Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: International Journal of Comic Art Vol.12 #1

Posted by on March 27th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Every spring and fall, dependable as the equinox, a great brick of a periodical comes wrapped in a manila envelope to my mailbox. It’s a biannual issue of the International Journal of Comic Art. The most recent arrival, Vol. 12, #1, boasts 27 articles supported by the usual book and exhibition reviews, publication roundup, as well as a gallery of global cartoons. It weighs in at 537 pages, neither a record nor an abnormality.

Some six years ago, I got a chance to review the early years of IJOCA in the paper Comics Journal (# 261). I remember trying in that far longer piece to do justice to the international and intellectual scope sought and achieved by the title. Today that earlier effort looks as if I was driven to raw listings, of comics considered, of artists examined, of countries heard from, of article titles and of luminaries participating. Then as now the variety and breadth of the series defies any accurate survey short of the table of contents.

So on to a different tack: It’s a fairly sure thing that each and every issue of IJOCA will carry some pieces of distinct interest for every reader with broader, more curious students of the form discovering considerably more. Case in point: V. 12, #1 features an “interview” with Jules Feiffer, an interview proper with Art Spiegelman, a piece exploring a handful of stories in order to present “Carl Barks’ Donald Duck as Nervous Modern,” and another that addresses “Miller Misunderstood: Rethinking the Politics of The Dark Knight.” Or personal tastes might run more to “Revelation in Darnell and Ross’ Uncle Sam, Osamu’s Adolf as a “historio-graphic novel,” “From Love to Money:  The First Decade of Comic Fandom” or even “Portrayal of Nurses in Marvel Comics’ Night Nurse.”

But a real virtue of IJOCA is its different and differentiated angles on a given topic, approaches that would be insupportable elsewhere in print. Where else would you find Jacobson and Colon’s graphic adaptation of The 9/11 Report subjected to Kenneth Burke’s cluster-agon method of rhetorical criticism?

Of course there are whole swaths of topics that would be unsupported apart from this academic journal: gender issues in the political cartooning of the Middle East, the revival of Thai “knowledge comics,” the presentation of World War II in Dutch and French comics immediately following the war, “Worker-Specific Comic Art in China” by series editor John A. Lent and his wife Xu Ying … and here I am listing again.

As would be expected in an academic journal, articles are generally informed by the refined language of their respective disciplines. Although my reading in this issue is far from complete, it appears as a whole to be less freighted than usual with academese, the erudite patois that, for instance, bogs down the proceedings in “Archives, Alan Moore, and the Historio-Graphic Novel.” (This issue is big on things historio-graphic.) At the other extreme, a conversational, nostalgically rosy travelogue related to comics and cartooning probably would not have seen light of day were it not written by someone on the Journal’s advisory board. But whatever the level of language, a steadfast virtue of the scholarly approach abides in the functional and focused bibliographies that accompany pieces.

A couple of years back, I offered my sense of “essential” English-language periodicals covering comics. They were Comics Comics from PictureBox, Todd Hignite’s Comic Art, Hogan’s Alley (which may have become a biennial), IJOCA and The Comics Journal. Only one has remained as reliable as the change of seasons.

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