Comics Academe: 7th Anniversary Retrospective

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The first Comics Academe was published 7 years ago yesterday, on January 28th, 2014. Francesca Lyn was at the time a second-year doctoral student in the Media, Art, and Text program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has since then graduated and become a well-known figure in comics studies and a mentor to other graduate students and women of color in comics studies. For the next few months, Comics Academe was what the tag it’s still categorized under implies: “comics-diary-academia.” These first pieces were intensely personal, written by women who were part of a developing field of study. At that time, comics studies was starting to build the professional spaces we know today, like CSS and ICAF, but for the most part, the only places that comics studies scholars could meet or even talk to each other was at conferences or on The Mailing List. You know the one I mean.

In March of 2014, Amanda Murphyao and Elizabeth Coody (also graduate students who would also go on to have fantastic careers in comics studies in their respective disciplines) began contributing pieces about their own experiences, as well as broadening the scope of what Comics Academe could be. Coody wrote the first pedagogical Comics Academe about teaching comics in her Religious Studies classroom. Murphyao wrote about attending a lecture at Soka University given by Juliet McMullin, a professor of anthropology at UC Riverside, on the topic of graphic novels and cancer care, which is an early tie to the special research interest that would become known as graphic medicine.

In June of 2014 Comics Academe published its first book review, written by another graduate student, Christina Atchison. The next month, Murphyao interviewed Professor Julian Chambliss about teaching with comics–and how to sell it to a department that would want to dismiss the concept out of hand. It seems strange to write those words, to think about how 7 years ago (and for some of us, going back even longer than that), when comics studies was fighting for legitimacy inside academia. Comics as literature was the first move the field made, but the past decade has given us scholars who have pushed disciplinary boundaries, internally and externally, and have expanded the comics studies community to include not only scholars, but scholars, teachers (in both higher ed and K-12), librarians, and scholar-practitioners.

Concurrent with this growth of comics studies has been the growth of comics criticism on what were traditionally comics journalism websites. In the past seven years, we’ve seen a new parlor for conversation appear–public-facing scholarship. Sites like The Middle Spaces and Shelfdust have established themselves as legitimate spaces operating outside of academia. Comics Academe, the Middle Spaces, Shelfdust, and other publications are important as spaces for comics studies to be happening. The current generation of graduate students, who will become the next generation of superstars, have come up reading and are now writing for these sites.

I published my first piece for Comics Academe in September of 2014 as a guest contributor, writing about my experiences teaching comics at Purdue University a decade earlier when my composition syllabus included only superhero comics and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. The world is filled with so much more, now; more comics, more frameworks, more resources (not just articles but journals, books, videos, professional organizations).

Many things have changed, but Comics Academe being a space outside of academia to promote the work of people of marginalized genders has not. What Comics Academe will look like in the future depends upon the pitches that we accept.

Comics Academe has published:

  • Personal essays on comics studies, disciplinarity, academic writing, or academia
  • Lecture/panels/conference diaries
  • Roundtable discussions
  • Essays on pedagogy or teaching with comics
  • Interviews with academics, graduate students, librarians and archivists
  • Book reviews
  • Essays adapted from other academic publications or presentations

And as scholarship continues to change, Comics Academe is ready to become a platform to do more. We can publish a first draft of what could become an article (publishing online shouldn’t preclude traditional publication), or a conference presentation after a conference that wasn’t recorded. Being a completely online platform, Comics Academe is also a home for scholarship that wouldn’t traditionally be published in an academic journal due to formatting or submission requirements, limitations, or topicality. Comics Academe has always been, above all other things, a space.

Comics Academe is open to pitches. Email editors@wwacomics.com, or contact myself or Comics Academe Assistant Editor Adrienne Resha on Twitter.

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Kate Tanski

Kate Tanski

Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.

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