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The 247th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  May 7, 2019 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Ariela Freedman on Comics and Pain
Frequently, the “funny” in the funnies has to do with the infliction and representation of physical and psychic pain. Comics begin here: the broken heart, the disappointment, the pratfall, the beating, the brick to the head, the caricatured grimace, the wail. This slapstick violence forms part of what Nabokov calls “our history of pain” in  his Lectures on Don Quixote — “the banged heads and kicked groins and punched noses that are such delectable features of our movies and comics.” Pain in comics first appears in a comedic and fantasy mode; it also develops into the violence of superhero comics, the grotesque explicitness of horror comics, and in the last thirty years, the empathic attempt to bear testimony to pain and illness. The historically dense and sophisticated vocabulary for pain language the medium develops is synaesthetic and defined as much through its absences and exclusions as through what it represents. To tell the story of the representation of pain in comics is to chart the unfolding of an extraordinary and potent medium. How have comics moved from cultural scapegoats, accused of inuring children to the infliction of pain, to works lauded for their empathic and testimonial potential?

Tahneer Oksman: Drawing on Grief
Why are so many contemporary graphic narratives focused on experiences of grief? What can comics teach us about loss and its aftermaths? In my talk, I will discuss a number of contemporary graphic memoirs of grief—works by, for example, Anders Nilsen, Roz Chast, Dominique Goblet, Leela Corman, and Maira Kalman. I will explore whether such representations, particularly when examined alongside each other, can help us rethink our current models of grieving as a process. How can we understand grieving as a common experience even as we accept the radically individual ways that people process and respond to loss? In what ways does the isolating experience of grieving offer means of connection, for better and for worse?

Ariela Freedman is an Associate Professor at the Liberal Arts College, Concordia University, Montreal. She is the author of Death, Men and Modernism (Routledge, 2003) and has published broadly on modernism, James Joyce, the First World War, contemporary literature, and comics and graphic novels. She presented on the work of
Charlotte Salomon at the New York Comics & Picture Symposium in 2014, and her work on Salomon has also appeared in Criticism, The Journal of Modern Literature, and the Eisner award winning anthology Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews (McFarland 2014). She currently holds a grant  from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council on the subject of comics and pain. Ariela Freedman is also the author of the novel Arabic for Beginners (LLP 2017) and the forthcoming A Joy to be Hidden (LLP 2019).

Tahneer Oksman is an Assistant Professor of Academic Writing at Marymount Manhattan College. She is the author of “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs (Columbia University Press, 2016), and the co-editor, with Seamus O’Malley, of the anthology The Comics of Julie Doucet and Gabrielle Bell: A Place Inside Yourself (University Press of Mississippi, 2019). Her cultural criticism has been published in a number of venues, including The Comics Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Guardian, and Women’s Review of Books, where she is graphic novels editor and writes a regular review column.

images below: George Herriman and John Porcellino

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A special meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 7pm at The New School, 66 West 12th Street, room A407.  Free and open to the public.

Peter Blegvad on “Is the Imagination weakened or reinforced when it is confronted with the Real?”

Victor Segalen (1878-1919): doctor, ethnographer, archaeologist, explorer. Travelled extensively in Polynesia and China. He was also a writer and poet, and ‘Equipée, Voyage to the country of the real’ his last work, concerns a journey made “not so much between points on a map, as between the imagined and the real” (as Atlas Press says about the translation published in their series of ‘anti-classics’). Segalen’s project involved a physical journey, and the evidence he presents in his book is mainly verbal. My project—Imagine, Observe, Remember—is a sedentary affair, and the evidence is mainly visual. But, in different ways, both projects address the same question: “Is the Imagination weakened or reinforced when it is confronted with the Real?”

Peter Blegvad – writer, artist, songwriter, broadcaster, born in NYC in 1951. Based in London. 

Taught creative writing at Warwick University for many years, and was Senior Tutor in Visual Writing at the Royal College of Art.

An introduction to his life-long multi-media epistemological project Imagine, Observe, Remember is online here:

Related works have been exhibited in Kunstverein Hannover and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2004), in the Kunsthalle Luzern (2007), in Extra City, Antwerp (2010) and elsewhere.

His comic strip, “The Book of Leviathan,” is published by Sort Of Books and the Overlook Press (in English) and is also available in Mandarin, Cantonese and French.

His latest album is ‘Go Figure’ (2017) on the ReR MegaCorp label.

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The 246th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Nick Thorkelson on Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of Utopia, A Graphic Biography.

Thorkelson discusses his new comics-format biography.  Marcuse (1898-1979) was a little-known German scholar when he became one of the 20th century’s most unlikely pop stars: a celebrity philosopher. In the 1960s, his argument for a principled utopianism catalyzed the ideals of a rebellious generation.

Nick Thorkelson is a cartoonist living in Boston. He has done cartoons on local politics for The Boston Globe and in support of organizations working on economic justice, peace, and public health. He is the co-author and/or illustrator of The Earth Belongs to the PeopleThe Underhanded History of the USAThe Legal Rights of Union StewardsThe Comic Strip of Neoliberalism, and Economic Meltdown Funnies, and has contributed to a number of nonfiction comics anthologies. He is working on a graphic novel about the end of the Sixties, A Better World Is Possible. Nick also moonlights as a musician, animator, graphic designer, and painter.

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The 245th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Kelsey Wroten on The Queer Tortured Genius.
Kelsey Wroten’s debut graphic novel, Cannonball, explores the fears and anxieties of young adulthood through the lens of Caroline Bertram, aspiring writer, art school graduate, near-alcoholic and self-proclaimed tortured genius. Throughout the novel Caroline labors over what it means to be “successful” in her post-college career, as she absorbs everyone’s opinion accept her own self-worth. Wroten will discuss the freedom and challenges of being a queer comic artist in the age of Instagram and other social media platforms that inform, instigate, and at times sadly yet comically disrupt many of her day-to-day endeavors. Wroten will also investigate the way in which the medium of comics helps to create fully-fleshed out queer characters in a culture that frequently tries to tokenize them. The Q & A will be moderated by Bryce Gold of  Pyrite Press.

Kelsey Wroten works as a freelance illustrator and comics artist. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Village Voice, NPR, and many more. She’s a Kansas City native living in Brooklyn, NY.

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The 244th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Is The American Bystander “The Last Great Print Humor Magazine”?

Editor & Publisher Michael Gerber and a panel of contributing cartoonists and writers —Stephen Kroninger, Emily Flake, Drew Friedman, Sam Gross and Steve Young —discuss The American Bystander and its place in the tradition of print humor magazines in the US and internationally.

Michael Gerber has been called “the world’s only expert on print humor magazines,” and launched The American Bystander in October 2015. After beginning his career as a magazine consultant for places like SPY and The National Lampoon, he spent the Nineties writing humor for every major American venue, from The New Yorker to NPR to Saturday Night Live. In 2002, he stared down Warner Bros to publish the first Harry Potter parody, Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody; this book became one of the biggest-selling parodies in history, causing J.K. Rowling to sprinkle shout-outs throughout her series. While an undergraduate, Gerber restarted The Yale Record, America’s oldest humor magazine; since then, he has assisted student humor magazines at universities throughout the US and Great Britain.

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This event has been rescheduled for Aug 27, 2019 at 7pm.


The 242nd meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  April 2, 2019 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, room UL 105 (lower level). Free and open to the public.

Guy Lawley on Comics, color and “Ben Day dots.”

Roy Lichtenstein’s success story began when he painted enlarged versions of comic book images in the 1960s, including their colored dots —which he famously called “Ben Day dots.” Scholars of both Lichtenstein and comics have previously failed to discover how and why the comics’ original colors and dots were created. Beyond color, the dots also have a surprising part to play in the wider history of the medium. I will share my own new research, with vivid examples from the newspaper strips of the 1890s to the 1930s—when comic books abandoned genuine Ben Day dots for faster cheaper methods—and onward. The successors to Ben Day are equally fascinating and just as beautiful, creating from the necessities of cheap printing an accidental aesthetic—one which has endured long after the dots themselves faded out in the 1980s.

Guy Lawley is researching this subject for a PhD at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, with supervisors Roger Sabin and Ian Horton.

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