The success and growth of our journal, now two years old, is linked to the increasing institutionalization of comics scholarship within the university system. This is why I am pleased to report that the University of Florida’s English department is in the process of developing a program for its PhD students that allows for specialization in comics and visual rhetoric. It is our hope that setting this track will be yet another contribution toward bringing comics into the academic mainstream. Evidence of the growing acceptance of comics scholarship can be found by scrolling through Gene Kannenberg, Jr.’s website on “Comics-Related Dissertations and Theses”—an exercise which might prove lengthy enough to bring on a case of carpal tunnel syndrome! Comics are making increasing appearances on professors’ course syllabi and every year more and more research libraries are including the acquisition of comics in their budgets.
In celebration of these movements that are slowly drawing comics away from the periphery of the academic world to take up a more central position, this issue of ImageTexT presents a broad range of subjects that showcase the many different directions comics scholarship is taking. This diversity afforded by study of the medium is one of the features that initially attracted me to the field. The language of comics crosses borders, often before people do. With so many different traditions of comics being developed and cross-pollinated with each other, it would take lifetimes to study the heterodox ways in which cultures and subcultures across the globe have incorporated this versatile form. I never cease to be surprised by the historically significant roles comics play in the world. The first lengthy attempt to put urban Wolof, the lingua franca of Senegal, into written form took place in serialized comics at the beginning of the 1990s.1 And the Mexican government recently created a scandal in the United States when it released the Guía del Migrante Mexicano, a comic book-style booklet on how to stay safe while illegally immigrating to the US.2 Yet, despite the variegated nature of comics, being typecast within certain genres is still a recurring problem. As Suzanne Covey mentions in her article on the textuality of sound effects in For Better or For Worse that appears in this issue, mainstream journalists who discuss comics still have the tendency to frustrate scholars by using phrases like “Zap! Pow!” in the most peculiar places.
We hope that the compilation of articles in this issue will work to represent the heterogeneity not only of comics, but also of the research that is being produced on them. Sean Carney takes on the monumental task of tracing the vision of history that binds the work of Alan Moore while Nathan Gilder analyzes the importance of the god-like hand of the animator through a discussion of theological compatibilism in his own art as well as the work of forebears in the field of animation. Emma Tinker reviews Daniel Raeburn’s monograph on Chris Ware and Vanessa Raney evaluates two new films on Will Eisner that were screened for the first time in the US at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con. The artists examined in this issue range from the Canadian Lynn Johnson and her ever-transforming domestic strip For Better or for Worse to Paulo Eleuteri Serpieri, the Italian master of erotica. And, not to neglect the genre of “Zap! Pow!”—Mark Fisher offers a psychoanalytic reading of subjectivity and capitalism in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, a grittier descendant of that tradition while James R. Fleming’s provides a meditation on superheroes with his book review of Danny Fingeroth’s Superman on the Couch. Finally, James Bucky Carter investigates republication of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four in software form.
While Robert Crumb has famously defended his artwork from potential criticism with the saying, “It’s only lines on paper, folks!”—it is clear from the voluntary investment of time and energy by contributors, editors and managing staff that comics is much more than that to us. And so I would simply like to conclude by welcoming you to the latest issue of ImageTexT and by inviting you to explore the results of our collective labor.