Snapshots: Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books, 7 Jan. 2012

The MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives sponsored three successful panels for the MLA 2012 conference in Seattle, 5-8 Jan. 2012. Make that very successful panels: all three were well attended, lively, stimulating, and innovative. Sadly, we were able to get photos of just one, the last, “Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books,” which took place on Saturday evening, 7 January. See the images below!

This panel was packed, with a SRO crowd, and prompted an excellent discussion, thanks to the provocative work of panelists Perry Nodelman, Phil Nel, Michael Joseph, and Joseph Thomas. The panel was co-sponsored by the Comics Group and the MLA Division on Children’s Literature, and organized and moderated by Craig Svonkin and Charles Hatfield.

Thanks to our wonderful panelists and enthusiastic audience for an important, groundbreaking session. The following snapshots, despite being low-light and high-grain, document the experience.

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First up, Perry Nodelman presents on the work of Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, in both picture book and comic form. Joseph Thomas and Phil Nel look on at left.

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Perry Nodelman at the podium.

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Rapt listeners: from left, Michael Joseph and Joseph Thomas.

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Phil Nel looks on.

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Phil Nel reflects on the distinctions between comics and picture books and between genres and modes—and in the process he reframes the very idea of genre!

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Phil Nel at the podium.

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Perry Nodelman and Michael Joseph look on.

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Michael Joseph explains how comics challenge the norms of book culture, and thus the very category of children's literature.

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Michael Joseph at the podium.

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Joseph Thomas contemplates.

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Joseph Thomas examines two different versions of Silverstein's "Uncle Shelby ABZ Book" to show how expectations of genre shape and limit our interpretations.

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Joseph Thomas rounds out the panel. Is this when he showed the pages from "Savage Sword of Conan"?

Our fondest thanks to our panelists, who made this a memorable and intellectually enriching experience. Proud to stand in your company!

If any of our readers have other pictures of this panel, or from other comics studies sessions at MLA 2012, please let us know. We’d love to be able to document the experience more fully.

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