Spaces Between – Gender, Diversity and Identity in Comics

Veronique Sina's picture
September 17, 2018 to September 19, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

13th Annual Conference of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor)

University of Cologne, 17/09/2018 – 19/09/2018


For decades, comics have been perceived as a mass phenomenon situated in popular culture, which manifests, establishes and perpetuates stereotypical (gender)  representations. Hence, the image of a particularly helpless, passive, but all the more attractive female victim is at home in the repertoire of the medium no less than the representation of a radiant, muscular, white, heterosexual hero, whose first duty consists of protecting the world and its inhabitants from catastrophe. In this sense, comics might seem alike to other forms of mass media in the age of mechanical reproduction and their tendency towards generalisations and clichés. From a historical perspective, reactions to the worldwide anti-comics campaigns of the 1950s, including self-censorship among numerous comic book publishers, also exemplarily point to heteronormative and xenophobic tendencies within mass media comics culture, which was in turn long reflected in the demographics of its readership. However, as a popular and oftentimes marginalised medium, comics never completely became one with this role of a (reactionary) stabilising force. Rather, comics are imbued with a socio-political dimension that has always encouraged comics artists to use the spaces between in a creative way,  and to question and subvert (social) norms.

The 13th annual conference of the German Society for Comics Studies will examine this productive potential of comics by uncovering and analysing different forms of the ‘spaces between’ within the art form itself, but also within its production and its audience. The internationally and inderdisciplinarily assembled  talks will focus on the question how gender, identity and diversity are represented and negotiated in sequential art. The conference topic Spaces Between – Gender, Diversity and Identity in Comics will draw our attention to the nexus between the medium of comics and categories of difference and identity such as gender, dis/ability, age, and ethnicity, in order to open and deepen an interdisciplinary conversation between comics studies and intersectional identity studies within the international comics studies community. In this respect, the 13th annual conference of the German Society for Comics Studies will not only contribute to the disclosure of exclusions, power structures and (hetero-)normative allocations in comics, but will also critically analyse their socio-political and communicative forms of (re-)production.


Conference venue:

University of Cologne
COPT-Building (Building No. 315)
Rooms H230, S231-S233
Luxemburger Str. 90 | 50939 Cologne




Monday, 17. September 2018


Meeting of the German Society for Comics Studies (ComFor)


Lunch Break


Welcome & Introduction


Conference Organizers | ComFor-Chair | Vice-Rectorate for Gender Equality and Diversity of the University of Cologne


Artistic Lecture


Philip Crawford (Berlin, GER)


My Noose Around That Pretty’s Neck


Chair: Barbara Margarethe Eggert


Panel 1: Representations of Dis/Ability


Chair: Anne Waldschmidt


Olga Tarapata (Köln, GER)


Between Crooked Lines: Disability in E.T. Russian’s Feminist Comic Books


Natalie Veith (Frankfurt a.M., GER)


Othering Voices and the Voice of the Other: The Depiction of Joseph Merrick in From Hell


Jonas Neldner (Köln, GER)


Noir Surrealism: The Hybrid Bodies of Charles Burns


Coffee Break


Panel 2: Graphic Medicine: Intersections of Comics, Health and Corporeality


Chair: Christina Maria Koch


Susan Merrill Squier (Pennsylvania, USA)


The Spaces Between: Negotiating Gender and Race in Transdisciplinary Comics Collaborations


Irmela Marei Krüger-Fürhoff (Berlin, GER)


Telling and Showing Dis/Continuities: Comics on Dementia


Alexandra Alberda (Poole, UK)


The Gaze, the Other and the Exhibit: Curating Graphic Medicine


Coffee Break


Keynote 1


Tahneer Oksman (New York City, USA)


An Art of Loss


Chair: Véronique Sina


Tuesday, 18. September 2018


Panel 3: Making Comics and Exhibiting their Physicality


Chair: Christine Gundermann


Erin La Cour (Amsterdam | Utrecht, NL)


No Longer In-Between: Towards a Social Abstraction in Comics Exhibitions


Ann Miller (Leicester, UK)


The Nude and the Naked: From Fine Art to Comics


Katharina Brandl (Basel, CHE) | Anne Elizabeth Moore (Detroit, USA)


Do What You Love, or: About Precarious Living and Working Conditions in the Comics Industry


Coffee Break


Panel 4: (Trans-)Cultural Identities


Chair: Laura Schlichting


Anne Magnussen (Odense, DNK)


Mexican Comics and the Revolution


Anna Nordenstam (Gothenburg, SWE) | Margareta Wallin Wictorin (Karlstad, SWE)


Talking Back Strategies in Swedish Feminist Comics


Nina Mickwitz (London, UK)


Precarity and the Gendered Migrant Body in Nina Bunjevac’s Heartless


Lunch Break


Panel 5: (De-)Constructing Race and Ethnicity


Chair: Marie Schröer


Priscilla Layne (Chapel Hill, USA)


Weyhe’s Postcolonial Approach to the Documentary Graphic Novel


Jonathan W. Gray (New York City, USA)


Descendants of Kings and Queens: Black Panther and Entangled African Cosmopolitanism


Jaqueline Berndt (Stockholm, SWE)


Destabilizing Gender but not Race? Effeminate Boys, Caucasian Appearances, and Uncertain ›Gutters‹ in (Shōjo) Manga


Coffee Break


Panel 6: Superheroes Revisited: Intersections of Gender and Genre


Chair: Stephan Packard


Jeffrey Brown (Ohio, USA)


Batman: Anchor for the Space Between


Ranthild Salzer (Wien, AUT)


Objectifying the Male: Early Superhero Comics as Fantasies of Masculinity


Olivia Hicks (Dundee, UK)


»No Place for Trespassers«: The Supercats and the British Superheroine


Coffee Break




Carolyn Cocca (New York City, USA)


Reproducing Inequality and Representing Diversity: The Politics of Gender in Superhero Comics


Chair: Nina Heindl


Wednesday, 19. September 2018


Panel 7: Structures of Power and Difference in Superhero Comics


Chair: Lukas R.A. Wilde


Markus Engelns (Duisburg-Essen, GER)


The ›Man of Tomorrow‹ as Copy Template – Male Hegemony and its Reproduction in Superhero Comics


Thomas P. Scholz (St. Louis, USA)


Deconstructing the Superhero Genre: BDSM, Hypersexuality and Marshal Law


Juliane Blank (Saarbrücken, GER)


Rethinking the World of a Female Superhero. Marvel’s Jessica Jones as an Example of a Gender-Sensitive Marvel Adaptation


Coffee Break


Panel 8: Queering Comics


Chair: Daniel Stein


Frederik Byrn Køhlert (Norwich, UK)


Queer as Style: Ariel Schrag’s High School Comic Chronicles


Romain Becker (Lyon, F)


The Binary Comics of a Non-Binary Artist: How Vaughn Bodé's Gender Structures his Work


José Alaniz (Seattle, USA)


TranSiberia and Queer Comics in Russia


Lunch Break


Panel 9: Fluide Körper [German]


Chair: Ole Frahm


Marina Rauchenbacher (Wien, AUT) | Katharina Serles (Dresden, GER)


Gerahmt und zerstückelt. Zeichenhaftigkeit und Wahrnehmung von Körpern in Comics


Anna Beckmann (Berlin, GER)


Strategien der Ambivalenzen – Uneindeutige Geschlechteridentitäten im Comic


Daniela Kaufmann (Graz, AUT)


Color Change & Gender Fluidity. Zur Korrelation von Farbe und Geschlecht bei George Herrimans Krazy Kat


Coffee Break


Panel 10: Alternative Comics und Feminismus [German]


Chair: Dietrich Grünewald


Sylvia Kesper-Biermann (Hamburg, GER)


»…denkt lieber mal nach, wie das so zu Hause bei euch läuft«. Geschlechterverhältnisse in Alternativ-Comics der 1970er Jahre


Kalina Kupczynska (Łódź, PL)


BLUT, oder: Gender und Nationalität im polnischen Comic


Sophie Bürgi (Basel, CHE)


»Common scents«: Geruchsregime und affektive Zwischenräume in Lynda Barrys Comic One! Hundred! Demons!


Concluding Discussion


Chair: Nina Heindl | Véronique Sina



Christine Gundermann (University of Cologne | Department of History)
Nina Heindl (University of Cologne | a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne)
Véronique Sina (University of Cologne | Department of Media Culture and Theatre)


Conference organisation

Nina Heindl (University of Cologne | a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne)
Véronique Sina (University of Cologne | Department of Media Culture and Theatre)


Contact: |



Attendants are kindly asked to register until August 31st 2018 at


The conference fee will be:

30 € for professors and postdocs | 25 € for PhD-students and ComFor-members  15 € for students.

Please transfer the conference fee to our account (see below) no later than September 3rd 2018.

Nina Eckhoff-Heindl

IBAN: DE76 5001 0517 5425 2931 20


Reference: Conference fee, name of conference participant


Exhibition: From June to September 2018 the exhibition SuperQueeroes: Our LGBT-Comic Heroes will be shown at the University of Cologne. The exhibition is a cooperation with the Schwule Museum* Berlin. For further information:


Exhibition organization:

Christine Gundermann (University of Cologne | Department of History)


The conference is being sponsored by: DFG, German Research Foundation | Finanzfonds der Universität zu Köln zur Umsetzung des gesetzlichen Gleichstellungsauftrags | the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) | MedienStiftung Kultur | a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne | Department of Media Culture and Theatre, University of Cologne.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Véronique Sina (
Institut für Medienkultur und Theater
Universität zu Köln
Meister-Ekkehart-Str. 11 | 50937 Köln