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The 209th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Feb. 27, 2018 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, Kellen Auditorium (Room N101, off the lobby), Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. 66 Fifth Avenue. Free and open to the public.

Special Will Eisner Week event.

Will Eisner: Breaking Fourth Walls since 1940 (if not earlier)
Originating in theater, the concept of the “fourth wall” refers to the plane through which a viewer experiences a traditional staged production. When an actor shatters the illusion of reality by acknowledging the audience’s presence—often by directly addressing the viewers—that is known as “breaking the fourth wall.” The term has come to be used for similar behavior by characters in movies, TV shows and, of course, comics.

From at least as early as Richard Outcault and The Yellow Kid, through Stan Lee addressing his readers in the captions of classic Marvel Comics stories, to Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar literally speaking to their readers, comics shares—and celebrates—the potential of narrative arts to create and destroy (sometimes simultaneously) the illusion of reality that its stories work so hard to create.

Raised by a theater set-painter father, comics innovator Will Eisner was part of this long tradition of fourth wall breaking.  Eisner’s stories were filled with bigger-than-life characters who periodically interrupted the action—breaking the fourth wall—to address the reader or to boldly call attention to the fact that they were, indeed, characters in a comic book.

Like the mask-wielding characters in Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude (and the Mad Magazine spoof thereof), George Burns commenting on the other actors in his sitcom as he watches them on closed circuit spycams, or Woody Allen bringing the “real” Marshall McLuhan into a scene to interact with characters in Annie Hall, Eisner was always glad to speak directly to readers of The Spirit, his classic noir-comics feature—or to have the Spirit (or another character) do it for him.

Join comics writer and historian Danny Fingeroth (chair of Will Eisner Week) and a panel of fourth-wall-breaking experts including Dean Haspiel (The Red Hook), R. Sikoryak (The Unquotable Trump) and Miriam Katin (Letting It Go) as they explore Eisner’s innovative illusion-shattering in comics, and place it in an enlightening context of creative risk-taking in other comics and in other media.

WILL EISNER (1917-2005) innovated and pioneered comics in two different eras. Eisner helped invent the comics industry in the 1930s and created The Spirit in the 1940s as a heroic crime-fighting figure who appeared in a Sunday newspaper comics insert. The Spirit walked through a world of noir-inflected, urban drama, one suffused with humor and insight into the human condition, a world not afraid to essay the occasional Yiddish in-joke or Bronx social drama vignette. Then, after producing comics for training and education, Eisner, in 1978, re-invented himself—and the comics medium—with his first graphic novel, A Contract With God, followed, until his 2005 passing, with many acclaimed graphic novels and textbooks.


Emmy & Ringo award winner DEAN HASPIEL created Billy Dogma, The Red Hook, War Cry, illustrated for HBO’s Bored To Death, is a Yaddo fellow, a playwright, and helped pioneer personal webcomics. Dino has worked for Marvel, DC/Vertigo, Archie, Dark Horse, IDW, Heavy Metal, etc., including The Fox, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Deadpool, X-men, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Godzilla, Mars Attacks, and collaborated with Harvey Pekar, Jonathan Ames, Jonathan Lethem, Mark Waid, Stan Lee, & Stoya.

MIRIAM KATIN was born in 1942 in Budapest, emigrated to Israel in 1957 where she apprenticed in Commercial Art — drawing all the time with great passion – and served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a Graphic Artist. She moved to New York in 1963. Worked in animation  for Ein Gedi Animation, Jumbo Pictures- Nickelodeon, MTV and Disney. Her first comic was published in 2001. Her first graphic novel, We Are On Our Own (2006) was followed by the recent  Letting It Go, both published by Drawn & Quarterly.

R. SIKORYAK is the author of Masterpiece Comics (Drawn & Quarterly), “Where Classics and Cartoons Collide.” He continues to adapt the classics for various anthologies, including The Graphic Canon, Fable Comics, Hotwire, and Black Eye. His comics and illustrations have appeared in theNew Yorker, The Onion, GQ, MAD, SpongeBob Comics, and Nickelodeon Magazine, as well as on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s done storyboards and character designs for Augenblick Studios on various animated projects. Sikoryak is in the speakers program of the New York Council of the Humanities, and he teaches in the illustration department at Parsons School of Design and at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Since 1997, he’s presented his live cartoon slide show series, Carousel, around the United States and Canada. He lives in New York City with his wife, Kriota Willberg.

DANNY FINGEROTH (chair of Will Eisner Week) was Group Editor of Marvel’s Spider-Man line and has written many comics, including Spider-Man and Iron Man. He is the author of Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero. Fingeroth has spoken and taught about comics at The Smithsonian Institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Columbia University and the MiMaster Art Institute in Milan. He’s currently writing a biography of Marvel’s Stan Lee for St. Martin’s Press. Find out more at:

To find out more about WILL EISNER WEEK (and how to plan an event in your community), go to:

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The 208th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Feb. 20, 2018 at 7pm atParsons School of Design, Kellen Auditorium (Room N101), Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. 66 Fifth Avenue (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.

Martin Lund on Re-Constructing the Man of Steel: Early Superman and his Jewish American Context.
It is often claimed that Superman is Jewish, but the arguments in favor of this claim do not always stand up to critical scrutiny. This talk will discuss some of the most common ways in which Superman has been figured as Jewish and deconstruct some of the most common parallels drawn, in order to then re-construct the Man of Steel in a different way. By the end of the talk, Superman will stand as a figure rooted not in European Jewish culture and folklore, nor in the Torah, but in the Jewish American context in which he was born.

Martin Lund is an assistant professor of religious studies at Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden. He has a PhD in Jewish studies from Lund University (no relation). He has published widely on comics in books and journals, academic and popular. Recent publications include Re-Constructing the Man of Steel: Superman 1938–1941, Jewish American History, and the Invention of the Jewish–Comics Connection (Palgrave 2016) and Muslim Superheroes: Comics, Islam, and Representation (co-edited with A. David Lewis, ILEX Foundation/Harvard University Press, 2017).

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Images from the first page of the first Superman story in Action Comics #1


The 207th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Feb. 13, 2018 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, Kellen Auditorium (Room N101), Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. 66 Fifth Avenue (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.

Julia Gfrorer on “A Void Does Not Exist.”

Gfrorer discusses the effect of leaving negative space in a work and how useful a tool it can be for controlling the emotional tenor of a story. People have an instinctive dread of emptiness (“horror vacui,” “nequaquam vacuum,” “nature abhors a vacuum”) which means as creators we tend to avoid it, but for a reader it can also be soothing, hypnotic, sensuous, and magnetic. A void isn’t necessarily a “nothingness”: something happens because of it. She will give examples from her own work as well as work that’s influenced her.

Julia Gfrörer is a writer and cartoonist. She graduated from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA, and now lives on Long Island. She has published several handmade comics under her own imprint, as well as two longer graphic novels, Laid Waste and Black Is the Color, with Fantagraphics, a leading independent comics publisher. Her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including Cicada Magazine, Arthur Magazine, Kramers Ergot 9, and two volumes of Best American Comics. She recently translated and illustrated excerpts from a medieval French heraldic text for 2dCloud’s MIRROR MIRROR II anthology, which she co-edited with her partner, writer Sean T. Collins.

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Image:  Robert Fludd, Detail of the black page from Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia, published by Oppenheim (1617)

The 206th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Feb. 6, 2018 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.

Joe McCulloch on Total Language: Steve Ditko at 90

Ask a person today who created Spider-Man, and they’ll probably tell you Marvel Comics, that inescapable entertainment brand. Some of them might say Stan Lee, the man whose profile is highest in mass media. Others, perhaps fewer, will know about Steve Ditko (b. 1927), a cartoonist of an unusual trajectory: his vision and craft gave concrete form to commercial characters still adored across the globe, half a century later, but his passion would soon pour into deeply personal, experimental, and furiously divisive works, comics emboldened by the freedoms of artist ownership, yet antagonistic toward the compromised values of society. Few agreed with the ideology espoused by these comics, but Ditko kept working, undeterred – through the rise and fall of the underground era, through the transition from newsstand racks to comic book stores, through the graphic novel boom and the advent of crowdfunding. He is still working now, here in New York City.  Since 2007, Steve Ditko has published more than 800 pages of new comic book art, and they are among his most fascinating: comics where text and image work in a simultaneity of intent, a total language that invests the tautness of line and the hatching of shadow with thematic roles in the story, where the function of the black and white page is a statement of the artist’s worldview, by which there is only good and evil, and where the individual must ascertain the objective nature of the world, lest they reject their own lives. Come and see for yourself.

Joe McCulloch has been writing and speaking about comics for 14 years, sometimes to audiences other than his bathroom mirror.

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The 205th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Jan. 30, 2018 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.

Bob Gill on How to get an original idea.
An illustrated talk.

Bob Gill is an illustrator, a graphic designer and a teacher. He started the design office, Fletcher/Forbes/Gill which eventually became Pentagram. He was elected into the New York Art Directors Hall of Fame, wrote 13 books about illustration and  design, and
15 books for children. His latest is Bob Gill, so far.

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image: Jazz by Bob Gill


The 204th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Jan. 23, 2018 at 7pm at The New School, University Center, 63 Fifth Ave, UL 105 (lower level).  PLEASE NOTE NEW LOCATION. Free and open to the public.

Francisco Manuel Sáez de Adana Herrero on The representation of the Spanish Civil War in North-American comic strips.

The North-American comic strip of the early twentieth century has manifested itself, on many occasions, as a powerful means of transmission of history. In that role, the form of reproduction is a determinant factor since the comic strips were published together with the news of the time and, for that reason, they had an audience of several million readers. Many times the comic strips played the role of showing the public what was happening outside the United States, especially in the years before Pearl Harbor, when American society was more concerned with what was happening within its own borders than with international events. This study shows how an event such as the Spanish Civil War is represented in the comic strips of the late 30’s and how this shows the American society’s position towards this conflict.

Francisco Sáez de Adana is Professor at the the Franklin Institute of American Studies of the University of Alcalá in Spain. He works as a comic scholar, mainly focused on American comics, interested in that medium as a way to depict historical events. He has published five chapters in books, seven papers in Spanish and international journals, and several communications In international conferences. He imparted a seminar on Miton Caniff and American culture at the University of Salerno in Italy. He organizes a summer course on comics imparted in the University of Alcalá which is celebrated annually from 2014.

little_lefty_civil_war adjLittle Lefty, a comic strip from the U.S. Daily Worker by Maurice del Bourgo

Spring 2018 Symposium poster