contact us

 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Blog

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: comics

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.

Comics Unmasked, Mannequins Masked

Nickie Phillips

DSCF0358

By Staci Strobl. Crimcast Co-Founder Review of the British Library's exhibit "Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK," May 2 - August 19, 2014

Comics often get tagged as being more ideologically subversive than they actually are-- at least this is the case with mainstream American comic books. But “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK” is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the subversive in popular graphic art forms, and the subversive is probably more at the forefront of the British experience with this art form than the American. In fact, British independent and underground comics are ripe with depictions of social deviance which go on to influence mainstream works. Any criminologist with their eye on popular culture will find it fascinating to see so many works from a wide variety of writers, artists, publishers, in one exhibition.

Putting aside the superhero section of the exhibition, which appropriately nods its head to the quintessentially American genre while celebrating such home-grown successes as Judge Dredd— but also takes the exhibition too far afield from its primary purpose— the exhibition’s thematic arrangement of material spanning two centuries invokes interesting connections in the world of graphics across the ages. I was particularly taken by the juxtaposition of pages from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell (1999) and the Illustrated Police News (13 October, 1888) “coverage” of the Ripper murders under the exhibition’s “violence and gore” thematic grouping. We see how the use of black-and-white ink, shadows, small spaces, and flailing arms in the more contemporary work was a brilliantly stylized representation of the Victorian illustrations and also a testament to the enduring fascination with serial killing. People in the West just can’t get enough of these tales of murderous mayhem and transgression, and comics are a perfect medium to deliver such gruesome content.

DSCF0361

Occasionally a juxtaposition left me scratching my head, such as the inclusion of London Illustrated News’ 1883 Christmas supplement featuring ladies looking for suitors in romantic dress, dancing, telling ghost stories, with descriptive, but not remotely subversive, captions. Here, the exhibition has us considering the theme of “social ladder” (perhaps a polite British way of saying “class”) and certainly the supplement is depicting a very uncritical 19th century notion of ladies of high class. This is placed next to “Lord Snooty and His Pals” (1960, Dudley D. Watkins), a comic strip featuring a young Lord Snooty who prefers to ditch his class trappings and hang out with the poor kids. The connection between the two, other than depicting class in Britain, appears unconnected across time and cultural niche. The culture of boys’ education in the 20th century and ladies’ follies in the 19th are distinct and each world has its own version of illustrated hegemony and counter-hegemony. All I learned from putting them near each other is that it is fun to make fun of class, especially in the U.K., but I didn’t learn much about how class operates in these texts across time, nor did the artistic styles seem to inform each other. And, further, who is making fun of whom? Do the texts need to have an obvious critique to be subversive, or am I the subversive, laughing at the class arrogance of marriage-seeking in days gone by? All of this is followed by the overt Class War Comix (Clifford Harper, 1974) in which a long-haired hippie tells us in black and white, “I used to be in politics—but it began to hang me up… You can’t lay a trip on people,” rounding out a graphic tale of a class-free utopia. I was more confused than ever.

Regardless, there are gems not to miss and of course, the V for Vendettafan does not go away unsatisfied. The iconic British tale of renewed anarchy on Guy Fawkes’ Day is the centerpiece. Fans will delight in original scripts for the graphic novel (with edits!) on display. “Good evening London...This is the voice of fate” artwork still packs an emotional punch. And, mannequins in V masks literally people the exhibit in life-size bunches which seem to grow bigger and bigger as the display weaves its path. The exhibition may be conveying that as comics marched forward so did the enthusiasm for them and their counter-cultural messages. At the same time, I found myself irritated by the mannequins, the first one wearing the exhibition’s souvenir T-shirt which struck me as a tad too commercial for an exhibition on art and anarchy. And, the mannequins were mostly men, wearing a kind of urban uniform of T-shirt, jacket, jeans, sneakers, and of course, mask. They looked rather ominously conformist and seem to dampen the quirky creativity of the work on display.

DSCF0359

With the marching mannequins theme, I didn’t need the additional staging of random objects of apocalyptic modernity (gas masks, phones, grainy photos, shattered glass, and redacted documents, oh my!). It will take all of us to prevent the impending crisis was the message I was getting, and yet the best works were idiosyncratic and goofy graphic experiences from rather unique perspectives from within a cultural milieu, playing on mainstream culture, not wearing the same jeans and T-shirt. I marveled at a William S. Burroughs and Malcolm McNeill's comic strip, “The Unspeakable Mr. Hart” (1970, Cyclops), that I had never seen or heard of before, and in Burroughs style was a drug-induced non-linear comment on police brutality, imperial Britain, and colonial desperation. I got the message even as I could also make no sense of it. I also learned, and saw in vivid comparison, that Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum (DC, 1989) took a nod from the mystical artistic meanderings of Aleister Crowley and his Thoth tarot deck. Neil Gaiman’s introductory comments to a 1989 Sandman script seemed to be as self-congratulating and self-important as I would have expected— and yet what a treat to read it myself, I must admit.

Overall, this exhibition is a must-see for anyone from the popular culture and criminology crowd in range of London between now and its close on August 19, 2014. Though the overall exhibit may not tell a cohesive story, the work on display is truly fascinating in its own right and does give the viewer the sense of Britain’s rich and critically acclaimed comics history.

Graphic Justice Symposium 2013, London

Nickie Phillips

GraphicJustice clr

Graphic Justice: a one-day symposium on the intersection of comics and graphic fiction with the concerns of law and justice, to be held at St Mary’s University College, London on 11 September 2013.

With Anglophone comics, Francophone bandes dessinées, and Japanese manga, graphic fiction represents an expanding dimension of today’s global popular culture and is a richly innovative form of expression.

From the overt law and order focus of many mainstream superhero narratives and comics-inspired blockbuster movies, to the more nuanced examinations of the human condition in less mainstream graphic works; from copyright to the freedom of expression; from the blurring of text and image in the very medium itself to representations of law, justice, and legal systems on the surface of its pages: comics and graphic fiction are rife with themes relevant to law and justice.

Comics have been receiving an increased level of academic attention in recent years, with dedicated journals and conferences springing up around the world. Yet the significance of comics with respect to the concerns of law and justice has received little critical attention. As a development of existing disciplinary fields such as law and popular culture, law and literature, and legal aesthetics, graphic justice is a research alliance aimed at increasing engagement with this under-explored disciplinary crossover.

Go here

for more information.

Carol Tilley on Wertham's Scholarship, Social Science, and Archival Research

Nickie Phillips

CrimCast welcomes Carol Tilley, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. Professor Tilley recently published "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics" in Information & Culture: A Journal of History.You are one of the few scholars who have gained access to Frederic Wertham's papers and other personal archives, now housed at the Library of Congress. Can you tell us what prompted your interest in the project and how were you able to gain access to this vast amount of information?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wertham-10.png

For the past eight years or so, I’ve been studying how librarians and other reading guidance professionals responded to comics captivating influence on young readers during the 1940s and 1950s. Even though Wertham was not the primary focus of my work, he is someone difficult to ignore when thinking about comics during these years. Anti-comics sentiment preceded Wertham’s interest in the topic by nearly a decade, but for the last few years of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, he was the figurehead for the movement that sought to restrict the sale of comics to America’s youth.

Wertham was something of a packrat too, as there are more than two hundred boxes of his materials preserved at the Library of Congress (LOC). Although not all of these materials are related to his work on comics, many of them are. I was curious to learn about his correspondence with librarians, teachers, parents, and other folks who were interested in children’s reading and welfare. So, my initial reason for using the materials had little to do with Seduction of the Innocent (Rinehart, 1954), the book about comics for which Wertham is popularly and infamously remembered.

Although Wertham died in 1981 and his materials were transferred to the LOC soon afterwards, his papers have been open for research use since mid-2010. Before that time Wertham’s literary executor controlled access to those materials. Barty Beaty, professor of English at the University of Calgary, was the only person granted significant access to the materials. His book Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture (U of Mississippi Press, 2005) makes use of the collection. James Gilbert, professor of History at the University of Maryland, also made use of Wertham’s papers for his book A Cycle of Outrage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s (Oxford, 1988). Gilbert had access to these materials while Wertham was still alive.

You mentioned in the article that many scholars were long suspicious about Wertham's methodology. What was your most surprising finding?

Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent has hallmarks of suspicious social science. It lacks a bibliography, for instance, and contains assertions that are often grand. Take, for instance, his claim that teenage drug users were comics readers. Well, nearly all young people read comics at that time, so this claim is like stating today that teenage drug users use Facebook. One of Wertham’s contemporaries, Bertram Beck, a social worker who led the Special Juvenile Delinquency Project for the United States Children’s Bureau, wrote to the doctor a month after Seduction’s release, saying,

Your treatment of contrary evidence and, in fact, anyone who disagrees seems to me to be as unscientific as you demonstrate the defenders of the comic book have been. [April 16, 1954, Box 123, Folder 7, Wertham papers].

The comics creator and scholar Stephen Bissette more recently took issue with Wertham’s method and presentation. In Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Bratpack and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks (Black Coat Press, 2011), Bissette points to Wertham’s “circularity of logic” (p. 67) along with the absence of context, “methods, footnotes, or attribution” (p. 68).

Despite these and other critiques, I was astounded to discover numerous instances where Wertham seemed to disregard an even more basic idea about presenting evidence—that you don’t ‘doctor’ it. Here’s a fairly typical example.

In Seduction, Wertham wrote about a girl (pp. 40-41), who according to her mother, read love comics all the time. The text in the book read,

“This girl I found to be an expert on love comics. She told me she bought some, ‘but mostly I trade them.’ I asked her about stealing in love comics. She laughed, ‘Oh, they do it often.’”

http://www.thecomicarchive.com/archives/568

Wertham’s notes [Box 109, Folder 12] portrayed a somewhat different scenario. For instance, he learned from the mother that the girl doesn’t read as many comics as she once did because they now have a television. The notes also stated,

"Patient says she reads love comics, 'if I have any.' 'I buy one once in a while, but mostly I trade them.' Titles: True Story, Superman or something like that; sometimes I see Crime Does Not Pay; Love For Two, Romance, that is all. The story where somebody steals is in Crime Does Not Pay. In the Love Comics they sometimes steal...My mother says she does not want me to read comic books because they interfere with my school work and she just don't want me to read them."

In other examples, Wertham turned a single teenage boy into several different people, borrowed phrases and ideas from colleagues and acquaintances, and exaggerated or distorted evidence. For instance, Wertham recounted the experiences of one boy: “‘I read the comic books to learn how you can get money. I read about thirty a week. I read Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment, Penalty, Wanted. That is all I can think of” (p. 73). Yet, in the original case notes [Box 109, Folder 16], the boy told Wertham he read only five comics a week.

You state that Wertham "manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence" to support his contention that comic books contributed to maladjustment and deviant behavior among children. Further, you describe Wertham's conclusions as being driven by a rhetorical strategy to bolster support for his position. Yet, you acknowledge in the article that you are ultimately conflicted about Wertham. Can you tell us more about that?

My dilemma is simple: as abhorrent as I find Wertham’s representations of evidence, I believe he wanted to help people who he believed were vulnerable, whether because of their age, their race, their socioeconomic status, or something else. For instance, Wertham was an early advocate for racial integration, and his testimony provided support for the overturn of school segregation in Delaware. Wertham’s testimony as part of Delaware case helped effect a positive outcome in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. Does his goodness excuse his errors? Certainly some comics readers, creators, and fans will say ‘no.’

Your article has received quite a bit of media attention. Were you surprised that your work would receive so much attention from the mainstream press?

I was indeed surprised! Seduction of the Innocent is nearly sixty years old and Wertham has been thoroughly lambasted in comics culture. At this point few people familiar with Wertham and his anti-comics work can feign shock that his research was troubled, but I’m pleased to offer some substantive evidence to support this long-standing assumption. Plus from a scholar’s perspective, it’s gratifying to know that not only are more than a handful of people reading your work, but that it’s getting discussed in places like the New York Times and io9.com

Can you tell us about any projects that you are currently working on? Should we look forward to more research from the Wertham archives from you?

Eventually you’ll see more from me that draws on the Wertham archives. I’ve got a chapter out soon on the use of comics in language arts classrooms during the 1940s and 1950s, a paper on early (1930s and 1940s) reading promotion efforts in National / DC comics, and a chapter forthcoming on how young comics readers responded to comics’ critics such as Wertham. My bigger ongoing project is writing a history of young people’s readership of comics from the 1930s through the 1950s. If you’re interested, you can keep up with my comics research via my webpage or via Twitter (@CarolGSLIS).

archive

This is the second of our 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of police, courts, and corrections.

Garth Ennis' Red Team: Rogue Cops, Vigilante Justice, and Christopher Dorner

Nickie Phillips

red-team---sook

Garth Ennis once again tackles the theme of vigilante justice in his new comic Red Team. For those interested in themes of justice and retribution in popular culture, the comic promises a rich study.

Ennis' (along with artist Craig Cermak) Red Team hits the stands the same week that Christopher Dorner is on the run from law enforcement. Dorner, rogue cop and alleged murderer, turned his anger on members of the LAPD and their families which he accused of being corrupt. Dorner's motivation is outlined in his manifesto in which he alleges corruption within the LAPD. He is believed to have killed four people, including the daughter of a police captain and her fiance, and injured others. The manhunt for Dorner has ended, and after a shootout with authorities, he is now believed dead in a burned-out mountain cabin.

There is certainly a cultural appetite for vigilante justice, as evidenced by those who voice support for Dorner. Many have likened Dorner to Rambo and other fictional vigilantes who fight the system. It is through these popular culture narratives that we collectively process our anxieties about crime, justice, retribution, and vengeance. As such, Dorner "means" different things to different people. Chauncy DeVega, writing for alternet.org, suggests that Dorner may serve as a "symbol that speaks to our collective subconscious" and part of our "American cultural mythos."

Ennis, best known for his work on comics such as The Punisher, The Preacher, and The Boys, provides some of the best and most thoughtful comic book writing exploring themes of crime and justice. Red Teamexplores the consequences of rogue cops who take the law into their own hands, murdering a known criminal and the "slippery slope" of extra-legal justice. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Ennis talks about his influences for the comic and the desire for realism,

"The starting point for 'Red Team' was, essentially, what if someone tried to be the Punisher for real?" Ennis continued.

For more on Dorner and the Starkweather Syndrome, go here.

The Activity: Comics and Military Special-Ops

Nickie Phillips

I've been reading The Activity and thoroughly enjoy it. This CNN article points out the relationship between comic imaginations and real-life secret military operations, and the striving for "realism." Comic writer Nathan Edmonson states,

"There were parts of this group that we crafted as fiction that we later found out were not as fictional as we thought," the writer told CNN...

The most recent issue, "The Activity" #7, had the participation of Navy SEALs, who co-plotted a major scene in the story.