The Comics Studies Society

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The Comics Studies Society (CSS) is an interdisciplinary society open to all who share the goals of promoting the critical study of comics, improving comics teaching, and engaging in open and ongoing conversations about the comics world.

CSS defines comics studies liberally to include the study and critical analysis of comics strips; comic books, papers, and magazines; albums, graphic novels, and other graphic books; webcomics and other electronic formats; single-panel cartoons, including editorial and gag cartoons; caricature; animation; and other related forms and traditions. All types of sequential art, graphic narrative, and cartooning are relevant to our mission.

CSS is the first professional society of comics scholars in the US to be supported by members’ dues while emphasizing professional development opportunities for students and the exchange of best practices among teachers and practitioners.

CSS celebrates and seeks to foster diversity in comics studies, including diversity in scholarly discipline, career position, job niche, and cultural and personal identity. We are serious about helping this field grow.

Election (May 6, 2017)

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The Executive Committee of the Comics Studies Society is proud to announce the results of its 2017 election of officers. Candida Rifkind has been elected Second Vice-President (and 2019 President-elect), Susan Kirtley has been re-elected to a second term as Executive Secretary, and Blair Davis and Martha Kuhlman have been elected to serve as Members at Large.

Candida Rifkind is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg, Canada. She specializes in comics and graphic narratives, auto/biography studies, and Canadian literature and culture. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters, including “Memory and Black Visuality in Ho Che Anderson's King,” “The Biotopographies of Seth’s George Sprott (1894-1975),” “Graphic Biography and The Half Lives of Robert Oppenheimer,” “A Stranger in a Strange Land? Guy Delisle Redraws the Travelogue,” and “Drawn from Memory: Comic Artists and Intergenerational Auto/Biography.” She has also published an award-winning book, Comrades and Critics: Women, Literature, and the Left in 1930s Canada (U of Toronto P, 2009) and co-edited the volume Canadian Graphic: Picturing Life Narratives (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2016). She is currently writing a book about contemporary graphic biographies (supported by a SSHRC Insight Grant 2015-18), researching migrant and refugee comics, developing a monograph on Canadian women’s autographics, and supervising a research project on Indigenous comics in Canada. She is a founding member of the CSS, serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of INKS, and regularly reviews comics and graphic narratives for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Susan Kirtley is an Associate Professor of English, the Director of Rhetoric and Composition, and the Director of Comics Studies at Portland State University.  Her research interests include visual rhetoric and graphic narratives, and she has published pieces on comics for the popular press and academic journals.  Her book, Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass, was the 2013 Eisner winner for Best Educational/Academic work.  She served as a judge for the 2015 Eisner Awards and is a member of the Executive Group on Graphic Narratives for the Modern Language Association.

Blair Davis is an Assistant Professor of Media & Cinema Studies with the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. His books include Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page (2017, Rutgers University Press) and Comic Book Movies (Forthcoming, Rutgers University Press). He is a contributor to the Eisner-Award-winning anthology The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art (2015, Rutgers University Press), and has edited a collection of essays on Watchmen for a 2017 issue of Cinema Journal as well as a roundtable on comics and methodology for the inaugural issue of Inks (2017). Davis has chaired the Comics Studies scholarly interest group for the Society of Cinema and Media Studies since 2012. He recently received a grant to curate an archival collection of Christian comic books for the DePaul University Library, and his current research looks at numerous lesser-known Marvel Comics titles from the 1980s.

Martha Kuhlman is Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at Bryant University. She co-edited The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking (2010), and contributed chapters to a number of scholarly anthologies on comics, including Drawn From the Classics: Essays on Graphic Adaptations of Literary Works, Comics and Abstraction, and the Cambridge History of the Graphic Novel (in progress). She published articles on comics in European Comic Art, the Journal of Popular Culture, and the International Journal of Comic Art. From 2012-2017, she served on the MLA forum for Comics and Graphic Narrative. Currently she is working on an edited collection of essays about comics from the former Eastern Europe.

Statement from CSS Board (Nov 2016)

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In the wake of a rancorous campaign season, marked by cultural division and threats of disenfranchisement and violence, the Executive Board of the Comics Studies Society proudly reaffirms the Society’s commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and working toward greater cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary understanding. This, we know, is challenging work, but we believe it is our calling: the necessary work of building and upholding community and recognizing our differences not as weaknesses, but as the wellspring of our collective strength, professionally, socially, civically. And it is deeply rewarding work.

As the welcoming statement on our website puts it, the CSS “celebrates and seeks to foster diversity throughout the field of Comics Studies, including diversity in scholarly discipline, career position, job niche, and cultural and personal identity. We are serious about helping this field grow.” Recent events have forcefully reminded us of this commitment, and we aim to carry that lesson forward. The CSS Executive Board therefore confirms and celebrates the centrality of diversity to the mission of Comics Studies, and we register our opposition to divisive policies and rhetoric that threaten to tear at the very identity of the United States and of higher education as diverse, pluralistic, accepting, and affirming places.

In our view, scholars and students of all ethnicities, colors, traditions, faiths, heritages, origins, and nations, of all abilities, ages, genders, and sexualities, and of neurodiverse and nonnormative identities – in short, of all kinds and cultures – are not only welcome but absolutely vital to the continuing relevance of Comics Studies as a field. We, the CSS leadership, emphatically reject, and we urge all CSS members to reject, the politics and rhetoric of divisiveness, intolerance, and fear. Furthermore, we aim to stress this commitment in our journal, in our conference activities, and in all our official communications. In the months ahead, CSS members can expect us to underscore and act on this commitment in concrete ways (as will be signaled in our journal and on our website).

In sum, we of the CSS Executive Board will continue to support efforts to fight intolerance, promote cultural visibility and understanding, and stand up for the members of the communities we serve, and we will take steps to foster understanding and inclusion through our collective work. We invite all of CSS to join us in this commitment.