About this Issue
Of what stuff are comics- and (super-) heroines and heroes made? They are the product of unremitting failure, sufferers of recurring defeats, victims of severe blows. Their misadventures and weaknesses receive a positive revaluation in the public discourse. This can also be seen in contemporary smart-aleck (self-help and) manager guides, in which failure is pitched, even praised, as a stepping stone on the road to success. In addition to this depiction of failure as a mere milestone, manifold publications describe failing as a refusal to comply with the motif of â€şhigher-faster-furtherâ€ą or at least as a rupture in the teleological narrative of progress. To what extent can the processes of failure be observed in comics? How is failure shown on the level of comic production and distribution or depicted and portrayed in narrative action? The theme of failure provides the focus for this issue of CLOSURE.
In front of the empty page, all comic-artists appear to be equal. However, even before the first panel is drawn or the first speech bubble is filled, the chances of succeeding in the Comics scene are already clearly delineated. As Katharina Brandl and Anne E. Moore empirically and systematically demonstrate, issues of access, financial disadvantages, discrimination and harassment are obstacles which cause comics artists to fail. Their contribution Â»Bound to fail. Living and working conditions in the comics industryÂ« is a much-needed corrective for the field of Comics research, which, over focusing on questions of aesthetics and allegiance, seems to have neglected to acknowledge that in a profoundly unequal and discriminatory scene, failure is not a matter of talent.
In his contribution Â»Aus dem Rahmen fallen / in den Rahmen fallenÂ« the Berlin based publisher Christian A. Bachmann looks at representations of artists in caricatures of the 19th Century, in particular their depictions in comics published around 1900. Often these types of self-reflexive illustrations draw on failing personas (characters), not least because of their humorous potential.
The contribution of Anne RĂĽggemeier, postdoctoral fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, examines Â»graphic illness narrativesÂ«. Focusing on Brian Fiesâ€™ Mom's Cancer (2006) and Roz Chastâ€™s Canâ€™t we talk about something more pleasant (2014), RĂĽggemeier analyses how these two comics represent the discrepancy between expectations and corresponding confrontations with reality, paying particular attention to the phenomenon of the â€şlistâ€ą.
In Â»Scheitern als strukturierendes PrinzipÂ«, academic researcher at the University of Mannheim, Daniela Kuschel, demonstrates how failure is a structuring motif in the comic Die Kunst zu fliegen (2012) by Spanish author Antonio Altarria and artist Kim. By making the main-protagonistâ€™s suicide a central, structuring element of the comic, the aviator characterâ€™s take-offs and landings take on an allegorical meaning of flying high and crash landings.
As part of the open section to CLOSURE, Peter Vignold, research associate at the Institute of Media and Science of the Ruhr-University of Bochum, discusses the dawn of a â€şGolden Ageâ€ą of comic-films. In Â»You canâ€™t save the world aloneÂ«, Vignold describes the current phenomenon of the comic-book movie blockbuster.
Another contribution to the open section is, Â»The â€şaffected scholarâ€ą: Reading Raina Telgemeierâ€™s Ghosts (2016) as a Disability Scholar and Cystic Fibrosis PatientÂ«. Dorothee Schneider, research associate at the Kiel University, combines personal insight with Comics analysis. From a Disabilities Studies perspective, Schneiderâ€™s discussion of the representation and function of the chronic illness in the comic, Ghosts, posits that the inclusion of affected experience can be used to give a valuable, critical, reading.
Sigrid Thomsen, university assistant at the University of Viennaâ€™s Mobile Cultures and Societies platform for research, also focuses on representations of mental illness in comics. In Â»Readable Space and PracticeÂ« she examines Alison Bechdelâ€™s comic Fun Home (2006) and Justin Greenâ€™s Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1995) in relation to their respective depictions and illustrations of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
For our section Comic/Context, we asked Marc-Oliver Frisch for his take on the shortcomings of current comics criticism. A longstanding critic himself (Tagesspiegel, among others), Frisch is unstinting in his critique of critique. Not content to merely point fingers, however, he also shows that better failure is possible on the basis of an unsparing look at oneâ€™s own critical predilections and misdirections. Although we could only include one criticâ€™s opinion, this much-needed opinion piece will not fail to garner replies and further critiques in our upcoming issues.
With the launch of CLOSURE #5 the downloadable contributions have a new layout. Also, the images on our webpage can now be enlarged by clicking on them. We present the artists of our covers in short features, starting with Kate Carruthers Thomas (cover) and Matthias Latza (ComicKontext). Furthermore, as part of CLOSUREâ€™s efforts to build bridges in the academic research of Comics beyond German-language boundaries, the main pages of our website are translated into English.
We would like to thank the article authors and reviewers who have contributed to CLOSURE #5, and hope you enjoy this new issue.
Kiel, November 2018
Your CLOSURE Team
Editing & Layout
Chris Ullrich Cochanski
Cover & Illustrations
Kate Thomas (Issue #5)
Matthias Latza (ComicKontext)