today scholars of the Harlem Renaissance rarely if ever align Herriman with the New Negro movement. Nor do most scholars grant more than cursory attention to the possible links between Herriman’s own racial hybridity and the formal innovations that have enabled Krazy Kat to influence figures as diverse as Picasso, Walt Disney, and Jay Cantor.
This proposed panel seeks to tease out these and other potential areas where the methods of Black Studies may inform comic scholarship, and vice versa. We hope greater collaboration between these disciplines will yield a greater understanding of race and representation in one of America’s most vital cultural archives.
We invite proposals on all topics relevant to this theme, including but not necessarily limited to:
- The legibility (and ironies) of race in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat
- African-American cartooning pioneers, e.g. Herriman, Oliver Harrington, Jackie Ormes, Morrie Turner
- Ho Che Anderson’s King and other graphic representations of the Civil Rights Movement
- Black biography in comics, e.g. King, Santiago’s 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, Von Eeden’s The Original Johnson
- Contemporary African-American strip cartoonists, e.g. Robb Armstrong, Ray Billingsley, Barbara Brandon, Keith Knight, Aaron McGruder
- McGruder’s Boondocks and Birth of a Nation
- Samuel Delany’s comics work, including Empire, Bread & Wine, and Wonder Woman
- Mat Johnson’s comics work, including Incognegro, Dark Rain, and the forthcoming Right State
- Morales and Baker’s Captain America, in Truth: Red, White, and Black
- Jeremy Love’s Bayou and the nadir
- Comics and Afro-futurism
- Black superheroes and racial ideology
- Cyborgs and race in American comics
- Encounters between comics and hip-hop, e.g. Ghostface Killah et al.’s Cell Block Z; Slug, Murs, and Mahfood’s Felt; MF Grimm and Wimberly’s Sentences
- Depictions of Blackness in manga, e.g. Koike and Kano’s Color of Rage, Hiramoto’s Me and the Devil Blues
- Blackness, racial caricature, and Otherness in French-language bandes dessinées and other traditions
- Black entrepreneurship in comics, e.g. Fitzgerald’s Fast Willie Jackson; Milestone Media; the Afrocentric self-publishers of the 1990s
- Race in graphic depictions of the New Orleans disaster, e.g., Dark Rain, Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge
- Scholarly and curatorial recoveries of Black cartooning
- The archive of comics and the archive of slavery
- Masks and other metaphors of double consciousness in superhero comics
- EC Comics’ commentaries on racial discrimination
- Caricature and stereotype in Eisner, Crumb, Spiegelman, and others
Send 500 word abstracts in .doc or .pdf form to Charles Hatfield: charles[dot]hatfield @ gmail[dot]com. The deadline for submissions is 9 March 2012. Submitters will receive notification of results from the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives by no later than April 1.
PLEASE NOTE: This CFP is for a proposed, not a guaranteed, session at MLA 2013, meaning it is contingent on approval by the MLA Program Committee (which will make its decisions after April 1). All prospective presenters must be current MLA members by no later than 7 April 2012.
Please feel free to leave comments on this site, or to email Charles Hatfield at charles[dot]hatfield @ gmail[dot]com if you have questions!