Panels on Panels 2020

Presented by the Comics Studies Group…

Panels on Panels 2020

Comics Studies at Indiana University

Panels on Panels is a two-day conference devoted to the appreciation and study of comic books. Panels on Panels is organized by Indiana University’s Comics Studies Group, comprised of faculty and graduate students who conduct research and pursue creative activities related to comic books.

No registration required. All events (except graduate student lunch on Thursday and panelist lunch on Friday) are open to all.



12:30 - 2 PM – TBA

Graduate Luncheon with Scott Bukatman

2:30 - 5:30 PM – Wells Library 048

Screening Antman and the Wasp + Introduction by and Q&A with Scott Bukatman


Friday events will be held in the Global and International Studies Building.

9:00 - 9:15 AM – GA1134

Registration and Initial remarks

9:15 - 10:45 – GA1134

Panel 1 – Aesthetic and graphic conventions in comics (90-min session)

10:45 - 11:00 PM – GA1134

Coffee break

11:00 AM -12:15 PM – GA1134

Panel 2 – Innovating tradition in world comics (75-min session)

12:15 -12:30 PM – GA1134

Coffee Break

12:30 - 1:00 PM – GA1134

Book Presentation: “The Deep End” (30-min session)

Raphael Cornford, Sarah Martin, Malcolm Smith, Studio Art: A novel collection and book project exploring, analyzing and learning from the conventions, aesthetics and graphic tools as revealed by underwater golden-age covers.

1:00 - 2:15 PM – GA Lounge

Brown Bag Lunch for panelists

2:15 - 3:30 – GA1134

Panel 3 – Beyond the page: dissemination and reception of comics (75-min session)

4:00 - 5:00 PM – GA1128

Keynote Address by Scott Bukatman, Stanford University: “The Telling Details of ’Moderne-ity’: Feminine Flourish in Lifestyle Illustration and Romance Comics”

5:00 - 7:00 PM – GA Atrium


People & Papers

Akiyama, Yasuko


Yasuko Akiyama, Ph. D., teaches Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Her research focuses on culture learning in the classroom and Japanese popular culture. In addition to teaching 1st through 3rd year Japanese, she teaches an upper-level Japanese course on manga and animation.

Arnaudo, Marco


Marco Arnaudo is Professor of Italian in the Department of French and Italian at IU. He has a special interest for superhero comics, manga, and Italian comics. Generally speaking, he is fascinated by action comics and the way they render dynamism and speed through still images. He is the author of several published essays on Italian comics, as well the volume “The Myth of the Superhero” (Johns Hopkins UP, 2012). He teaches graduate seminars on Italian comics and graphic novels, and he has recently donated his collection of many thousands of Italian, American, and Japanese comics and manga to the Lilly Library.

Bukatman, Scott


Scott Bukatman is a cultural theorist and Professor of Film and Media Studies at Stanford University. His research explores how such popular media as film, comics, and animation mediate between new technologies and human perceptual and bodily experience. His books include Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction, one of the earliest book-length studies of cyberculture; a monograph on the film Blade Runner commissioned by the British Film Institute; and a collection of essays, Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century. The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit, celebrates play, plasmatic possibility, and the life of images in cartoons, comics, and cinema. Bukatman has been published in abundant journals and anthologies, including October, Critical Inquiry, Camera Obscura, and Science Fiction Studies.

His most recent book, Hellboy's World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins, shows how our engagement with Mike Mignola's Hellboy comics also a highly aestheticized encounter with the medium of comics and the materiality of the book. Scott Bukatman’s dynamic study explores how comics produce a heightened “adventure of reading” in which syntheses of image and word, image sequences, and serial narratives create compelling worlds for the reader’s imagination to inhabit.


The Telling Details of “Moderne-ity”: Feminine Flourish in Lifestyle Illustration and Romance Comics

Comics characters needn’t be over-rich in detail to have affective power; detail can work against the sequential flow of images that defines the medium. Detail that doesn’t contribute to narrative could be regarded as fussy, ornamental, leaving the artist open to the charge of being more of an illustrator — a term used a pejorative by cartoonists, artists, and art historians alike. The commercialism of illustration put it at odds with the ostensible purity of the fine arts, as did its emphasis on production over inspiration. NC Wyeth, for example, came to see illustration as, by definition, theatrical, and unalterably possessed of theater’s artifice.

But there are comics artists and genres and readers for whom details and ornament matter, for whom “illustration” (or theatricality) is not a pejorative. There is phenomenological and affective power in the details of faces, bodies, and settings, abetted by compositional strategies that bind them together into something that ventures onto more mimetic terrain than comics usually occupy. This level of detail is common to “soap opera” comic strips and romance comics: media directed more to adults than children; more to female readers than male.

These owe much to the wave of commercial illustrators associated with postwar women's magazines. Beyond illustrating fiction or selling products, this work needed to reflect contemporary life and fashion in exciting ways — the best was strikingly modern, indeed modernist, in its treatment of word and image, color, picture plane, and heterogeneity. It has come to be called lifestyle illustration — something that I’ve been calling Moderne-ity.

Roland Barthes regarded the detail as something of a “luxurious extra” in art and literature — never just boringly necessary, but something sensual and eroticized. “Eros resides in the detail, because the detail is always at least partially sited in a real body,” he writes. The details of a lived and vital milieu grounded the work of these illustrators and comics artists in the tactile, sensual realities of fashion and postwar abundance.

Cornford, Raphael


Raphael Cornford (MFA Printmaking, IU ’16) has lived and worked in Bloomington, Indiana since 2013. Raphael’s art practice either works with or is in the idiom of comics, with particular focus on aesthetics, narrative conventions, design principles, and modes of storytelling prevalent between the 1930s and 1980s. He exhibits his own work nationally (as well as overseas every once in a while). He is member at large of Mid-America Print Council. As co-founder and acting Chairman of NOISE Project, he has co-curated dozens of contemporary art exhibitions shown in Bloomington, around the country, and as of November 2019, in Canada as well. NOISE publishes art criticism, original research, and comics. When not making comics, writing fiction, writing criticism, editing the writing of others, planning exhibitions, helping to lead national organizations of artists, or designing publications, Raph works with young people on the autism spectrum, cooks, plays video and board games, and enjoys fitness.


See The Deep End.

Dallavalle, Sara


Sara Dallavalle is a PhD candidate in Italian Studies at IU, and she holds a minor in Art History with a focus on comics studies. Her dissertation explores the phenomenon of auteur comics magazines in Italy. Her current chapter expands into the fields of periodical and audience studies, and through the combined material and digital analysis of the letter section of the magazine Orient Express, her aim is to outline the socio-cultural profile of comics readers. Sara is also interested in production, distribution, circulation, and reception of Italian comics from the 1960s to today. Her article “Popular format and auteur format in Italian comics. The case of Magnus” has been recently published on the International Journal of Comic Art. Last spring, Sara designed an advanced composition course in Italian that pairs 20th- and 21st-century Italian history with the history of Italian comics.


Italian comics readers and letter writers: a case study

Over the period from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, Italian comics culture was characterized by the flourishing presence of auteur comics magazines. These magazines, whose aim was to gather and (re)publish important auteurs from the past and the present, were not addressed to a general, mainstream audience, but to a more specialized, demanding, and, ultimately, niche readership. If we check the sales figures declared by the publishers, we realize that while Linus, the most well-known auteur magazine, was selling an average of 50–65,000 copies a month, weekly magazines for teenagers and children were selling between roughly 500,000 (Topolino) and 150,000 copies (Il Corriere dei Piccoli). According to the data, the community of readers of auteur magazines was quite limited, and not even particularly diverse: few women, some teenagers, and mainly young men in their twenties. Their participation took place by and large in the form of letters, in which they typically voiced their appreciation or their criticism toward the editorial policies of the magazines. Some of these letters were then published and, more or less briefly, commented by the editors. Through a close reading of the letter section of one of these magazines, Orient Express, in this talk I will point out the relationship the readers created with the magazine, the compromises the editorial staff had to make to adjust to their readers’ expectations, and, eventually, the social profile of the subjects involved in the making of auteur comics magazines.

Kilgore, De Witt


De Witt Kilgore is an Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Indiana University. His recent publications include a research review essay of the 1968 Planet of the Apes, and its cultural descendants, in Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies and a chapter in In/visible War: The Culture of War in Twenty-First-Century America, “A Cinema of Consolation: Post-9/11 Super-Invasion Fantasy.” The latter is concerned with how the current super-hero cinema revises the American tradition of alien invasion movies. His attraction to comics, in most of its forms, is a consequence of early exposure to the work of cartoonists and animators working in the 1960s and 1970s. He now has the pleasure of writing and teaching about their work, and that of their creative descendants, as a sophisticated as well as democratic way of seeing the way we live now.


Reforming African Adventure: Reginald Hudlin’s Black Panther: 2005-2010

The 2018 release of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther has moved Afrofuturism from defining an avant-garde of African American art to a new prominence as media that can entertain a mainstream, even globalized, audience. This paper directs our attention to the comics that served as the necessary first draft of this cultural shift. It examines how Reginald Hudlin’s 2005-10 recreation of the Black Panther and his Wakanda modeled a generic change from the white savior tales of jungle adventure comics to an Afrofuturism that seeks to save the world. The result is the emergence of an Africentric or Pan-African iconography that seeks a radical break with the persistent Eurocentrism of our imagined futures.

Lagrange, Victoria


Victoria Lagrange, former student of Ecole Normale Supérieure (France), is currently a PhD student in French and Francophone Studies and Comparative Media Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. She is also pursuing a doctorate at the Université de Poitiers (France) in Comparative Literature on the topic of Transmedia Contemporary Adaptations of Fairytales. Her recent publications include “Choosing Violence and Enjoying it” at PLOSOne (2020), “Crossed Fertilization of Fairytales, between Transmedia and Cultural Recycling” at Presses Universitaires de la Sorbonne (October 2018), “Incest and Female Monstruosity in Phèdre by Racine and Peau d’Ane by Perrault” at Classiques Garnier (January 2019).


From frame to network: Fables by Bill Willingham, towards a post-modern age of comics?

Some people discover the universe of Fables through the eponymous comic books, some others through its video game prequel, The Wolf Among Us. They can even stay immersed by reading the digital comics adapted from the videogame. Some can even discover it through its spin-offs, Jack of Fables, Fairest or Peter and Max. In order to continue the experience, comics offer board games or the possibility to interact with the story (some of the paperbacks respond to readers’ questions). Fables’ universe is deeply rooted in the transmedia paradigm, borrowing its characters and their past from fairy tales, its fictional universe, and transposing them in our contemporary world. However, beyond its transmedial universe, Fables seems to represent an archetype of the Modern Age of comics. The comic keeps referring to its fictionality — characters fear being erased by Kevin Thorn, the fictional writer, their chance of survival depends on their popularity among the mundies (people without magic). It also borrows the gang of flawed superheroes to fight The Dark One from revisionist comics, inspired by Pinocchio’s reading of comic books. Thus, between reflexivity and transmedia paradigm, Fables’ universe seems to represent the archetype of the Modern Age of comics. However, this presentation will show how the way Fables articulates all these dimensions — its transmedia extension, its reflexivity, its topical borrowing from multiple literary and graphic genres and their parody — might suggest a post-modern age of comics. In this post-modern age, comics become a mediatic and referential network based on quotes and parody.

Lunt, Kayla


Kayla Lunt is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History at Indiana University. She holds an MA in Art History from the same institution. She is interested in the convergence of formal analysis and theories of reading. Although her work primarily focuses on the reception of medieval illuminated books, she is interested in the aesthetic and narrative conventions of comics and illustrated books more broadly. Her work seeks meaningful dialogue between these distinct traditions.


Controlling the Narrative: Narrative Breakdown in the Morgan Crusader Bible

Will Eisner wrote that the sequential art of the Middle Ages “sought to tell … religious stories with no great depth of discussion or nuance.” (Eisner, 2008). For Eisner, this passing comment supports his conception of the development of the narrative and literary complexities of sequential art. But is it accurate? Turning to the Morgan Bible (datable to between 1244–54), I will show how discourses native to comics and cartooning, like Eisner’s, can be fruitfully applied to medieval illuminated manuscripts to reveal their potential as complex networked systems rivalling comics themselves in the demands they place on their audience. Specifically, a consideration of the breakdown of the narrative into and between panels can demonstrate the illuminated manuscript’s ability to control the experience of the reader-viewer. Although the Morgan Bible is laid out in an apparently straightforward four panel grid, this layout is disrupted strategically to manipulate the reader’s interaction with the narrative in what I argue is a clever deployment of sequential dynamism. This reveals that the medieval illuminated manuscript, like a comic, represents a complex communicative graphic system requiring a high degree of visual literacy on the part of a reader-viewer, who is tasked with simultaneously navigating both aesthetic and narrative conventions.

Martin, Sarah


Professor Sarah Edmands Martin synthesizes design practice with design theory. She is a 2020 Design Incubation Fellow and has two chapters forthcoming in Ethics in Design and Communication: New Critical Perspectives (February 2020, ISBN: 978–1350077041), published by Bloomsbury Press. Her poster designs have recently been selected for Silver Medals in Graphis international juried design competitions and have been published in their 2019 Design Annual, 2018 Poster Annual, and 2018 Design Annual. The past two years, she has been invited to talk at the World Design Summit in both Montreal and Paris; this past Spring she presented her research on designing empathy into the digital space at Massey University in New Zealand. Finally, she has upcoming solo and group exhibitions at Franklin College, The Wylie House Museum, Cleveland State Galleries, and Krasl Art Center. Outside the academy, Professor Martin works with a variety of design industry clients. She has synthesized complex storytelling and data visualization for Citibank, done brand planning, illustration, stop motion animation and video work for both Whirlpool and Herman Miller, and created high-impact product lines for the Association of Craft Producers, in Nepal. An online portfolio of recent design work can be found at <>.


See The Deep End.

Molesworth, Jesse


Jesse Molesworth is an associate professor of English at Indiana University. He is the author of Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel _(Cambridge, 2010), which won honorable mention for the Perkins Prize, honoring the year’s best book on narrative. He writes more widely on the intersections of literature and science during the European Enlightenment and on eighteenth-century visual culture.


Techniques of Realism in the Comics of Jaime Hernandez

Many have touted the work of Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of the influential Love and Rockets series, as a landmark in the development of “realism” in comics. Yet such conversations, including those initiated by Hernandez himself, have focused almost exclusively on subject matter — or, in other words, on the movement away from “Rockets” and toward “Love.” This essay, by contrast, finds the “realism” of Hernandez within a series of formal techniques: on his manipulation of word and images, the depiction of white space, and the arrangement of panels in sequence.

Molotiu, Andrei


Andrei Molotiu is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art History, Indiana University, Bloomington, where, in addition to courses on art theory and on 17th- through 19th-century European painting and graphic arts, he teaches a four-course rotation in comics studies. He has also offered graduate seminars on comics and related topics. His publications include Fragonard’s Allegories of Art (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007) and the Eisner-Award-nominated Abstract Comics: The Anthology (Fantagraphics Books, 2009). He is currently writing a book on the "polyphonic graphic novel," based on material first presented in his course on the graphic novel. He has published extensively on comics, including articles on Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Hergé. His most recent publication outside the comics studies field is on Manet's Olympia.

Smith, Malcolm Mobutu


Associate professor of ceramics at Indiana University since 2001, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, is an artist, educator, comic book collector and lay researcher. He earned his MFA from the New York College of ceramics at Alfred University and he studied at both the Kansas City Art Institute and Penn State University receiving his BFA in ceramics. Smith’s professional activities include workshops, lecturers and residencies. His works are represented in numerous private and public collections including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, FuLed International Ceramic Art Museum, Beijing, China and Indiana State Museum. His studio interests include ceramics, drawing and 3D printing. His clay work emerges from and improvisational play between line and volume in the context of vessels. Informing these intersections are his interests in letterform, graffiti art, jazz and comic book history. His collection of comics contains approximately 16,000 books with examples from every era and genre.


The Deep End

“The Deep End” examines the development of a book project documenting comic book cover art featuring underwater images. Underwater images reveal graphic and artistic structure with unique conventions and innovations within the medium of the comic book. This novel thematically based collection spans all comic books of the golden era (1933–1961) inclusive of all genres and issues displaying “10 cent” cover prices. The book and panel discussion present aesthetic essays and comparative analysis of the idiosyncratic graphic structure this collection foregrounds via a comprehensive visual catalogue of all extant cases as well as research/collector focused data and indices.

Vacchelli, Carlotta


Carlotta Vacchelli is a Ph.D. Candidate in Italian Studies. She has published scholarly articles and presented papers in the field of Comics Studies. She currently serves as the assistant editor of Simultanea, an online peer-reviewed journal about Italian media and pop culture. Her dissertation explores the influence of counterculture artist Andrea Pazienza (1956–1988) on contemporary Italian graphic novelists.


A Match Made in Hell. Christian Iconography and Angel-Devil Offspring in American and Italian Mainstream Comics

My paper aims at defining the hybridization of motifs deriving from the Christian figurative tradition in mainstream comic books, by focusing on the analysis of three case studies: American series Hellblazer, especially Garth Ennis’ and William Simpson’s Hellblazer #60 (Nativity Infernal, December 1992, DC), Steve Dillon’s and Garth Ennis’ Preacher (1995–2001, Vertigo), and Luca Enoch’s Gea (1999–2007, Bonelli Editore). The close reading of frames and panels of these works, in regard to the structural usage of Christian iconography, allows to identify many common aspects, as well as tracing significant considerations about the progressive embedment of the Christian theme into comics, and, especially, into the American and Italian mainstream series of the Nineties and the Two-Thousands.

Walsh, John


John A. Walsh is an Associate Professor of Information and Library Science in the Luddy School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University and Director of the HathiTrust Research Center. His research involves the application of computational methods to the study of literary and historical documents. Walsh is an editor on a number of digital scholarly editions, including: the Petrarchive, the Algernon Charles Swinburne Project, and the Chymistry of Isaac Newton. He has developed the Comic Book Markup Language, or CBML, for scholarly encoding of comics and graphic novels. Walsh is the creator of TEI Boilerplate, a system for publishing documents encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. He is the Technical Editor of Digital Humanities Quarterly, an open-access online journal published by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations. Walsh’s research interests include: computational literary studies; textual studies and bibliography; text technologies; book history; 19th-century British literature, poetry and poetics; and comic books. Homepage:


Katy, Millie, Misty, and Me: Participatory Culture in Teen Fashion and Humor Comics

This paper explores pre-Internet, print-based participatory culture in the form of reader-contributed content to fashion and humor comics associated with characters such as Archie Comics’ Katy Keene and Marvel’s Patsy Walker and Millie the Model. Comics featuring these characters were published regularly from the 1940s into late 1960s and early 1970s. A key feature of these comics is the inclusion of reader-contributed content. Readers submitted—through the mail—fashion designs, story ideas, and other creative contributions. The artists on these comics would incorporate the readers’ contributions and credit the readers in the pages of the published comics. Through this form of reader-participation—a readerly practice that transcends “reading” in its literal sense—readers become co-creators of the comics they consumed, and in some cases, readers also become characters, as their contributions, identities, and images are woven into the fictional narrative and the textual and visual fabric of the comics. The Katy Keene and Millie the Model characters were revived in the 1980s, with Millie appearing as the aunt of the titular character from the six-issue series Misty,_ written and drawn by Trina Robbins. In these 1980s revivals, the practice of soliciting reader contributions was also reintroduced, and readers of the earlier comics took on new roles as primary creators, or resumed their previous roles as reader-contributors, alongside a new, younger generation of reader-contributors. In the comics under investigation, we witness the evolution of a particular textual/visual form of participatory culture that engages readers ranging in age from young children to middle-aged adults. The connections among readers, creators, characters, and the material comic book will be explored through analysis of the published comics alongside archival sources, including the original fan mail from readers to Trina Robbins and her creation, “Misty.”


Panels on Panels is supported by the departments of French and Italian, Art History, English, and the Cultural Studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences; the department of East Asian Languages and Cultures in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies; the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design; the Department of Information and Library Science in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering; the Horizons of Knowledge Lecture Program of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty & Academic Affairs; and the Robert E. and Avis Tarrant Burke Fund of the Department of Art History.