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The Comic Arts Conference Returns to WonderCon Anaheim!

WonderCon Wednesday

The Comics Arts Conference returns to WonderCon Anaheim for its 8th big year of WONDER-our programs. Started at Comic-Con International in 1992, the CAC is one of the leading academic-oriented seminars about comics in the country. Here’s a preliminary schedule of the panels for WCA 2014; please note some changes may be made between now and Wonder-time, so check the official program schedule when we post it on this website and also consult your onsite Program Book for details, including room numbers.

Comics Arts Conference at WonderCon Anaheim 2014
Friday, April 18

12:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #1: Introduction to Graphic Medicine—“Graphic Medicine” is a term coined in 2009 by UK physician and artist Ian Williams to refer to the intersection between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare. Since then, a diverse group of scholars, comic artists, patients and healthcare providers have been engaged in dialogue about how comics might further our understanding of the healthcare system and those who interact with it. Dr. Michael Green (Penn State Hershey College and Medicine) and M.K. Czerwiec (Northwestern Feinberg Medical School), two of the pioneers of the field and organizers of five international conferences on graphic medicine, will describe and share some of the rich body of work that now exists at the intersection of comics and medicine, exploring the rationale for the use of comics in medicine, ways it has been integrated into medical education, and how it might benefit healthcare providers and patients alike.

1:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #2: Beyond the Page—The influence of comics extends far beyond their paper. Victoria Minnich explores the value of comics as a research and education tool to visualize and personalize the operations of the southern California spiny lobster fishery, providing a case study of the possibilities for new media to generate collective meaning for a diverse and broad suite of audiences. Jeremy Johnson (University of Minnesota) explores the possibilities and limitations of graphic novels for the visually impaired and discusses the journey to create an “accessible” graphic narrative. In the process, he highlights the benefits of collaboration in the creation of narrative visualizations while raising an awareness of the accessibility of graphic novels. Renee Krusemark (Creighton University) builds on theories that reading graphic narratives involves both leadership and critical thinking, and uses The Walking Dead as a case study to explore how readers perceive leadership in comics and to discuss the potential of using comic books in the college classroom to address student critical thinking and leadership perceptions. 

3:00 Comics Arts Conference Session #3: Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom: A Roundtable Discussion—Whether using graphic novels or comics to explain cultural differences, history or art, there are many educational factors that sequential art can teach, in classes from the high school to the college level. Join Christina Angel (Metropolitan State University of Denver), Robert Weiner (Texas Tech University), Hannah Means-Shannon (Georgian Court University), Carrye Kay Syma (Texas Tech University), and James Bucky Carter (Washington State University—the editors and authors from Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom: Essays on the Educational Power of Sequential Art—for a lively discussion of the value of sequential art in and for education. This roundtable will focus on both the methodological and pedagogical approaches from the book, discussing the process involved in putting together the volume, and the book’s contributors will give their unique perspectives on the educational potential of using comics in the classroom.

Saturday, April 19

10:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #4: Spotlight on Gail Simone—From her early work on the “Women In Refrigerators” website to her present work for DC, WonderCon Anaheim special guest Gail Simone (Batgirl) has been and continues to be one of the most influential comics writers in the industry. She has also been one of the most influential commentators on gender and sexuality in the medium. Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight) moderates a discussion of Simone’s past, present and future career, writing characters from Wonder Woman to Red Sonja to Wolverine.  Room 210BCD

12:00 Comics Arts Conference Session #5: Comics and Women—Do women in spy thrillers have to be Miss Moneypenny? Do superheroines have to be sexualized? And do femme fatales have to have hearts of gold? Michele Brittany (Spyfi & Superspies) discusses how Ed Brubaker’s Velvet breaks the stereotypical spy story by leading with a strong female protagonist. Deanna Rodriguez (Texas State University) examines the letter pages of Captain Marvel to show that changing Carol Danvers’ costume removes the power of the male gaze and empowers female readers. And Christine Ferguson explains why Catwoman’s history as a sex worker doesn’t mean, and shouldn’t mean, she has to lose her edge. 

1:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #6: Comics and Transnationality—Brittany Tullis (St. Ambrose University) discusses how Jaime Hernandez’s characters model “alternative femininities,” a range of identities that shatters the boundaries of contemporary constructions of Latina femininity and patriarchal power. Grace D. Gipson (University of California, Berkeley) examines the evolution of the X-Men’s Storm from African Goddess to Punk Rock Queen, and how that evolution reflects the dilemma of becoming a modern, global woman. Arturo Meijide Lapido (St. Ambrose University) explores how the Atlantic Ocean functions in Miguelanxo Prado’s work as a geopolitical space to display Galician transnational identity as an intersection between Spain and America. 

Sunday, April 20

11:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #7: The Cognition of Comics—What happens in people’s minds and brains when they read and create comics? Neil Cohn (University of California, San Diego) will present an overview of his new book, The Visual Language of Comics: An Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Comics, which provides an extensive introduction to the cognitive science of comics’ comprehension. This discussion will cover the systematic components that make up unique and different panels, the grammar of sequential images and page layouts, cross-cultural differences in structure, and the newest neuroscience research on what the brain is doing while comprehending comics. 

12:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #8: Sex, Love, & SuperheroesDr. Travis Langley, Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight, Molly Mahan, Dynamite Entertainment, Alan Kistler, Wired, and Abby Dark-Star, KeAbtium, participate in this discussion. Intimate relationships have figured prominently in superhero stories from the beginning, when Superman slams a wife beater into the wall and then Clark asks Lois out on a date in 1939’s Action Comics #1. Even the proto-superheroes, those larger-than-life heroes whose adventures preceded the dawn of the costumed crusaders, frequently found themselves motivated by their relationships, from “Me Tarzan, You Jane” to “Oh, Popeye!” Changes in depictions of relationships not only reflect the defining qualities of each major era of comic book history, but often figure prominently in the issues that end one era and begin the next. The Golden Age of Comics ended with Dr. Wertham’s insinuations about Batman’s relationship with Robin and Wonder Woman’s relationship with the Holliday Girls. Heading into the Silver Age, some of the few remaining superhero comics, like Wonder Woman, turned into forms of romance comics. This illusion of innocence broke down as the Sixties turned into a time of public disillusionment, and soon the death of Gwen Stacy became the final nail in the Silver Age’s coffin. Bronze Age comics hinted at superhero sex along with related issues like rape and homosexuality. After the Bronze Age ended in the mid 1980s, superheroes openly had sex, so much so that in the 21st century, many seem promiscuous. The new century has also seen superhero marriages that accumulated over the course of decades simply vanish, victims of comics’ new and long-lasting Dark Ages.

1:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #9: Batgirl Begins Again—Barbara Gordon ranks among the world's most famous superheroines, first as Batgirl (1967-1988) until rendered paraplegic in The Killing Joke, and then as Oracle, supreme computer hacker and Birds of Prey leader (1989-2011), until DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch made her ambulatory and Batgirl once again. Renowned Birds of Prey/Batgirl writer and WonderCon Anaheim special guest Gail Simone discusses this character’s real world popularity and fictional trauma recovery with psychologists Dr. Andrea Letamendi (Under the Mask Online), the model for Barbara Gordon’s therapist, and Dr. Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight). 

2:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #10: Comics and War—Captain America isn’t just a symbol of the United States; he’s a symbol of the United States relationship with war and the military. Nicole Rehnberg analyzes issues of Captain America comics that reference the Vietnam War to discuss how the actions and words of Captain America shows America’s changing relationship towards the Vietnam War from wartime to present-day.  Kathleen McClancy (Texas State University) argues that the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America in the Marvel Civil War replicates the battle over nostalgic framing narratives for the War on Terror.