By Anastasia Ulanowicz, Zack Shaw, and Ayanni C. H. Cooper
It would certainly not be an overstatement to say that 2020 ranks as one of the most traumatic years in modern history. In the course of this painful year, we witnessed a deadly pandemic (and its gross mismanagement in nations such as the US); an international economic catastrophe unprecedented since the late 1920s; monumental and unchecked environmental devastation; and continued state-sponsored violence against immigrants, BIPOC, and queer people. Moreover, this year marked the increasing stronghold of nationalist authoritarian regimes, police states, and fascist populist movements throughout the globe—from Poland to India and from Nigeria to the United States.
Given the immense human (and non-human) suffering wrought within the past year, a return to the so-called Before Times seems impossible. So too, however, is it impossible to imagine this new year as a proverbial Year Zero—as though the introduction of new vaccines and newly-elected administrations might permit some kind of automatic reset. Survivors of past historical traumas know better: there is no such thing as a fresh beginning. Yet, the wholly unanticipated rupture of quotidian life, as well as social, political, and economic institutions, occasioned by the COVID pandemic and its aftershocks may nevertheless enable new ways of seeing, thinking, and acting. For instance, it is not insignificant that the Black Lives Matter movement in the US or the anti-authoritarian movements in Belarus and Russia gained momentum and international support precisely at the height of the pandemic. Even as a global health crisis necessitated an immediate struggle for human survival, it also laid bare structures of inequity and injustice that we can no longer ignore, and whose untangling must involve a comparatively protracted effort. There’s no turning back now: we’re in this for the long haul.
Of course, many humanities scholars—including this journal’s editors, contributors, and readers—remain committed to the proverbial long haul of social justice efforts decades before this present crisis. Indeed, even as they have engaged with the ideological freight of both celebrated and marginalized cultural texts, they have also countered the racist, sexist, classist, and queerphobic structures of an increasingly corporatized university system. During this year of reckoning, however, they—we!—have become increasingly attentive to the work they—we!—still have to undertake.
It is not insignificant, then, that ImageTexT will publish its first issue of 2021 on a new website. As you will see, the journal’s migration to this website]—which was accomplished by IT’s production editor, Brianna Anderson, with the support of UF English Chair Professor Sidney Dobrin—allows our editors and readers to move beyond the age of Adobe Flash, and towards a more accessible and aesthetically pleasing reading experience. This shift is not merely cosmetic, however. Rather, this new website will invite new urgently needed connections and perspectives in the field of comics and visual studies at this historical and cultural moment. For instance, the editorial board intends to use the new website in order to launch a new section of the journal that will showcase undergraduate student imagetext projects, giving voice to rising scholars in the field. Likewise, this platform will make possible the formal incorporation of the Comics Listserv within the auspices of the journal. During the first stage of this integration, a team of IT editors and faculty advisors will replace the previous role of a single moderator; however, the editorial members eventually hope to expand moderation to a network of readers and contributors committed to intellectually rigorous and socially responsible exchange.
Our journal’s new format, moreover, signals the greater structural changes we, its editors, seek to make within the next year. Most significantly, we will begin expanding our editorial board so that its members represent not only comics scholars but also comics producers—and so also that its members might advise the production of a scholarly publication that is increasingly attentive to such crucial fields as critical race studies, disability studies, gender and sexuality studies, transnational studies, and digital humanities. Additionally, we intend to not only expand book reviews of original graphic narratives but also invite scholarly works in comics form. Since many of those in the discipline (including ImageTexT’s former Managing Editor, Charles Acheson) are critically engaging with comics through its very form, we would like to follow groundbreaking journals like Sequentials (led by Editor, Madeline B. Gagnes) in featuring scholarly works about and as imagetexts.
We hope that this new issue, published on this new website at this particular moment, might demonstrate our/humanists’ continued progressive—and now necessarily restorative—period of contemporary history. We remain committed, moreover, to publishing original works of scholarship that have undergone scrupulous peer review.
Ultimately, these pronounced structural changes and content—including the shifting materiality of comics scholarship and digital markup—signal its willingness to adapt to much-needed global and disciplinary frames of reference. As we have all realized during this year of reckoning, although we cannot (and should not) return to a time before the social, political, and economic strife of 2020—nor before the trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic—it remains possible and necessary to move forward, launching new platforms and healing the wounds of division and illness.