The fifty-first meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Monday, July 8, 2013 at 7:00 PM at Bluestockings bookstore, 172 Allen St, New York, NY. Free and open to the public ($5 suggested).

Scheduled Presentation: N. C. Christopher Couch on American Comics: Comics are an international medium, with antecedents in a variety of cultures and with great time depth, from Hogarth prints to Japanese scrolls and Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts from Indigenous nations. However, the major media of comics, and the major commercial success of the comic art medium, depends on prototypes and tropes developed in the United States. Certainly this is due to the dominance of American mass culture and its role as an economic and even imperialistic export. But it is also related to the construction of American society from immigrant groups and the means and media of their socialization, as well as the early role of industrialization in the propagation of mass culture in the United States. Newspaper comics strips were developed for and on the steam-driven rotary presses of cities filled with immigrants. Comic books and superheroes flooded the national market, served by truck and rail distribution, and united by other mass pictorial publications developing at the same moment such as Life magazine and the penetration of radio along the paths of electrification under the new deal. American mass media has mastered the art of producing popular culture in small, concentrated and aesthetically driven studios, from fashion houses to television production companies to comics studios, whose products then become mass media artifacts. This process repeated in the graphic novel, from the studios of artists to New York trade houses to the IP factories annexed to Hollywood. Even comics revolutions, like Underground Comix, began in the United States and became internationally influential.

N. C. Christopher Couch holds a Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University, and is the author of numerous books and articles on comic art, graphic novels, and Latin American art. His most recent book, Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics (Abrams 2010), on the artist and humanitarian famed for his Expressionist Batman and creation of the Joker, was a Harvey Award finalist. As senior editor at Kitchen Sink Press, he worked with graphic novelist Will Eisner, about whom he has published two co-authored volumes. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Dumbarton Oaks of Harvard University, and the Newberry Library among others. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Trinity College, and the School of Visual Arts, and has curated exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History and other art and science museums.