The 312th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  September 28, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public. Now on YouTube.

Avant-Garde Histories of Comics: 1945-1970

Mainstream histories of post-war American comics emphasize the fortunes of the commercial comic book industry, which enjoyed a period of experimentation before negative public scrutiny encouraged the development of a censorious comics code which greatly restricted comic book content outside of a handful of narrowly defined, child-friendly genres. Concurrently, the daily newspaper comic strip faced diminishing space in newspapers and competition from the emerging television medium. While some cartoonists with contemporary sensibilities and minimalist styles adapted to changing conditions, the format lost its primacy as a visual mass medium in American culture and entered a decades-long period of general decline. Histories of comics within other Western cultures differ substantially in their particulars, but are similarly concerned with popular formats and genres that emerged and developed as part of post-war mass culture. Across these national cultures, post-war comics are still seen as having been a largely commercial form before the eruption of more independent comics in the 1960s and 70s brought an avant-grade sensibility to the comics form. 

Looking outside of the parameters of Western commercial comic book industries, the post-war decades were particularly fertile ones for comics within avant-grade cultural movements. In post-war Paris, the Lettristes first gained notice as an avant-garde poetry movement, before moving on to investigate combinations of text, image and other codes to produce “hypergraphic” novels. The Situationists began as a faction of the Lettristes and produced their own unique comics through the process of détournement —the reuse of found objects— to subvert social norms. Other poetic movements engaged comics for their own purposes, from the Poema-Processo group in Brazil to Joe Brainard’s visual collaborations with poets of the New York School. In a trans-Atlantic exchange, French publisher Eric Losfeld and the American Grove Press both published Pop Art-inflected graphic novels for adult readers in the mid-1960s as part of publishing programs that were self-consciously avant-garde and socially transgressive. In short, the years before the emergence of underground comix were rich with experimental comics production that often emerged from the activities of recognizable post-war avant-garde movements. Taken together, these artistic phenomena present a compelling counter-history of post-war comics that substantially shifts the context within which we might consider subsequent developments.

Bill Kartalopoulos is an internationally recognized comics critic, educator, curator, and editor. He served as the Series Editor for the #1 New York Times—bestselling Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) series for six annual volumes, beginning in 2014. He teaches courses about comics at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Parsons and at the School of Visual Arts. He has curated exhibits about comics across North America and in Greece, Switzerland and France, and is a frequent public speaker internationally. He co-founded the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival and currently serves as the programming director for the MoCCA Arts Festival in New York, NY. He has been nominated for Eisner and Harvey awards, and he has worked as a studio assistant for Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman. His writing about comics has appeared in venues including the Huffington Post, The Paris Review, BOMB Magazine, and The Comics Journal. He is currently writing a history of comics, forthcoming from Princeton University Press. For more information, please visit

From the series “Epipopimal Épopée” by Jacques Spacagna (1965)

The 311th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public. Now on YouTube.

Richard Samuel West on My Life in Cartoons

From Peanuts to Puck, Richard Samuel West traces his passion for the American cartoon, with stories from his long-standing friendships with leading cartoonists and references to the half-dozen books he’s written on American cartoon history.

Rich West is the author of a number of books on American cartooning, the latest being What Fools These Mortals Be! The Story of Puck (2014). He is the owner of Periodyssey, a business that trades in significant and unusual American paper.

The 310th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Sept. 14, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public. Watch a recording on YouTube.

Jaime Arredondo: Place of Fright, Road of Awe. Illustrations of the Popol Vuh.

The Popol Vuh, or the Book of the Community, is the earliest body of literature in the Americas and in terms of its breadth of imagination and storytelling can easily be compared to The Odyssey by Homer, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Unfortunately, we have witnessed a tendency to dismiss the art and culture of Native Americans as something of common coin, and difficult to access. In fact, there is an abundance of information on these First Peoples of the Americas, and with new technology we are now able to ascertain data never imagined leading to major revisions and a new way in how we view these cultures.

In 2007 I set myself on a mission to reverse this trend by bringing the Popol Vuh to light, leading me to assign readings on it to my classes at NYU and The New School. In 2010, as a way to elucidate and clarify the story I decided to create 26 illustrations that trace the story from the beginning to the middle. In 2019 I completed 39 more based on the remaining half of the story.

It is my profound hope that as a result of these illustrations the former glory of the Popol Vuh and its authors will be rightly restored to its deserved place in human history and that this in turn will lead to a greater interest and defense of it, and of the art and culture of Native, Indigenous Peoples.

Jaime Arredondo is an assistant professor at Parsons, and an adjunct professor at NYU. He was born in Dallas, Texas, to Mexican-American Tejano parents. His mother was a descendent of the original land in Texas dating back to the 1600s. His father was Otomi, a Native American nation originating from Central Mexico. While growing up they filled his imagination with stories of the borderlands and Mexico, of land, of conquest, of love and betrayal, of spirit and of soul.

Arredondo has had numerous solo gallery and museum shows in the Southwest and in New York City, and has been the recipient of numerous awards. In 2009, his paintings were published as stamps by the United Nations and in 2015 he was commissioned to create a permanent art project for the MTA comprised of 36 mosaics of his works, installed at the Zererga Station in the Bronx, and entitled “Garden of Earthly Delight.”

After graduating from Yale with an MFA in painting, Arredondo moved to New York City and began teaching his course “Of Fire and Blood: Art and Mythology of Mexico” at NYU Gallatin and The New School. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

Jaime Arredondo image

In partnership with the K-12 Outreach Program at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University.

Copy of ILAS logo

The 309th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

David Kunzle on The Rebirth of the English Comic Strip: A Kaleidoscope, 1847-1870

Rebirth of the English Comic Strip: A Kaleidoscope, 1847–1870 enters deep into an era of comic history that has been entirely neglected. This buried cache of mid-Victorian graphic humor is marvelously rich in pictorial narratives of all kinds. Author David Kunzle calls this period a “rebirth” because of the preceding long hiatus in use of the new genre, since the Great Age of Caricature (c.1780–c.1820) when the comic strip was practiced as a sideline. Suddenly in 1847, a new, post-Töpffer comic strip sparks to life in Britain, mostly in periodicals, and especially in Punch, where all the best artists of the period participated, if only sporadically: Richard Doyle, John Tenniel, John Leech, Charles Keene, and George Du Maurier. Until now, this aspect of the extensive oeuvre of the well-known masters of the new journal cartoon in Punch has been almost completely ignored. Exceptionally, George Cruikshank revived just once in The Bottle, independently, the whole serious, contrasting Hogarthian picture story.

Numerous comic strips and picture stories appeared in periodicals other than Punch by artists who were likewise largely ignored. Like the Punch luminaries, they adopt in semirealistic style sociopolitical subject matter easily accessible to their (lower-)middle-class readership. The topics covered in and out of Punch by these strips and graphic novels range from French enemies King Louis-Philippe and Emperor Napoleon III to farcical treatment of major historical events: the Bayeux tapestry (1848), the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Artists explore a great variety of social types, occupations, and situations such as the emigrant, the tourist, fox hunting and Indian big game hunting, dueling, the forlorn lover, the student, the artist, the toothache, the burglar, the paramilitary volunteer, Darwinian animal metamorphoses, and even nightmares. In Rebirth of the English Comic Strip, Kunzle analyzes these much-neglected works down to the precocious modernist and absurdist scribbles of Marie Duval, Europe’s first female professional cartoonist.

David Kunzle,professor emeritus of art history at the University of California, is author of Rebirth of the English Comic Strip: A Kaleidoscope, 1847-1870Cham: The Best Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839–1862Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer; Gustave Doré: Twelve Comic Strips; and Rodolphe Töpffer: The Complete Comic Strips, all published byUniversity Press of Mississippi.

The 308th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  August 31, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Sweet Time with Weng Pixin: From Zines to Graphic Novels. In conversation with Lim Cheng Tju.

Weng Pixin is the first Singapore comic artist to be published by Drawn & Quarterly. In this sharing, Pixin will chat with CT Lim about her journey and development as a comic artist and art educator. 

My name is Pixin (Pix for short). I was born in 1983 and grew up in sunny Singapore, an island city located along the equator. Upon graduating from (then-known-as) Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts in 2004 with a first class honours in Painting, I spent the next decade immersed in my art practice: working in a range of medium from painting, drawing, making comics to sewing and constructing using found objects. My facilitation of art workshops for children and adults in Singapore and overseas led to my interest and completion of a Masters in Art Therapy from LASALLE College of the Arts in 2016. 

I am part of Chicks on Comics, a comics collective based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The collective utilises comics as means of expression and discussion on assorted topics, issues and challenges. It provides me a space to get ‘outside’ of a repertoire of topics or themes that I generally work with, and encourages me to continually learn new ideas or ways of thinking, and to expand my thoughts and perspectives on diverse topics. 

When it comes to non-comics-related art such as painting, sewing and/or drawing, it is a much more process-driven experience where the final outcome is not the key interest, but rather, being with the act of making itself, on my own or with others. The making can be felt as a form of playing, where the adult-me meets the child-me to process our experiences together. It is incredibly rewarding and fun in that sense. 

As an artist, I divide my time between facilitating art workshops for children and working on my comics and art.

Lim Cheng Tju is an educator who writes about history and popular culture. His articles have appeared in the Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, Journal of Popular Culture and Print Quarterly. He is the country editor (Singapore) for the International Journal of Comic Art and also the co-editor of Liquid City 2, an anthology of Southeast Asian comics published by Image Comics. He is one of the authors of The University Socialist Club and The Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity (Amsterdam University Press/National University of Singapore Press). He recently wrote a comic book, Guidebook to Nanyang Diplomacy.

The 307th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  May 4, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Comics as Life, Not-Comics as Life: Jason Lee on His Current Work

My zine and creative output slowed dramatically in 2019 after some particularly frustrating experiences at festivals and on social media left me largely discouraged about the possibility of finding a community in comics. At the time, there was also a growing sense of frustration about the viability of the festival model. When COVID-19 put the world on lockdown, it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity to sit down and create; but to my surprise, comics and illustration became even less of a priority. I wonder why, and about what I have learned from the social uprisings and movement building efforts that took center stage in 2020–about how these experiences and ideas can inform our reimagining of how we function in the world of comics, and the way that comics function in the world.

Jason Lee is a bartender and organizer who writes and draws and often combines these pursuits to varying degrees. He works primarily through the medium of illustrated essays and zines, collected under the umbrella/series title “Nothing Left to Learn.” His work was included in Best American Comics in 2017 and 2018.

In-progress zine tentatively titled Chemtrail Crucifix, made up largely of drawings, observations and writing from 2020.

The 306th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  April 27, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Video of this event.

Anders Nilsen: The Genealogy of a Story

Anders will discuss his current graphic-novel-in-progress Tongues, and how it has evolved out of several previous projects spanning his career, as well as its ancient roots in the lost plays of Aeschylus from the 5th century BCE. Until recently, most of Nilsen’s work has grown organically out of experiments and observations in his sketchbooks. Tongues, in contrast, is a culmination of elements and themes of several previous works from twenty years drawing pictures and telling stories. In his talk Anders will discuss his work process, the genesis of ideas, stealing characters from oneself, and the peculiar fact that every story has its own particular life history.

Anders Nilsen is the artist and author of ten books including Big Questions, The End, and Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow. His work has been featured in the New York Times, The Believer, Mome, Kramer’s Ergot and elsewhere. His books have been translated into several languages overseas and his painting and drawing have been exhibited internationally. Nilsen’s work has received three Ignatz awards as well as the Lynd Ward Prize for the Graphic Novel, and Big Questions was listed as a New York Times Notable Book. Nilsen has also been both a participant and organizer of Pierre Feuille Ciseaux, an experimental collaborative comics residency based in France. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

The 305th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  April 20, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Video of this event.

Frank J. Korom  on Bengali Narrative Scroll Painters and their Struggle with Modernity

The Patuas of West Bengal have a long history of surviving the vicissitudes of their ever-changing social and cultural environment, dealing with everything from caste discrimination to multiple religious conversion. Yet, despite all of the hurdles they have had to jump in the negotiation of their marginal identity, one thing has remained fairly constant; namely, their occupation of painting narrative scrolls (pats) about which they sing. Their repertoire originally included mostly religious themes focusing on Hindu mythology, even after they converted en masse to Islam in the thirteenth century. Even though they still paint and sing about religious themes, they have gravitated more and more toward social (samajik) themes, especially since the postcolonial period of India’s history began in 1947. This strategic shift in performance style is a major key to their ongoing negotiations with India’s own trajectory for becoming “modern.” Moreover, now that globalization has been occurring in the region since the economic reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s, they are also confronting and coping with new markets and international audiences. This talk will provide an overview of the Patuas, then survey the variety of themes in their painted narratives to conclude that this talented community has managed to cope with modernity to survive, even though many romantic nationalists predicted their demise back at the turn of the 19th century.

Frank J. Korom is a professor of religion and anthropology at Boston University and an associate of the Folklore and Mythology Program at Harvard. He is the author and/or editor of ten books that pertain to the religions and cultures of South Asia and its diasporas. He was formerly the curator of Asian & Middle Eastern collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, where he later guest curated an exhibition on the art and lives of the Patuas in 2006 titled Village of Painters: Narrative Scrolls from West Bengal. The Museum of New Mexico Press published his accompanying book with the same title. He is currently the co-editor of Asian Ethnology, a biannual journal based at Nanzan University in Japan, where he is also a research associate of the Anthropological Institute.

A scene from Svarna Chitrakar’s Titanic scroll (Photo courtesy of the Museum of International Folk Art)

The 304th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  April 13, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Video of this event.

Manga 4.5: Building Comics with Mats and Stones – a talk by Ryan Holmberg

In the late 1950s, one Japanese cartoonist after another began sticking their protagonists in cramped rooms with cracked windows and tattered walls. There might be a heated table with a quilt or a kettle, a spread of seedy bedding, but little else. There were always tatami mats, usually four and one-half of them, arranged concentrically around the half, or stacked with the half in the corner, their geometry forming a variable grid upon which the characters live and act (or brood or snore) inside a medium likewise defined by a variable grid of panel frames. This talk by historian and translator Ryan Holmberg focuses on the intersection of comics, architecture, and tropes of bohemian poverty in Japan between the ‘50s and ‘80s. Spotlighting recently-translated stories by alt-manga legend Tsuge Yoshiharu published by New York Review Comics and Drawn & Quarterly, it also explores how this 4.5 tatami-sized world connects to ideals of rustication, impermanence, and asceticism within traditional Japanese aesthetics. This talk supports a mixed media installation and exhibition of the same name, created in collaboration with printmaker Bill Fick, to be held in Durham, NC, in the spring of 2021.

Ryan Holmberg is a freelance arts and comics historian and translator. He has taught at Duke University and the University of Tokyo, among other schools. As an editor and translator of manga, he has worked with Breakdown Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Retrofit Comics, New York Review Comics, and PictureBox on over two dozen different books. His edition of Tezuka Osamu’s The Mysterious Underground Men (PictureBox) won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material: Asia. A frequent contributor to The Comics Journal,he is also the author of The Translator Without Talent (Bubbles, 2020) and Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973 (Center for Book Arts, 2010).

Tsuge Yoshiharu, The Wake (1967)