Monday, June 18, 2012, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Moderator: Suzanne Schadl (University of New Mexico)
Rapporteur: John B. Wright (Brigham Young University)
Panelists: Sean Knowlton (Columbia University), The Role of Comic Books and Graphic Novels in the Civic Formation of Cuban Youth” | Meiyolet Méndez (University of Miami), “Cuban Cartoons for Children: Pop Culture and Education on Screen”| Beverly Karno (Howard Karno Books), Sarah G. Wenzel (University of Chicago) and Wendy Pederson (University of New Mexico), “Purchasing, Selling and Processing Comic Strips and Graphic Novels” | Claire-Lise Bénaud and Suzanne Schadl (University of New Mexico), “Exhibiting Comics: From the Reading Room to Special Collections”
Sean Knowlton discussed the historical context of Cuban comic books and gave an analysis of current comics called historietas. Cuban comic books have characters that promote a national identity and provided an arena to promote and/or lampoon political realities. They did not use super heroes. Knowlton discussed several Cuban comics: the physical quality of Elipidio Valdés, published by Editorial Pablo de la Torriente, is getting less and less, especially the paper quality. Yarí follows a young taino cubano living at time of Spanish conquest. He fights against a cruel man. The message is that Yarí is our brother. Yami follows the adventurs of a strong, independent woman of ideals who has strong values and works for the good of the community. Historical comics are also popular. These highlight heroes of Cuban history—José Martí, Fidel Castro—and promote solidarity with like-minded Latin American regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia—Martí and Bolívar (reminiscent of the relationship between Fidel and Hugo Chávez), Tupac Katari (links Quechua uprising with the efforts of Evo Morales). These historical comics have a sense of legitimacy because they include bibliographies. Graphic novels are somewhat limited in Cuba because of lack of supplies.
Meiyolet Méndez discussed how Cuban cartoons provide a forum for political discourse. They promote the values of the Cuban Revolution and serve as a vehicle to impart these values to Cuban children. In September of 1960, illiteracy was viewed as a chief concern of the new, revolutionary Cuban government. The Cuban National Literacy Campaign took place in 1960-61. Hundreds of thousands of literacy teachers worked out in the country side. The program was propagandistic. It covered the history and values of the Revolution, in addition to helping people learn to read. One benefit realized by the program was better understanding of the use of mass media. Meiyolet described the creation of several government agencies that had responsibility for the media, both TV and Radio, from 1959-1976. It was the policy that all programming on TV had to promote the ideals of the Revolution. Early cartoons were geared toward adults and highlighted nature. Some examples are El maná and Las manos. Later, cartoons were more geared toward children and essentially took the comics from the page and put them on the screen. Some examples are: Aventuras de Elipidio Valdés, Zunzún, El Capitán Plín, and Cecilia y Coti. Before 1976, the content of cartoons was very force-fed. After, the cartoons demonstrate a more subtle manipulation. The media obscures the messages.
Beverly Karno described realities associated with graphic novels and comic books: 1) Independent distributors. The artist/writer usually self-published the comic books. It is very difficult to find and acquire these materials and it involves making a connection with the artist/writer. These are usually not a commercial venture. Getting 1-2 issues is pretty common. A title with 6-7 issues would be very successful. It is hard as a book dealer because libraries start sending claim notices, but the book dealer doesn’t know where to find issue #3 or when it will be produced. 2) Non-traditional formats. Some graphic novels and comic books start as print editions, but then change to a different format (DVD is common) and need special software to read it. 3) Major challenges. Pricing of graphic novels and comic books is great, very affordable, but it is very labor intensive to acquire these for customers. The follow up is enormous!
Sarah G. Wenzel discussed acquisitions and collection development issues related to comic books. The librarian must define the scope of the collection: 1) single story or single author; 2) literary or artistic value; 3) Are you going backwards as well as forward? 4) What has been published? 5) What do you ask the vendor to do?
Wendy Pederson discussed cataloging and classification issues. She demonstrated the difficulty of finding a piece by a particular comic book artist on the Internet, OCLC, etc. If you log into the publisher website, you can find the title of the comic book fairly easy. She also discussed difficulties in knowing how to catalog a comic book. Does the illustrator get identified as the creator or would the creator be the writer of the text? If a comic is an adaptation of a book, does it get classified with the creator of the original story or with the author of the adaptation? AACR2 would place the adaptation with the author of the adaptation, but does the patron know this? For subject analysis, what do we do? It is common to use genre headings. Karno, Wenzel and Pederson also distributed an annotated bibliography and instruction guide for purchasing, selling, and processing comic strips and graphic novels.
Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud discussed the innovative use of rotating exhibits to build a bridge between users interested in the books displayed in the exhibit themselves and materials housed in the University of New Mexico libraries Special Collections. In the fall of 2012, the rotating exhibit will be Mexican comics and caricatures. In the presentation, Schadl discussed the unique aspects of virtual, physical and boutique spaces in the Library and how they relate specifically to the Library’s Reading Room. Bénaud discussed the upcoming comic books and caricatures exhibit, giving us a look at some of the interesting aspects of this exhibit, including José Gadalupe Posada’s Don Chepito and the work of the Taller de Gráfica Popular which used its art to advance social causes.
Questions and Comments:
Pamela Graham (Columbia University): Is the way graphic novels get printed or published going to change? Will it be online or print? Wendy responded that if the goal is to produce printed object, then the art work and the physicality are important. Beverly Karno responded that the use of Twitter is important. So is Flickr. A large portion of graphic artists work is being put on Flickr.
Lisa Gardinier (University of Iowa): Web comics have exploded in the U.S. over the last 10 years. Sarah Wenzel indicated that much of the web comics cannot be downloaded by the Library. Consequently, that format is not very helpful for developing a collection that can be preserved by the Library.
Cecilia Sercan (Cornell University): Do you include the URL in the bibliographic record for online comics? Sarah Wenzel responded that online ephemera is being lost because we can’t do much to preserve it. We do have some URLs available. Suzanne Schadl indicated that unless the URL is stable, the patron would not be able to use it whether it is in the bibliographic record or not.
Paula Covington (Vanderbilt University): Paula commented that some literature cannot be digitized and put online because the publishing companies own the copyright of all or part of the work. She gave the example of Jane Austen’s books. The copyright for the illustrations included in these books is owned by Dell and consequently cannot be included in the digitized version. Also mentioned was comiXology.com which has Spanish language comics, but they are largely translations of American comics.