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Child-Animal Relationships in Comics:
Historical and Transcultural Perspectives
Many of the most well-known comics protagonists have pets or animal friends, loyal sidekicks in their daily lives and adventures: Charlie Brown has Snoopy, his independent, precocious dog, Calvin has Hobbes, a stuffed tiger acquiring life through the boy's imagination, Beano's Dennis the Menace eventually acquired an equally destructive canine companion called Gnasher, Tintin (successfully eluding the adult-child distinction, but remaining in many ways a child with a degree of agency accorded only to adults) has Snowy. Already the Yellow Kid was accompanied by several stray dogs, cats and other animals, who accentuated the action and the humor. Decades later, the importance of animal sidekicks persist, as exemplified by the series devoted to Spirou’s fantastic, semi-domestic Marsupilami. That these children and their animal friends combine characteristics of both adults and children not only accounts for their appeal to a broad audience but also highlights the complexity underlying these characters in spite of their flattened, polyvalent essence. Thus, for Umberto Eco, "Schulz’s children create a little universe in which our tragedy and our comedy are performed" and "Snoopy carries to the last metaphysical frontier the neurotic failure to adjust".
Even though child-animal relationships have been a staple of comics production, they remain overlooked by comics scholarship, which is only tentatively broaching the study of children and comics, as exemplified by recent publications (Abate and Sanders; Gordon; Heimermann and Tullis). In expanding on existing scholarship and combining it with studies on picture books and comics as well as animals in comics (Groensteen; Hatfield; Hatfield and Svonkin; Sanders), this anthology seeks to build stronger bridges between the fields of comics studies, childhood studies and animal studies in order to take a first step towards a more profound and holistic understanding of the roles and relationships of animals and children in comics. It is particularly interested in historical studies (from the mid-nineteenth century onwards) and transcultural comparisons of child-animal relationships in comics that engage with one or more of the following aspects:
- extent of questioning or reproduction of conceptualizations of childhood and childishness
- relationship to adults and adulthood
- degree of agency accorded to both children and animals
- role of eccentricity for both child and animal characters as well as the supporting cast
- othering and interaction with others
- representations and roles of family life
- portrayal and presence of schools and other civil and social institutions
Please send abstracts of 500 words (for a 7000 word contribution) to Maaheen Ahmed (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31 August 2017. Accepted contributions are due by 31 January 2018.
The volume will be published in late 2018 by the University Press of Liège as part of the ACME series on comics studies.
Michelle Ann Abate and Joe Sutliff Sanders, ed., Good Grief! Children and Comics. A Collection of Companion Essays, Columbus, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and The Ohio State University Libraries, 2016.
Jean-Marie Apostolidès, Tintin et le mythe du surenfant, Brussels, Moulinsart, 2004.
Umberto Eco, “On ‘Krazy Kat’ and ‘Peanuts’”, The New York Review of Books, 13 June 1985, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1985/06/13/on-krazy-kat-and-peanuts/ (retrieved 9 May 2017).
Ian Gordon, Kid Comic Strips: A Genre Across Four Countries, New York, Palgrave Pivot, 2017.
Thierry Groensteen, Animaux en cases: une histoire critique de la bande dessinée, Paris, Futuropolis, 1987.
Charles Hatfield, “Redrawing the Comic-Strip Child: Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts as Cross-Writing”, The Oxford Handbook of Children’s Literature, ed. Julia L. Mickenberg, Lynne Vallone, New York, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 167-187.
Charles Hatfield and Craig Svonkin, ed, “Symposium: Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books”, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 37.4, 2012, p. 429-497.
Mark Heimermann and Brittany Tullis, ed., Picturing Childhood: Youth in Transnational Comics, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2016.
Joe Sutliff Sanders, “Chaperoning Words: Meaning-Making in Comics and Picture Books”, Children’s Literature, 41, 2013, p. 57-90.