Comic Renderings: From Argentina to Zimbabwe

A poster advertising a film adaptation of Marguerite Abouet's Aya series. Photo Credit: LaCinemateca Sevilla

A poster advertising a film adaptation of Marguerite Abouet’s Aya series. Photo Credit: LaCinemateca Sevilla

You’ve probably heard of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City. And you may know of Clark Kent’s high-flying alter ego in Metropolis. Then there’s Charles Xavier and his School for Gifted Youngsters. Three for three? Okay.

How about Aya from the Ivory Coast?

The Persepolis Series of Iran?

Or Kampung Boy in Malaysia?

Kampung Boy by Lat tells of a child growing up as a Muslim in a fishing village in Malaysia. Photo Credit: First Second Books

Kampung Boy by Lat tells of a child growing up as a Muslim in a fishing village in Malaysia. Photo Credit: First Second Books

These are the types of items the International and Area Studies (IAS) Library would like to make you aware of. The last three works share narratives that are personal, dramatic and engaging and that are all presented in graphic novel or comic form. While Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics might be the best print publication to instruct you on what vocabulary to use when it comes to this artistic medium, IAS can give you a strong introduction to international comic renderings this September.

Starting today, “Explore International Comics,” a month-long exhibit to be held in the North-South Corridor on the first floor of the Main Library, opens to the public. Many of your librarians and their graduate student workers have collaborated, gathering works to populate the six glass cases on the ground floor with works that reflect comics as an international and cross-cultural phenomenon and production. Together the comics chosen address a variety of interdisciplinary and academic themes including gender studies, language learning, religion & mythology, politics, and ethnicity & identity.

International detective Tintin and his dog, Milou, are off on a new adventure. This work, by Hergé, was originally published in French and started its road to fame in 1929. Photo Credit: normandy14

International detective Tintin and his dog, Milou, are off on a new adventure. This work, by Hergé, was originally published in French and started its road to fame in 1929. Photo Credit: normandy14

The inclusion of the Belgian classic work Tintin by cartoonist Hergé was an instinctive choice given its nearly 100 years of history. Its narratives follow the brave adventures of a young, border-hopping detective and his dog, Milou. More modern titles, however, are not to be overlooked. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home from 2006, an autobiographical work whose musical adaptation just won a Tony Award on Broadway and whose text addresses themes of LGBT identity will be featured, too, among many others.

Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home. Bechdel’s publications consistently engage LGBT issues and have garnered her a MacArthur Genius Grant. Photo Credit: carmen_seaby

Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home. Bechdel’s publications consistently engage LGBT issues and have garnered her a MacArthur Genius Grant. Photo Credit: carmen_seaby

The piece pictured directly below features an endearing, anthropomorphized antihero, Condorito (Chile), who is part condor and part man. Another, Daytripper (Brazil), imaginatively contemplates mortality and what gives our lives meaning. Pyonyang: A Journey through North Korea (Canada) undermines a standing government and Pedro and Me (U.S. and Cuba) addresses stigma related to HIV/AIDS. The topics, clearly, are as diverse as the ones we encounter in our lives.

Condorito is a hybrid between a condor and man. His stories represent a comic tradition from Chile and have been popular throughout Latin America since 1949. Photo Credit: Gustavo Vargas

Condorito is a hybrid between a condor and man. His stories represent a comic tradition from Chile and have been popular throughout Latin America since 1949. Photo Credit: Gustavo Vargas

To help contextualize the richness of these works in terms of both content and form, on September 30th, our IAS Library (Main Library Room 321) will host the first Chai Wai event of the season, “Around the World in 2D: Comics, Graphic Novels and Cartoons” from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. You can join the Facebook event here. South Asian Librarian Mara Thacker, who has been a major force in organizing both the exhibit and its accompanying event, hopes that library users will access works like these for leisure reading, teaching, and/or research. She also shares that the library is happy to give guest lectures on the comics or to introduce its works to individual classes.

The Asian American Cultural Center has more than 1,000 items for your use cataloged on Library things including graphic novels and other books, DVDs and music cds.

The Asian American Cultural Center has more than 1,000 items for your use cataloged on Library Thing including graphic novels and other books, DVDs and music cds.

While the Undergraduate Library (UGL) has multiple stacks and shelves dedicated strictly to comics and graphic novels, library users should know that there are many places on campus to access titles like these. Among them are the Literatures and Languages Library (LLL), the Main Stacks, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML), the Social Science, Health and Education Library (SSHEL), all within the Main Library. The Center for Children’s Books (CCB) which receives multiple new titles every year is found on campus in the basement of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) near Daniel and Sixth Streets. The Asian American Cultural Center (AACC), which has a shelf dedicated to comics, is located on Nevada Street and its holdings are cataloged on Library Thing.

Do check the hours for these libraries before arriving, as their schedules differ. Also, take note that while the CCB has numerous items, the works housed there do not circulate but can be used for reference in-house. Lastly, if there is a title that you are interested in having the library purchase, you can use the patron-driven purchase form and make a request for a specific work. We look forward to seeing you at the exhibit and at our Chai Wai event. In the meanwhile, we wish you happy comic hunting! Be sure to like our page on Facebook for more news, stories and updates like these.

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Mo Yan — 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner

Literary history holds many examples of writers who were formerly soldiers — Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brian, Stephen Crane, and T. E. Lawrence to name a few, but few of them can ever hope to be called such things as “[…] famous, oft-banned and widely pirated […] (Feb 15, 2005. Donald Morrison, “Holding Up Half the Sky”, Time Magazine, read more) Even fewer of these soldiers ever become Nobel Prize winners.

Mo Yan (莫言), a pen name, meaning “don’t speak,” for Guan Moye (管谟业), is the first resident of mainland China to be awarded the Nobel prize in Literature. He was a solider in the People’s Liberation Army after the Cultural Revolution. The only two other Chinese recipients of Nobel prizes are Liu Xiaobo (2010 Nobel Prize for Peace), who is currently imprisoned, and Gao Xingjian (2000 Nobel Prize for Literature), who gave up his Chinese citizenship in 1996. (Oct 16, 2012. Benjamin Carlson, “China Scrambles to Censor Discussion of Mo Yan”, Salon. Read more)

Mo Yan and his works have a complicated relationship with the Chinese government. While his books are often interpreted as critical of the government, he is a Chinese Communist Party member and the vice-chairman of the party’s Writers’ Association. He has been criticized for his compliance with the government, but some have argued that by his doing so, his books have been able to reach more people. (Oct 16, 2012. Benjamin Carlson, “China Scrambles to Censor Discussion of Mo Yan”, Salon. Read more)

Mo Yan is reportedly currently avoiding the media and working on his next book. (Oct 11, 2012. Sui-Lee Wee. “China’s Mo Yan feeds off suffering to win Nobel literature prize”, Reuters. Read more.)

The UIUC collection holds many of Mo Yan’s works, both in the original Chinese and in English translations. The International and Area Studies Library has pulled a selection of his titles for display, and they are available for checkout. You can also view his works available in our online catalog.

Mo Yan's works on display at the IAS

Mo Yan’s works on display at the IAS. Photography by Elizabeth Svoboda.

Those wishing to learn more about Mo Yan and his work should come visit the IAS and check out our display and selection of his titles, and also check out these suggested library resources:

Interviews and Articles:

Literary Criticism and Interpretation  

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