Saturday October 26 saw the return of the annual Transitions Comica Symposium to Birkbeck.  The symposium provides a space to promote emerging multi-disciplinary research in the field of comics studies, whether defined as comics, comix, graphic novels, manga, bande dessinée, or any other form of sequential art.  This is the fourth time the College has hosted the event, which has rapidly become a major event in the burgeoning field of comics studies.  The symposium is run in conjunction with Comica, the London International Comics Festival, organised by the inestimable Paul Gravett.  Transitions 4 was organised by me (Tony Venezia), Hallvard Haug (Birkbeck), and Nina Mickwitz (UEA), with the support of Birkbeck’s Centre for Contemporary Literature.  This year we had two informative keynote speeches; from Dr. Ann Miller (Leicester), on issues of translating French comics criticism and theory, and Dr. Paul Williams (Exeter), on the possible applications of Franco Moretti’s ‘distant reading’ for comics studies.

We ran parallel sessions throughout the day, with presentations from PhD students, early career lecturers, and graphic artists.  This was the largest Transitions yet, with nearly one hundred delegates and speakers in attendance from around the country and abroad, including a special deputation from Singapore.  This gave the conference a pleasing international flavour.

Special thanks to Joe Brooker, Carol Watts, Catherine Catrix, Roger Sabin, Ernesto Priego and everyone at The Comics Grid, and John Miers.

With the continuing support of the Centre for Contemporary Literature and Dr. Roger Sabin we hope to stage Transitions 5 next year.  Watch this space…

 Below are some comments from this year’s participants which sum up what a great day it was.

Tony Venezia


‘Transitions 4 was the biggest and most well-attended yet, with a refreshingly international feel. It was good to see bandes desinées, manga, and Singaporean manhwa all discussed in the same place, when the tendency is for these traditions to be dealt with in discrete conferences. The keynotes from Ann Miller and Paul Williams were of a very high quality, and, as ever, the audience discussion at the end was lively and thought-provoking, especially on the issue of how academic disciplines find it hard to deal with the topic of narrative drawing. Despite the challenging economic climate for the Humanities, comics scholarship is in a very healthy place – and Transitions is the proof. ‘

(Dr. Roger Sabin, Reader in Popular Culture at Central Saint Martins.  Respondent for all of the Transitions symposia.)

‘It was a pleasure to present at Transitions this year and to be a part of the growing research interests in domestic and international comics.  The symposium really highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary approaches, which was also represented by the wonderful diversity of presenters and delegates who attended.’

(Tara-Monique Etherington, PhD. Student, University of Exeter.  First-time speaker.)

‘I’ve never been to transitions before – it was interesting to go to conference outside my usual field and community of practice. The best part of it was talking to others working on similar projects.’

(Muna Al-Jawad, consultant Geriatrician at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and practice-based doctoral researcher in Medical Humanities at Birkbeck.  First-time speaker.)

‘Transitions proved to be an engaging forum for learning about a diverse range of comics, as well as offering the chance to reflect on the place of comics in academic culture.  Though I’ve been writing on the Gothic for some years, comics studies is still fairly new to me and this was a really stimulating and supportive environment in which to give a paper. It was a great day – very well-attended – with a really fascinating diversity of presentations.’

(Rebecca Janicker, PhD. Student, University of Portsmouth.  First-time speaker at Transitions)

‘There was so much going on in terms of stimulating papers and discussion, not to mention the informal meeting of new people from what seems to be a very friendly and supportive comics studies community.’

(Michael Connerty, teaches courses on animation history and comics at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dublin.  First-time speaker)

‘This was my first time attending a conference as a speaker, and was truly a boost of inspiration – I gained new insights in the field as well as made new acquaintances with a shared interest in political cartoons that I will stay in touch with and discuss further research.’

(Rebecka Klette, studying BA History of Ideas at the University of Lund.  Coming to Birkbeck to study for a MA in the subject in 2014.  First-time speaker.)

‘A truly international symposium. I have learned much from the debates and exchanges at Transitions 4.’

(Lim Cheng Tju, Singapore editor for the International Journal of Comic Art and co-editor of Liquid City Volume 2 (Image Comics, 2010); postgraduate student at Institute of Education, University of London, 2013-14.  First-time speaker.)

‘I have enjoyed experiencing the development of Transitions from a modest platform for UK-based emerging comics scholars to a busy annual gathering of a diverse range of inter-disciplinary academics and practitioners linked by comics.’

(Nicola Streeten, graphic artist and PhD student at University of Brighton. Nicola presented at the first Transitions and has chaired panels at the last two.)



  1. Paddy Johnston

    It was my first time at Transitions and it was a pleasure to give a talk about digital comics and social media – I wasn’t sure how it would go down but everyone seemed appreciative and we had a very stimulating panel discussion afterwards. The response at the conference’s conclusion highlighted that Comics Studies is in a great position right now – growing year on year and adding fantastic people from all over the world and from many disciplines. Here’s to many more!

  2. Pingback: News Review: November 2013 | Comics Forum

  3. Nye Wright

    What an amazing experience to be at a conference that didn’t have it’s starting point as an apologia for comics. Rather it was a celebration of the and diversity of the medium. As a first time speaker, I learned a good lesson in time management (keep it shorter, Nye; keep it shorter). But loved it and am looking forward to more!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.