Comics Scholars Survey Results, November 1995

compiled by Peter M. Coogan

P. Other
P.1. What five things would help you most as a comics scholar?
P.2. What five projects would you like to see done, like to help with, or like help with?

This "wish list" of comics scholars ranged broadly. Generally there was a call for better scholarship, in Joseph Witek's words, "fan enthusiasm combined with intellectual rigor," and a need for scholars to be more familiar with the "history and formal characteristics of comics before they start writing about them." Many respondents desire better access to materials, through collections like Michigan State's, responsibly documented reprints, and microfilming of comics and support materials (CBG, Comics Journal) available through interlibrary loan. The International Museum of Cartoon Art is in the process of converting its collection to a computer format which should eventually be available online. Ideally the same could be done with the other major comics collections. Also mentioned were: translation of European criticism; a journal (INKS should obviate this desire); a column reviewing academic works on comics (it looks like INKS will be handling this); reviews of comics (more than the occasional piece on Maus -- does anyone know Terry Gross?); more contact with the industry, including an easier method to get permission to reprint panels in scholarly work; an academic history of comic books; a computerized version of the Overstreet guide; a detailed guide to the archives of comic book collections; research funds; academic departments dealing with comics.

A union catalog of comix from the major academic collections. A bibliography of the "gray" literature (obscure journals, comics and fanzines). Publishers' statistics on sales, market share, etc., so as to qualify such statements as "immensely successful," and to further the understanding of issues of marketing. An centralized available source of illustrations for use with studies and article, perhaps for a nominal copyright fee if no public domain work were available. Guillaume de Syon would be happy to help with surveying the aviation comics genre, and also surveying the uses of comics to teach history (of which there are several French projects underway, according to Guillaume) or the way comics are used as historical evidence.

I would like someone to publish, for inclusion in the various style handbooks, specific guidelines for citing comics, including what to do about panels, unnumbered advertisement and letter pages. Julie Ratliff has indicated that the complete MLA handbook does have such guidelines; once I review them, I would like to publish them in Comic Art Studies. A Comics Citation Committee formed at the 1995 Popular Culture Association to look at these issues.

I am trying to deal directly with the following areas that arose: better coordination of scholars (many of whom can be reached indirectly through the newsletter, just send items to me for inclusion); indices of comics publications; an archive of research papers (we've established such an archive at MSU and I have become more systematic recently in soliciting donations for it) ; and an archive for professional's papers (one for comic strip creators exists at Ohio State University).

Ian Gordon thinks "It is important for those who work on comics to move away from the 'what needs to be done' question and do what they need to do for their scholarship." He also noted that in reading over the survey results it struck him that most of the respondents want to grapple with big issues. Moving into doing what they need to for their scholarship should help them to come to terms with definitions of the medium and other such matters; Joseph Witek's book is a good example of this process.

Back to the Introduction and Survey Outline