Tag Archives: comics


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.)


Transitions Comica symposium

This post was contributed by Tony Venezia, a PhD student in Birkbeck’s Department of English and Humanities.

This Saturday (November 3) saw the return of the Transitions Comica symposium to Birkbeck.  This is the third time the college has hosted the symposium, currently the only regular academic comics conference in London.  The event always attracts a broad audience of students, teachers, artists, and people just interested in coming along. 

Transitions has always been supported by the generosity of the School of Arts, and this year was co-sponsored by the Film Department at the University of East Anglia.  In addition, the conference is promoted as part of Comica, the annual international London-wide comics festival organised by journalist/broadcaster Paul Gravett.  Over eighty people – delegates and speakers – registered, with attendees coming from all over the UK, as well as Israel and Italy.  One enterprising speaker, undeterred by Hurricane Sandy, even managed to make the trip from New York to deliver a paper.

The symposium opened with a fascinating joint keynote address from Dr. Chris Murray (Dundee) and Dr. Julia Round (Bournemouth), the general editors of the academic journal Studies in Comics.  Once again, Dr. Roger Sabin (University of the Arts, London) acted as respondent to the papers.  The range of papers is a testament to the multi-disciplinary appeal of the comics form.  Speakers came from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including; English Literature, Media and Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Social Science, Chemistry, Education, Cultural Geography, Modern Languages, Law, and Japanese Studies.  The day concluded with a discursive roundtable discussion on the future for comics studies to which the author gladly contributed.  Some delegates made their way to Foyles for a special one off event with American cartoonist Robert Crumb in the evening.

The event has already generated online reviews and there is a Storify archive.

Given the undoubted continuing success of Transitions, it is hoped that the event will continue to be hosted at Birkbeck.

Special thanks should go to this year’s organisers: Ed Clough (UEA), Hallvard Haug (Birkbeck), and Nina Mickwitz (UEA) for all their hard work.