Tag Archives: manga


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.)


Manga Studies come to Birkbeck

This post was contributed by Novella Gremigni, a PhD student in Japanese Cultural Studies in Birkbeck’s Department of Media and Cultural Studies.

Lately two events about manga culture have shown fresh views on the growing influence of Japanese popular culture. Organized by Dr Shinji Oyama (Birkbeck), and co-hosted by the London Asia Pacific Cultural Studies Forum (LAPCSF) and the Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice, both events were quite successful in terms of audience and participation.

The first of the two manga-related events was designed to welcome visiting scholar Mariko Murata into the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck College.

Dr Murata described her fascinating research in front of more than fifty attendees. She graciously introduced us to the world of Japanese comics and their museums. As she illustrated her impressive work, for which she spent a considerable amount of time going around museums and conducting surveys, I learnt that a growing number of institutions are dealing with the world of Japanese comics in Japan, and attract both tourists and local visitors every year. Themes, approaches and exhibition layouts vary across museums and galleries. Some exhibitions focus on the historic or artistic value of manga and, in some cases, one can come across the pre-printed version of a comic, or take a look at the original draft drawn by the manga artist. Moreover, quite a few manga museums incorporate libraries and archives, documenting manga related materials and also offering visitors the chance to enjoy comics on site. Dr Murata explained that while it is not an easy task for museums to ‘exhibit’ manga, it gives the media a new way of appreciating them. Being culturally and demographically diverse, visitors of the manga museum can also actively interact with the works on display and ‘consume’ the exhibition material, perhaps with a different type of pleasure from reading their favourite comic book.

The discussion was moderated by Dr Lorraine Lim, lecturer in Arts Management at Birkbeck, who prompted a very interesting and active Q&A. She raised ideas and issues about the arrangement of space for a manga exhibition, about the propriety of mundane objects such as mangas for a museum environment, but also about the learning experiences these exhibitions may provide. 

The second manga event once more confirmed the never-failing interest in all things manga. Organized by Dr Murata, it was set out to give an overview of contemporary manga studies. Four speakers were invited to give short presentations on a variety of issues concerning Japanese comics. Dr Ryuichi Tanigawa, Dr Chie Yamanaka, Mr Yu Ito and Dr Sonoko Azuma were all very pleased to welcome some ninety manga enthusiasts. Simon Turner, a PhD student in Japanese Cultural Studies at Birkbeck was the discussant for this session.

The diverse nature of the presentations created a vibrant picture of the world of Japanese comics. Spanning across different areas of manga studies, the four speakers illustrated the role of architecture in the comic Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the reception of Naruto in South Korea, the educational function of the pacifist manga Barefoot Gen, and the modalities of consumption of the female otaku (manga fanatics) who read yaoi (a manga genre depicting homosexual relationships). The audience was receptive and quite involved; questions and comments flowed from side to side. Many attendees eagerly contributed to the discussion, and stayed on for refreshments and for a chat with the speakers.