The 119th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 7pm at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.
1. Rick DesRochers on The Family Act Goes to School – The Marx Brothers, Vaudeville, and Americanization.
The link between the Marx Brothers in their vaudeville days and the popular comic strips of the early twentieth century can be seen with the Marx Brothers’ beginnings in the third-tier vaudeville circuit where they formed the core comedic trio of Chico, Harpo, and Groucho – their apocryphal names created in 1910 during a poker game after the comic strip character “Knocko the Monk.” The comic strip Knocko the Monk spawned a fad of nicknames ending in O, prompting vaudevillian Art Fisher to nickname Harpo for his harp playing skills; Groucho for his personality and his “grouch” bag that hung from his neck for safety; Chico for his penchant for “chasing the chickens” – the girls. By bookending the vaudeville performances of the Marx Brothers and their school act beginning in 1910 with Fun in Hi Skule to their highly successful 1932 film, Horse Feathers, this lecture will examine how the Marx Brothers commented on and satirized progressive education reforms through their multiple versions of the school act, and the immigrant experience of being Americanized through public school education reforms.
Rick DesRochers, Ph.d., is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Long Island University Post. He has served as the Literary Director of New Play and Musical Development for the Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival and The Goodman Theatre of Chicago, as well as the Artistic Director of the New Theatre in Boston. He holds an M.F.A. in stage direction and dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Ph.D. in theatre from the City University of New York, Graduate Center. He is the author of The New Humor in the Progressive Era – Americanization and the Vaudeville Comedian for Palgrave Macmillan, and The Comic Offense from Vaudeville to Contemporary Comedy – Larry David, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Dave Chappelle for Bloomsbury.
2. Ian Lewis Gordon on The Boy Comic Strip: Towards an International History of Comics
Trying to write international histories of comics presents numerous problems including most obviously command of a range of languages. But beyond that what sort of organizing principles would best capture the interplay across countries and cultures. Should people try to write histories that trace artists and influences across national boundaries with attention to whom influenced whom and the extent of that influence and similar sorts of questions? Or perhaps focusing on genres of comics, like various incarnations of the mischievous boy in comics, might show more about similarities and differences across different comics traditions.
In this discussion I will examine a range of “mischievous boy” comics to talk about some of the possibilities of using genres to create international histories of comics. How can we use this cavalcade of kid strips to talk about the history of comics? I think these strips show the similarities and differences across cultures. For instance the mischievous boy is not something that is particular to a given culture. But what these strips tells us is that this plays out in different ways. Some of this is cultural difference writ large and some of it is cultural difference writ small. I will look at comics from America, Australia, the UK and France to suggest a direction for research.
Ian Gordon is an Associate Professor in History at the National University of Singapore. For the academic year 2014-2015 he is a visiting scholar at NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. He is the author of Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, and editor of two collections Comics & Ideology, and Film and Comic Books.
The 118th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 7pm at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.
William H. Foster III on The image of African Americans in early American Comic Books: 1940-50.
William H. Foster III has been a writer since the age of 8 and published since age 11. Poet, essayist, playwright, and editorialist, he has written 15 books and 10 plays. He is presently a Professor of English at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Connecticut. Professor Foster holds a BA from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, and a Masters degree from Wesleyan University.
A long-time comic book collector and researcher, Professor Foster has been an expert commentator for both CNN News and National Public Radio. He was a consultant on the historical image of Blacks in both comic strips and comic books for the Words and Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art in Northampton, MA, and also a consultant to the 2004 exhibit, “Heroes, Heartthrobs, and Horrors: Celebrating Connecticut’s Invention of the American Comic Book” presented by the Connecticut Historical Society.
His exhibit on the “Changing Image of Blacks in Comics” has been displayed at a number of venues across the country, including Temple University’s Paley Library, the 1998 Comic-Con International Comic Arts Conference, the 2000 Festival of Arts and Ideas and in 2012 for the Texas Visual Arts Association in Dallas.
He presented his research at the 2001 conference of The International Association for Media and History in Leipzig, Germany and at the 2002 Conference on Analyzing Series & Serial Narrative at John Moores University in Liverpool, England.
In 2007 Professor Foster’s exhibit was displayed at both the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Maryland and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York. He was an invited speaker to the 2007 International Symposium on Langston Hughes at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, China.
In 2008 he was appointed to the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Comic Art. In 2010 his research was sited in the Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture. In 2011 he appeared as an expert on the PBS series, History Detectives. In that same year he spoke at the International Popular Culture Association conference in San Jose, Costa Rica. In 2012 he was an invited speaker at the Atl.Com Festival in Malmo, Sweden, and the Comics Forum in Leeds, England. In 2013 he lectured at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA., the New School in New York, and at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He also appeared as an expert commentator in the PBS documentary, Superheroes: A Never ending Battle. He was also tapped to be a judge for the 2014 International Comic Con Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.
He is the author of two collections of essay on Blacks in Comics: Looking for a Face like Mine (2005) and Dreaming of a Face like Ours (2010). He is currently at work on the third book in the series. Website: finallyinfullcolor.com
The 117th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 7pm at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.
Kent Worcester on Ten Great Cartoonists You’ve Never Heard Of
In recent years there has been a flurry of scholarly interest in comics and cartooning, much of which has focused on a relatively small number of cartoonists. This illustrated talk will make the case for looking beyond the usual suspects and will highlight the “lost art” of ten highly talented creators who are not yet on the comics studies radar. Perhaps one or two of their names will be familiar to devoted fans of political cartooning, but very little has been written about any one of the following: M. Verne Breitmayer, Jesse Cohen, Pele deLappe, Phil Evans, Jimmy Friell, John Olday, Charles Peattie, Donald Rooum, Laura Slobe, and Ben Yomen. This presentation will also feature a “hidden bonus track” – cartoons by a famous nineteenth century writer who was also a capable illustrator.
Kent Worcester teaches political theory at Marymount Manhattan College. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of eight books, including A Comics Studies Reader (coedited with Jeet Heer, 2009) and The Superhero Reader (coedited with Charles Hatfield and Jeet Heer, 2013). His latest book is Peter Bagge: Conversations (2015). He regularly gives public talks on New York City and Comics on behalf of the New York Council for the Humanities’ Speakers in the Humanities series.
Cartoon by Rooum.
A special meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Monday, March 2, 2015 at 7pm at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.
To celebrate Will Eisner Week, a series of international events timed around the March 6th birthday of comics innovator Will Eisner, we offer two presentations:
THE CONTRADICTIONS AND IMPORTANCE OF WILL EISNER, a talk by Paul Levitz.
Will Eisner was the most successful businessman of comics’ first generation of great cartoonists. Paul Levitz discusses how Eisner’s journey between commerce and art contributed to his importance to the evolution of the field and the graphic novel, based on Levitz’s upcoming Abrams ComicArts’ book: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel.
PAUL LEVITZ is a comic fan (The Comic Reader), editor (Batman, among many titles), writer (Legion of Super-Heroes, Worlds’ Finest, and many others including four NY Times Graphic Books Best Sellers), executive (30 years at DC, ending as President &Publisher), historian (75 Years of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Myth-Making (Taschen, 2010)) and educator (including teaching The American Graphic Novel at Columbia). He won two consecutive annual Comic Art Fan Awards for Best Fanzine, received Comic-Con International’s Inkpot Award, the prestigious Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, and the Comics Industry Appreciation Award from ComicsPro. His Taschen book won the Eisner Award, the Eagle Award and Munich’s Peng Pris, and is being released in revised form as five volumes. Levitz also serves on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
SPIRIT AND SHADOW: WILL EISNER AND ORSON WELLES
A presentation by Danny Fingeroth and Arie Kaplan.
Born two years apart, Orson Welles (1915-1985) and Will Eisner (1917-2005) were each giants in their fields, Welles in film, Eisner in comics. With 2015 marking Welles’ centenary as well as the 75 th anniversary of the launch of Eisner’s groundbreaking series, The Spirit, we look at the similarities and differences of the two men’s bodies of work.
From the turmoil of the years leading up to World War II, Welles—already legendary as the radio voice of The Shadow, his War of the Worlds broadcast and The Cradle Will Rock Broadway landmark—blasted into the world of movies with Citizen Kane in 1941. Eisner, having helped put comics on the map with Sheena, Hawks of The Sea, and numerous other features, in 1940 launched The Spirit, which took comics to a new level of sophistication.
Like many of his generation of comics creators, Eisner was quick to credit Welles’ influence on his work—even lampooned him as “Awsome Bells” in a Spirit story—and often visually homaged Welles distinctive filmmaking style. Welles was known as a fan of comics, although his awareness of The Spirit is unknown. Still, both came out of the same crucible of high and low culture—from German Expressionist cinema to the avant-garde work of Man Ray and Salvador Dali to the stories of Guy DeMaupassant and O. Henry—as well as the turmoil of the Great Depression and a world headed inexorably toward war. And both were acknowledged as creators whose work regularly rose above craft to the level of art, who created characters and told tales that endure beyond their lifetimes. Their innovations reverberate through our popular culture to this day.
Tonight Danny Fingeroth and Arie Kaplan will compare the work of Welles and Eisner who, in different media, but with a shared obsession with telling their stories their way—innovating instead of imitating—changed everything in their given fields.
DANNY FINGEROTH was Group Editor of Marvel’s Spider-Man comics line and has written many comics, including Spider-Man, Darkhawk, and Iron Man. He is the author of the books Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society; Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero; and The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels. With Roy Thomas, Fingeroth edited The Stan Lee Universe, featuring rarities from the comics legend’s career, and with Mike Manley edited How to Create Comics from Script to Print. Fingeroth has spoken about comics at The Smithsonian Institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Columbia University, and has written about them for publications including The Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun. He was Sr. VP of Education at The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA), and has taught comics writing and history there and at The New School, NYU, and the MiMaster Art Institute in Milan. Fingeroth is a programming consultant to Wizard World comics conventions, inventing, organizing and moderating a diverse array of panels at their nationwide shows. Find out more at http://www.dannyfingeroth.com.
ARIE KAPLAN has written comic book stories and graphic novels for DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, MAD Magazine, IDW, Bongo Comics, Penguin Young Readers Group, Capstone, and other publishers.
He is the author of the award-winning nonfiction book From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books (Jewish Publication Society, 2008). His latest nonfiction book is Saturday Night Live: Shaping TV Comedy and American Culture (Lerner Publishing Group, 2014).
Arie’s also a screenwriter for television, videogames, and transmedia. His television writing credits include TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest…, the PBS Kids hit Cyberchase, and MTV’s TRL.
Find out more on his website, http://www.ariekaplan.com.
CANCELED! WILL BE RESCHEDULED!
Paul Tumey on Forgotten Funnies:
Images of America in the Comics of Percy Winterbottom, Dwig, and Ving Fuller
Forgotten today, the works of these three cartoonists were widely published and enjoyed a respectable readership in their successive eras. Presenting rare comics and original research, comics scholar and writer Paul Tumey paints a four-color triptych of lost comics masters:
Percy Winterbottom was a pen name for George Beckenbaugh, a humorist/cartoonist who had a brief career in comics in the late 1890s until he died in 1901 at age 36. He conceived of Klondike, a strange, satirical comic strip, presented in deliberately comically primitive art and language, about a parade of larger than life American archetypes that reflect what American music scholar Greil Marcus has called the “old, weird America.”
Clare Victor “Dwig” Dwiggins came of age in idyllic rural America in the late 1800s and worked in comics from 1900 to the 1950s. He enjoyed a boyhood much like that of Mark Twain’s characters Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Working at first in whimsical illustrations and screwball comics, Dwig later sought to recapture his magical childhood in syndicated comics like School Days, and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, reflecting the rise of nostalgia in industrial America.
Ving Fuller’s career spans the 1920s to the early 1960s. He was the barely successful cartoonist brother of famed Hollywood maverick filmmaker Sam Fuller. Creator of the first psychiatrist in comics, Doc Syke, Fuller made urban screwball comics that dealt with a host of post-war American neuroses, including gags about the atomic bomb that first appeared mere weeks after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
When juxtaposed together, the lives and work of these three obscure cartoonists tell a larger story that helps shed light on American comics and culture in the first half of the twentieth century.
Paul Tumey was a co-editor and essayist for The Art of Rube Goldberg (Abrams ComicArts 2013). He was also a contributing editor and essayist of Society is Nix (Sunday Press, 2013). His essay on Harry Tuthill appears as the introduction to The Bungle Family 1930 (IDW Library of American Comics, 2014). His work can be read regularly in his column, Framed! at the online Comics Journal (www.tcj.com).
The 112th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 7pm at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public. Please note: This event was snowed-out in January and is now rescheduled! Please note Wednesday date and 7pm starting time!.
Nick Thorkelson on Herbert Marcuse and Pedagogical Comics
Nick Thorkelson will talk about his projected book-length nonfiction comic on Marcuse, the German philosopher who was a mentor to the 1960s radical movements. The talk will also survey the field of pedagogical comics, from Rius and Rifas to Gonick and Sacco, and Nick’s contributions to that field which include The Underhanded History of the USA, The Comic Strip of Neoliberalism, Economic Meltdown Funnies, and short comics about Mr. Block, Kenneth Patchen, Yiddish poets, radical Christians, and the origins of modern jazz.
The Marcuse book situates Herbert Marcuse in the world of German anti-fascist refugees (Brecht, Adorno, Fritz Lang, Walter Benjamin, etc.), their debates regarding “high” and “low” art, and their contributions to American culture, which arguably include film noir and its poor relations, Crime Does Not Pay and The Spirit. The book will incorporate Nick’s latest comics story, “You Had to Be There,” about the German historian George Mosse who excited midwestern college students in the 1960s and 70s with his explorations of the detritus of European popular culture.
Nick Thorkelson is a former editorial cartoonist for the Boston Globe who creates comics and cartoons for groups working on industrial safety, worker rights, social welfare, peace, and the environment. For the last ten years he has worked closely with historian Paul Buhle on a series of nonfiction comics, including a 4-pager on the 50th anniversary of Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man which appears in the current issue of Jewish Currents.