Category: Political Comics

Comics and Harassment

473Interesting article from last week’s Guardian on the use of comics as part of an anti-harassment campaign on Egypt’s metro. I know there’s a fairly strong tradition of cartoons in the Arabic world as a form of political commentary – but informational comics? A couple of years ago, at Comics Forum, there was a really interesting paper about the use of informational comics by the Royal Omani Police, but I’m not aware of any similar examples.

The anti-harassment comic is the work of artist Ahmed Nady, and supported by the Imprint Movement. What’s notable about the comic is that it’s clearly being used as a way to “start the conversation”. Comics seem to be a medium of choice for introducing difficult, complex or unfamiliar subjects to a broad audience – whether it’s science, medicine or social and cultural issues. What exactly is it that comics can do that other media can’t?

Abdel Fattah al-Sharkawy, one of the co-founders of the Imprint Movement, suggests that it’s narrative that’s important. It’s making the link between the story in the comic and the everyday experiences of its readers. The artwork in a comic is important, but as far as informational comics is concerned, getting that narrative right – making that connection to the experiences of our readers – is what’s key.

In these anti-harassment comics, Ahmed Nady’s art is an example of how great comics can create narrative through lively and dynamic visuals. Informational comics can sometimes stray too close to being just “illustrated text”. These comics remind us that images are as important as words in creating that link between reader and information.

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Patricia Cornflake: comics and feminist art theory

cartoon1Guest post by Suzanne van Rossenberg

My very first cartoon made in 2007 (image above; click for larger version) has become emblematic of the research I started last year. Back then Patricia Cornflake’s Lesbian Lifestyle was a response to my jobless situation in the arts, in which I had been trained, and my growing interest in LGBTI activism and advocacy. After ten years of working in the arts and activism in the Netherlands, I obtained a scholarship to research the relationships between the two and moved to London.

In my fifteen-year practice of writing, drawing and painting and project management, making comics was a marginal, incidental activity with mainly my friends as an audience. You can see a selection of them here. Some of them have been published in an online queer journal and showcased in art exhibitions.

Recently, cartoons have become more important in my work. I’ve included them in presentations about my research at academic conferences and used the format to review and critique feminist literature. Five cartoons will be published in a forthcoming book about feminist art (theory). Because the context of my comics is so specific, I understand not everybody will find them funny. Often they are not meant to be (only) funny.

It was only a few weeks ago that I found out about the Applied Comics Network through my brother (an archaeologist who also uses academia as a platform for his creativity), when I told him I was working on transforming one of my short stories into a graphic novel. The concentration of drawing relaxes me after hours of reading and writing. There is also another link between comics and my research: fiction can be an invaluable tool for addressing sexism and racism in the arts, academia and other norm-setting areas.

Therefore, I hope to learn more about applied comics and comics scholarship in the near future. Through the Applied Comics Network I hope to get in touch with more artists I can relate to and learn from. I am sorry to have missed the meet-up in May, but I’m definitely attending the Leeds conference. Please get in touch via Twitter @PCornflake or email: SV384[at]live.mdx.ac.uk. Would love to hear from you!

Team Bean

beans_1More Canadian political comics – this time in the form of a satirical take on the upcoming election. Beans sets the Canadian federal election campaign in a posh school, where all the politicians are students competing in the upcoming Student Council elections. There’s a kickstarter to help fund the project, but if you’re in Canada and want to help Beans out on the street, then there are ways you can do that, too. It’s political comics inspiring political activism.

They’re only a few strips into their projected 31-strip run, so it’s hard to see exactly where Team Bean are headed – or who they’re audience is. Do political comics need to be aimed at a local audience in order to work? Or can you make comic-based political commentary (even about specific, local issues) accessible to a broad, non-local audience? If so, how?

AppComNet at Comics Forum 2015: Comics & Politics

comics-forum-cfp

Applied Comics Network is super-mega-very delighted to host a session at the Comics Forum 2015 conference as part of Thought Bubble.  Click the image above to go to the Comics Forum website and download it as a PDF.

Comics Forum’s theme this year is ‘comics and politics’ and they’re inviting a range of interpretations of this theme.  We at AppComNet are hosting a session on the politics of comics that communicate specific information, and the use of comics in education.  Again, this is a theme that welcomes many different points of view.

Comics Forum is a friendly academic conference.  Within this, our AppComNet session welcomes proposals from both comics creators and comics scholars – anyone who works with comics and graphic narrative.

We have some plans for the format of our AppComNet session at Comics Forum but this all depends on the proposals we receive. This could include the following (but no promises until we receive your proposals!):

  • a talking-and-slides presentation about comics you’ve created, or how you’ve used comics created by other people
  • mini workshops on activism and education through comics
  • a show’n’tell of comics you’ve created – do you make comics with specific political content?  Or is it the process of making your comics that says something about politics?
  • a comics-making challenge activity for Comics Forum participants
  • panel discussions on a theme
  • …or something completely different.

The closing date for proposals is 30th July 2015. Please email your proposal to comicsforum (at) hotmail (dot) co (dot) uk

If you’d like a quick chat before putting in your proposal, twitter is the best way to get in touch: @appcomnet.  For queries about the conference as a whole please contact comicsforum (at) hotmail (dot) co (dot) uk

On Strike

en_greve_street_medicsI came across an unusual political comics project recently that posed some interesting questions about the role of experience in informational comics.

The project was called En Greve, and was to be a comic documenting the student protests in Quebec in 2012. The protests were sparked by a decision to raise tuition fees by 80%. Students went on strike, and academic and administrative staff at universities, as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians took to the streets in support. The protests became known as the Maple Spring, and eventually resulted in the election of a nationalist government and a repeal of the tuition increases.

Possibly as a result of the successful repeal of the fees increase, the comic book project seems to have stalled. An Indiegogo campaign to fund it failed to reach its target, and I’m assuming that the two artists went on to other projects. A shame, as the comic work they completed was extremely interesting. Like a travelogue, the experience of the artists – both students during the protests – didn’t simply frame the information being communicated, the experience was the information.

In many ways, the boundary between experience and information is something which is constantly being negotiated in applied comics. As creators, to what extent is our treatment of the subject matter shaped by our proximity to it? Does this proximity determine what makes a “good” informational comic? A readable one?

More on En Greve at the project tumblr. More on artists Laura Ellen and Jane Dough.
But does anyone know what eventually became of this project?