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Virtual Heroes

Boys, Masculinity and Historical Memory in War Comics 1945–1995

Alexander Clarkson

This article maintains that as a genre war comics are a valuable and neglected source for understanding constructions of ideal masculinity in the post-war West. While its main focus is the depiction of heroic manliness in one of the most commercially successful American war comics, G.I. Joe, comparisons are made with Britain’s Commando Comics and the German pictorial war magazine Landser, which concentrated mainly on the Second World War and also enjoyed wide popularity. The article suggests that while mainly addressing an adolescent readership, over time these comics came to direct their political and moral messages not only to boys but also to increasing numbers of older men who had started reading these comics when they were boys themselves. In particular, it argues that war comics strategically deployed notions of “boyishness” in their story lines, exploiting both the negative and positive connotations of the word to make readers question the egotism and immorality of contemporary society.

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Fransiska Louwagie and Benoît Crucifix

Ewa Stańczyk, ed. , Comic Books, Graphic Novels and the Holocaust: Beyond Maus. (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2020). 142 pp. ISBN: 9780367585921 (£29.59) Ever since the success of Art Spiegelman's Maus , the graphic novel medium has

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Ronald de Rooy


Dante’s multifaceted cultural reception includes many comics adaptations. Against the background of a strong tradition of illustrating and visualising Dante, this article proposes a comparative analysis of significant contemporary comics adaptations from Europe and the United States. Recent European Dante comics generally adopt largely reverent modes of illustration, showing less aggressive forms of adaptation than their US counterparts. The text of Dante’s poem remains of great importance, and artists often refer to certain traditional milestones in Dante’s visual reception. American Dante comics are more firmly rooted in popular culture, adopting reductive adaptation methods to a greater extent, and are frequently embedded in transmedial constellations. Where the highbrow European tradition of Dante’s visual reception does shine through, it is always with strong ironic undertones. Especially interesting in this respect are the toy theatre/puppet movie Dante’s Inferno directed by Sean Meredith, Seymour Chwast’s graphic novel The Divine Comedy and the popular video game Dante’s Inferno.

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Graphic Shorthand

From Caricature to Narratology in Twentieth-Century Bande dessinée and Comics

Harry Morgan

The initial aim of this article is to examine semiotic and narratological aspects of the graphic definition of character and caricature, as found in the image-based storytelling of the twentieth century. Our analysis will focus on North American newspaper strips and comic books - e.g. works by Jack Kirby - and French-language bande dessinée (particularly Alain Saint-Ogan and Jean-Claude Forest). We will see that, as a result of precise technical constraints, such as hand-drawn style [autographie] and swiftness of creation [rapidité d'exécution], caricature comes to play a very specific role in the artistic definition of character.

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A War Like Any Other . . . Or Nobler?

The Great War in the EC Comics

Jean-Matthieu Méon

The U.S. publisher EC Comics produced several war comics between 1950 and 1955. These comic books, especially the issues published during Harvey Kurtzman's editorship, are still considered masterpieces, as rare examples of war comics attempting to present an unvarnished account of the ordeals of war. This article focuses on the treatment of the Great War in comics. While current stories about the First World War usually underline its inhuman realities for the soldiers, the EC stories offered a more ambivalent representation. The now traditional stories of trenches and suffering infantry soldiers were counterbalanced by stories of heroic air fights and chivalrous aces. This approach towards the First World War as a 'noble war' progressively increased during the run of these comics, refl ecting the shifting balance that characterised the production of EC war comics: that between the constraints of the market, artistic ambition and the popular cultural mythology of air aces.

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Perspectives on Authors, Perspectives from Authors

The Editors

Creation and criticism, in comics, as in all types of artistic expression, become intertwined, and all the more so as the form develops self-awareness and seeks defi nition. One of the main precursors of the tradition of graphic storytelling, William Hogarth (1697–1764), told of the social tribulations of the London in which he lived via multi-image series such as A Rake’s Progress (c. 1735) and A Harlot’s Progress (c. 1732), but was also known for his Analysis of Beauty (1753), in which he elaborates the notion of the central S shape as key to the visual expression of attractiveness; this serpentine ‘line of beauty’ can still be detected in the characters of comic books today.

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Frederick Luis Aldama

This article at once celebrates and puts at cautionary arm's length the tremendous advances made in the cognitive and neurosciences as research that can deepen our understanding of creating and consuming of literature, films, comic books. After providing an overview of recent insights by scholars with one foot in the humanities and the other in the cognitive and neurosciences, the article reflects on some key precepts that might be useful in our continued shaping of a humanities and cognitive based research program. For instance, the article explores the way authors, film directors, and artists generally not only construct artifacts that elicit positive emotions but also negative emotions. It also proposes a model for understanding how the “aesthetic” is a relation and not a property nor an essence of the object (a film) nor something to be found in the subject (us viewing the film).

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Zeina Abirached

Zeina Abirached, born in 1981 in Beirut, is a cartoonist who studied at the Académie libanaise des beaux-arts [Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts] (ALBA) in Beirut and the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs [National Graduate School of Decorative Arts] in Paris, France. In this artist's statement, originally written for a keynote lecture given at the American Bande Dessinée Society conference held at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) on 3 November 2012, she presents her four comic books published to date, all of them autobiographical: [Beyrouth] Catharsis [(Beirut) Catharsis] (2006), 38, rue Youssef Semaani [38 Youssef Semaani Street] (2006), Mourir, partir, revenir: Le jeu des hirondelles (2007), published in English as A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Live, To Return (2012), and Je me souviens: Beyrouth (2008), published in English as I Remember Beirut (2014). She focuses especially here on the dimensions of time and space, history and geography, and memory and autobiography in her work. She also discusses the influence of OuLiPo, and especially the writings of Georges Perec, on her comics.

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The Editors

The history of European comic art is closely intertwined with that of caricature. The comic books by Swiss cartoonist Rodolphe Töpffer – his romans en estampes [‘novels in engravings’] – which are foundational to the medium, are essentially extended caricatures of social types (they have been called romans en caricatures [‘caricature novels’]): the limited but common-sensical father (Crépin); the flighty naturalist (Vieux Bois); the domineering financée (Elvire); the prodigal son and revolutionary (Albert); the bumbling, pretentious social climber (Jabot); etc. Together these constitute a continuation, in bande dessinée, of the passing portraits with which he scatters his Voyages en zigzig (1832 onwards). The latter in turn follow the tradition of Thomas Rowlandson’s The Tour of Doctor Syntax (1812, in French from 1821), which is linked to the ‘narrative series’ of engravings by William Hogarth, for whom Töpffer professed great admiration (Töpffer’s own father also drew caricatures). They have all been traced back to Charles Le Brun’s Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions [‘Method for Learning to Draw the Passions’], first published in 1702, in which the artist explores the way physical appearance can depict interior morality.

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‘… But Is It Literature?’

Graphic Adaptation in Germany in the Context of High and Popular Culture

Juliane Blank

narration, 5 we find no history of comics in Germany before the 1940s. 6 GIs introduced comic books to the German audience during and after the Second World War. 7 Not only the medium but also the debate about its effects on young readers was imported from