The two-day interdisciplinary conference explored the mobility of comics and graphic novels along the three axes of time, space, and media. Mobility was understood to include all processes of transformation undergone by comics in their journey across history, cultural and linguistic boundaries, and different forms of artistic expression.

In addition to the invited keynote speakers, Prof Jan Baetens (KU Leuven) and Prof Federico Zanettin (Università di Perugia), the event attracted 22 registered delegates from HEIs across 9 countries,[1] as well as a further 20 local attendees. To encourage postgraduate students working in relevant areas to present their research, four travel bursaries of £50 each were awarded to eligible delegates.[2]

The 17 presentations were loosely organised along the three concepts of transformation, translation, and adaptation: The first day was largely dedicated to exploring the transformations comics undergo over time; the second day of the conference accommodated papers exploring comics from the angles of translation and adaptation.

Overall, the papers and discussions demonstrated that the dimensions of comics’ fluidity – time, space and media –, more often than not, tend to overlap and flow into one another, confirming one of the conference’s key premises. This fluidity speaks to the lure that has emanated from the comics medium throughout its relatively short history, as manifest in the countless translations and adaptations, both from and into the comics medium.

The participants’ varied linguistic and disciplinary backgrounds entailed conversations across traditional disciplinary boundaries and analytical perspectives. Many delegates were relative (or complete) new-comers to the area of comics studies, testing the expertise and experience gained in other fields in the exploration of fascinating materials that are too often still excluded from established core disciplines.

The relatively small scale of the conference was conducive to a friendly and constructive atmosphere that saw delegates and guests engage in often sophisticated discussions on a wide spectrum of topics arising from the presentations. In the hope to capture some of the fresh thinking that characterised the conference, the organisers are planning to publish a selection of papers as a themed issue of the peer-reviewed open-access online journal New Readings (Cardiff University Press) in 2021.

The conference received financial support from:

  • Institute of Modern Languages Research (London)
  • University Council of Modern Languages
  • Cardiff Comics Storytelling Network
  • Cardiff School of Modern Languages
  • Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy

You can see the conference programme here:

Dr Tilmann Altenberg, Cardiff, 29 May 2020

[1] Austria (2), Belgium (5), Brazil (1), France (1), the Republic of Ireland (1), Italy (1), Mexico (1), the United Kingdom (8), and the USA (2).

[2] Out of a total of 7 registered research students from institutions other than Cardiff University.

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