Best Online Comics Studies Scholarship (BOCSS) Award!

There is lot of great online scholarship about comics, so it’s fitting that there is now an award to recognise some of that work that’s being done. A. David Lewis has done the hard lifting of getting the Best Online Comics Studies Scholarship award off the ground for its inaugural year, and starting a conversation around the BOCSS hashtag. I was thrilled and humbled to find out that the special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly about “Comics as Scholarship” that I had contributed an article to had made the short list of nominees for the award.

It’s a really exciting issue, because all of the authors used image and text in different ways to explore ideas about how comics signify meaning and open new and interesting ways to think about what scholarship can be. The editors Roger Whitson and Anastasia Salter did a great job of curating the issue and tackling the logistical problems with organising peer review and publishing this unconventional material. Have a look at the variety of approaches:

Behind the Scenes of a Dissertation in Comics Form by Nick Sousanis, University of CalgaryIs this Article a Comic? by Jason Muir Helms, Texas Christian UniversityMateriality Comics by Aaron Jacob Kashtan, Miami UniversityMultimodal Authoring and Authority in Educational Comics: Introducing Derrida and Foucault for Beginners by Aaron Scott Humphrey, University of AdelaideSequential Rhetoric: Using Freire and Quintilian to Teach Students to Read and Create Comics by Robert Dennis Watkins, Idaho State University; Tom Lindsley, Interaction Designer, WorkivaGraphic Images of YHWH: Exploring and Exploding the Bounds of Sexual Objectification in Ezekiel 16 by B.J. Parker, Baylor University

(Click on any of the images above to be taken to the full article)

The other articles on the BOCSS shortlist showcase the breadth and depth of comics scholarship in 2016. Two of the articles look at particular ways that comics make meaning, with Barbara Postema’s “Photography in Wordless Comics” providing a fascinating account of the narrational qualities of comics and photos, while Jorge Santos shows how the hybrid and open-ended nature of comics are well-suited to depict the intersection of cultures in “Ambulatory Identities: Montijo’s Revision of Chicano/a Hybridity in Pablo’s Inferno.” Taking more of a cultural studies approach, Robert Jones, Jr., examines racism and superheroism in “Humanity Not Included: DC’s Cyborg and the Mechanization of the Black Body,” the kind of criticism we need as comic book superheroes play an increasing role in global popular culture. All three articles are well worth a read!

The awards were announced last week at the “Comics Scholarship at Criticism” panel at The Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE). I was far away in Adelaide, but fortunately the panel, featuring A. Dave Lewis, Hillary Chute, Karen Green and Forrest Helvie, has already been uploaded on YouTube. The awards announcement is appropriately low-key, but the panel is worth listening to if you’re interested in hearing folks discuss the state of comics scholarship.

I was proud to learn that the Comics as Scholarship issue had won, especially in field full of terrific work. It’s a testament to the hard work by Roger, Anastasia and the other contributors. I know several of the authors have called this project one of the most challenging pieces of scholarship they’ve worked on, but I think it’s also been one of the most rewarding. There are other exciting upcoming projects devoted to comics as scholarship, but I hope this issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly will serve as something of a landmark in the field.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what next year’s crop of BOCSS nominees bring to the table. Exciting times for Comics Studies!

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