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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: comic books

Graphic Justice Discussions NYC 2018

Nickie Phillips

We hosted the 2nd annual Graphic Justice Discussions Conference: Law, Comics, Justice on 20 October 2018 at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, NYC. The conference was sponsored by the Graphic Justice Research Alliance and the Center for Crime & Popular Culture. The conference featured scholars and creators working at the intersection of law, comics, and justice.

We were thrilled to have legendary writer, editor, filmmaker, and journalist Ann Nocenti as our keynote speaker who held the crowd rapt with tales of her experiences in the industry.

We also welcomed Vita Ayala (The Wilds) and Kwanza Osajyefo (Black; Black: America’s Sweetheart; Black AF: Widows and Orphans) (Black Mask Studios) to speak about their work and experiences as creators.

You’re invited to take a look at the photos from the event. Hope to see everyone at the next Graphic Justice Discussions!

Call for Papers: Graphic Justice Discussions 2018, Keynote Ann Nocenti

Nickie Phillips

Graphic Justice Discussions - 20 October 2018 - St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY

Graphic Justice Discussions - 20 October 2018 - St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY

The Graphic Justice Research Alliance (GJRA) is delighted to announce a call for papers for its annual conference at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY to be held October 20, 2018. The theme for this year’s Graphic Justice Discussions is ‘Law, Comics, Justice’, and promises to be an exciting event that will be accessible and relevant to scholars, artists, practitioners, policy-makers, writers, and the general public alike.

We are gratified to announce that legendary comic writer and editor Ann Nocenti will join us as this event’s keynote speaker. Nocenti has lent her distinctive voice to numerous beloved comic book runs, including her writings for Marvel’s Daredevil and DC’s Catwoman, Katana, and Green Arrow. We very much look forward to hearing her observations about the industry, as well as reflections on her latest project, the forthcoming The Seeds, a new four-issue series in collaboration with artist David Aja. The series, part of a new line of Berger Books published by Dark Horse Comics, is described as “An eco-fiction tech-thriller … a story of love beyond race and gender, and of the resilience of both human and animal kind.”

Please join us for what promises to be a stimulating and inclusive occasion! Send 250-word abstracts to Nickie Phillips at nphillips@sfc.edu.

Stay tuned for more details to follow...

The GJRA is a multidisciplinary research network exploring the crossover between law and justice and comics of all kinds.

Wonder Woman, Deathworthiness, and the Neverending Quest for Peace

Nickie Phillips

While watching the new Wonder Woman blockbuster, our phones were buzzing with news alerts. On screen, as Princess Diana of Themiscyra (aka Wonder Woman) contemplated the nature of humanity and puzzled at our craving for war and violence, in the real world London was in the midst of two terrorist attacks that ultimately killed seven and injured dozens. In the coming days British Prime Minister Teresa May would declare "enough is enough" and call for the end of the so-called tolerance for extremist violence.

Some might dismiss the latest summer superhero movie as irrelevant, but we could not help but feel that Wonder Woman was speaking truth to power. The film is a deep reverie on the longstanding political and moral question of whether to meet violence with violence. We witness Wonder Woman seriously contemplating good versus evil. She comes to understand that humanity often cannot avoid evil, but in having freewill, choosing good is more meaningful.

Off-screen, we live in a destabilized global environment where both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump ushered in uncertainty about the fate of the European Union, NATO, and the Paris Climate Agreement. Armed conflicts rage in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mexico, and a myriad of other places. In the U.S., state-induced violence in the form of questionable police shootings dominates headlines. The world feels dangerous.

Many tolerate violence by rationalizing it in a utilitarian framework: perpetrated in the interest of the greater good, perhaps even a future lasting peace. So it is with Wonder Woman. In her duty-bound quest to save the world from the ravages of chemical warfare in World War I specifically, and the devastation of human wars in general, she and her acquired team of rag-tag heroes engage in quite a bit of mass violence.

Yet Wonder Woman abhors war. Her whole mission is to eliminate war in the form of the god Ares. Such cognitive dissonance as warring against war is a recurrent theme in mainstream superhero comic books. Our book, Comic Book Crime, describes the typical mainstream comic book plot as giving great latitude to the use of violence if the situation is deemed a time of crisis--and as we detail, it is almost always a time of crisis.

The compelling tension in comic books revolves around putting aside no-kill principles, something morally uncomfortable but framed as necessary in practice. In true superhero form, Wonder Woman, is likewise a meditation on putting aside those principles, and on deathworthiness, a term that originally describes deliberations by a criminal court, but that we widen. We define deathworthiness as a superhero's (instead of a juror's) decision-making process around when and why killing someone else is justifiable.

Sans a court of law, superheroes are unburdened by due process constraints and act as stand-ins for the entire system: judges, jurors, and (at times) executioners. Such narratives of extralegal justice saturate American popular culture in general, and we argue, are important artifacts for understanding larger American notions of justice.

What we found fascinating about Wonder Woman's determinations of deathworthiness was her deeper contemplations of the means to the end, questioning the typical utilitarian framework. The process through which Wonder Woman realizes that killing a single enemy is futile in the larger quest for peace--is one that we as a society would do well to contemplate. A cynic may find Wonder Woman's message of love and hope in humanity to be too overwrought. But many who have experienced war firsthand come to similar profound conclusions.

Members of Veterans for Peace, for example, are "dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war," stopping at nothing short of "abolishing war as an instrument of national policy." If accomplished, this would entail a cultural shift away from utilitarian calculations and toward the use of non-violent solutions at times of crisis. Veterans for Peace and Wonder Woman are on the same important mission, responding to a violent world suffering too much loss of life.

In Comic Book Crime, we document how comic book creators reacted to 9/11 and how our cultural perspectives on crime fighting and terrorism both reflect and shape these narratives. We are now in a new era, one that warrants more exploration of how to achieve global peace, not less. Those on Fox News who lament that Wonder Woman is not "American" enough are perhaps willfully ignorant as to her origins and international relevance. Global peacekeeping has long been a top priority for Wonder Woman--a goal that clearly calls for a bit more attention here in the real world. Achieving peace and reducing violence continue to be among the planet's biggest challenges, regardless of what Trump says.

On the evening of the United States' premiere of the Wonder Woman film, Bill Maher engaged in banter with Senator Ben Sasse on HBO's Real Time about how young adults just can't seem to grow up, alluding to comic books as part of a kind of chronic Peter Pan problem. Maher did not make reference to Wonder Woman, instead he made a more general claim that it's foolish to “…treat comic books as literature.” The implication is that comic book fans, publishers, marketers, and creators are stunted in emotional maturity and unable to deal with the harsh truths of real life. Tell that to Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughn, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alison Bechdel, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, and many others who have won accolades for telling very adult truths in graphic form.

The sad truth is that we "adults" excel at waging war, but we are terrible at sustaining peace. Rather than dismiss the notion that comic books (and comic-book inspired films) have nothing to contribute to the world of grown-ups, it would do us some good to heed Hippolyta's words to Diana and ask ourselves whether humankind truly deserves Wonder Woman, or the people like her off-screen who work so hard to wage peace.

Diversity in Comic Books Falsely Accused

Nickie Phillips

In an interview with ICv2, Marvel VP David Gabriel commented on the recent decline of comic book sales in a vast misrepresentation:

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity…They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”

However, for those immersed in comic book culture it comes as little surprise that diversity would be wrongly blamed. [1]

Fan favorite, Ms. Marvel

Fan favorite, Ms. Marvel

In our book Comic Book Crime: Truth, Justice, and the American Way, we opined about the possibilities of increased diversity in comic books published post 9/11. Our cautious optimism was rooted in our immersion in fan culture and the demands for more inclusive character representations. We were particularly interested in how more diverse characterizations among heroes and villains resonate in our imaginings of crime and justice.

In fact, over the past several years, comic books have seen the introduction of a plethora titles featuring characters: the (female) Thor, Ms. Marvel, Riri Williams, Miles Morales, and Miss America Chavez, among others. There has also been a resurgence of interest in longstanding characters such as Black Panther, Sam Wilson, Luke Cage, Storm, and Amanda Waller. However, we also documented how the inclusion of diverse characters is often met with much resistance by readers. In Beyond Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in Popular Media, Nickie Phillips discusses how this resistance is rooted in responses to feminist interventions within the industry and can, at times, be contentious.

G. Willow Wilson, writer of the acclaimed Ms. Marvel series explained why blaming diversity is problematic. She wrote,

“Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is > the world.> ”

We agree.

1: Go here, here, and here for alternative explanations for the sales decline.

-- Nickie Phillips and Staci Strobl

Graphic Justice: Intersections of Comics and Law

Nickie Phillips

Graphic Justice: Intersections of Comics and Law - Available Now

Crimcast is delighted to share the news that a new volume devoted to crime and criminal justice is now available!  This edited volume compiles the work of a core group of scholars who are working at the intersection of graphic novels and depictions of justice, furthering the project of Comic Book Crime: Truth, Justice, and the American Way.  The international array of scholars tackle such issues as the death penalty, biomedicine, vigilantism, restorative justice, and human rights violations through such series as Watchmen, Judge Dredd, Justice League, Batman, and 100 Bullets.

Establishing the medium of graphic fiction as a critical resource for interdisciplinary legal studies, this collection is the first to address the intersection of comics and law. Whether in their representations of lawyers, their treatment justice, law and social order, or their investment in the protection of the innocent and the punishment of guilty, graphic fiction explores human life in all its social, moral and legal complexity. In the context of a now well-established interest in cultural legal studies, this book showcases the critical potential of comics and graphic fiction as a resource for nterdisciplinary legal studies and legal theory.

Graphic Futures: Imagining Law's Potential in Comics and Graphic Novels - Call for Participants

Nickie Phillips

Graphic Futures

Imagining Law’s Potential in Comics and Graphic Novels

Call for papers and comics creators

Many jurisprudential texts tell the history of legal philosophy and moral thought—from Classical Greece and the medieval period, through the Enlightenment to modernity, and today’s uncertain epoch of ‘late modernity’. In such texts, it is hoped that by recounting this history—this tale of development, progression and change—our current jurisprudential state is uncovered and we are enlightened as to the issues at play in determining the nature of what law both is and should be.

So much for jurisprudential past; but what of jurisprudential future? What challenges and laws await us as we emerge from the throes of modernity? What awaits our nature as humanity integrates with advancing technology? What form will morality take in a world where official systems of order and control, or the modes of thought that created the modern state, have dissipated? What of justice without law? What of law after the human? What of knowledge and judgment after the reification of modernism has been undone? What is the next jurisprudence? It is these, and related, questions that the proposed network addresses, through innovative engagement with the medium of graphic fiction.

Comics and graphic fiction have been an under-utilised resource in the history of legal studies. Yet their unique epistemological grounding (at the borders of the visual, the linguistic, the aesthetic, and the rational), and their capacity for futuristic imagination, arguably make them an apt tool for exploring worlds, laws and ideas beyond the boundaries of the present. Engaging with futuristic visions in graphic fiction and comics, this project aims to imagine (or challenge our ability to imagine) the landscape(s) of jurisprudence in the emerging world(s) as modernity recedes.

The aim of the project is to imagine the potential future(s) of law and justice. The overarching problematic will be addressed through a series of international workshops in US, Australia and USE across 2015-2018, with each participant contributing their own perspective and particular critical ‘take’ on the issue of comics and legal futurity. There will be 8 workshops, feeding into a series of edited collections and graphic novels (funding is being sought to cover participants' expenses). These workshops will tackle four main sub-themes of the central problematic of legal futurity:

  1. Approaching Graphic Futures—focusing on the project’s epistemological issues, such as: the limits of legal language in relation to the language of comics; the particular value of the comics medium in tackling the project’s core problematic; and, how can such imaginative speculation help inform our world today.
  2. Criminal Futures—focusing on issues relating to crime and criminal justice, such as: what problems future criminal law enforcement might face; concerns of pre-emptive justice; and, the dominant ideals of ‘justice’ (e.g. retribution, deterrence, something else) that might prevail as modernity recedes.
  3. Legal Futures of Technology—focusing on issues relating to advancing technology, such as: the legal challenges of human-machine integration; the advent of artificial intelligence; and, how technology might change the face of legal institutions and regulation.
  4. Law after the State—focusing on issues relating to rights and political theory, such as: how might human relations be regulated if the modern state fails; what shape might rights take in the future; and, concerns of trans-temporal responsibility (for example, our responsibility to the future, or the future’s responsibility to the past).

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words, 3 keywords, and an indication of which theme your work would ‘fit’ under, to thomas.giddens@smuc.ac.uk no later than 14 November 2014.

The project is also seeking comics creators (writers and/or artists): email thomas.giddens@smuc.ac.uk if you are interested in being involved in a creative capacity.

Sketching Some Thoughts on the Walking Dead

Nickie Phillips

Read Thom Gidden's entire post, "Sketching Some Thoughts on the Walking Dead," here.

The world of The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic one.  It is a dangerous and infected one.  Disease and death fill it, and threaten at every turn.  To survive takes courage and strength, but not just physical.  Emotional strength, compassion, and a faith in the worth of surviving in a world that is so diseased and broken (i.e. it is not only classically 'masculine' traits of successful violence and protection that are required).  In this infected world, the concerns of law and order become increasingly important.

Characters_Portal

Wertham's Notes and the Seduction of the Innocent

Nickie Phillips

Frederic Wertham is most known for his scathing attacks on comic books, suggesting that they influence deviant behavior and juvenile delinquency.

In 1954 he published Seduction of the Innocent which contributed to public and political debates about the relationship between comic books and behavior, and was a contributing factor to the decline of the comic book industry. In 1954, Wertham testified at the Senate Subcommittee Hearings into Juvenile Delinquency arguing the deleterious effects of comic book consumption by youth. For more on Wertham, see Bart Beaty's Frederic Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture.

Professor Carol Tilley examined Wertham's notes, stored at the Library of Congress, and concluded that his methodology was flawed. In her interview with Dusty Rhodes, she states,

“Lots of people have suspected for years that Wertham fudged his so-called clinical evidence in arguing against comics, but there’s been no proof,” Tilley said. “My research is the first definitive indication that he misrepresented and altered children’s own words about comics.”

Her article titled Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics can be found in Information and Culture: A Journal of History.

Abstract:

Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham and his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent serve as historical and cultural touchstones of the anti-comics movement in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s. Although there have been persistent concerns about the clinical evidence Wertham used as the basis for Seduction, his sources were made widely available only in 2010. This paper documents specific examples of how Wertham manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence—especially that evidence he attributed to personal clinical research with young people—for rhetorical gain.

http://www.thecomicbooks.com/wertham.html