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Blog: IGNCC 2023

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Last week I spent most of my time either travelling TO/FROM or IN the delightful Cambridgeshire city of CAMBRIDGE. For LO! it was that time of year again for the mightiest BRANES in Comics Studies gather together for the International Graphic Novels And Comics Conference!

Every other year this is was a joint conference with the International Bande Dessinée Society, and as this WAS one of those years it meant that we had a whole WEEK of presentations. On other such occasions when I've been to these I've stayed in a hotel, but this time it seemed a bit daft when it's only in Cambridge so I decided to COMMUTE. This was SENSIBLE when I made my decision, but that was before the overtime bans on the railways were announce, which severely restricted what trains I could get. THUS I ended up getting up at SIX IN THE MORNING (yes, that is a REAL TIME) on several days to SCHLEP all the way there on the SLOW train from Liverpool Street. That particular train was also the one used by 17 MILLION CHILDREN going to school in Bishops Stortford, which is not QUITE the ideal travelling companion for someone who has got up as early as what I had - especially on FRIDAY when I had been to the pub the night before!

My travel mood was not enhanced on the first morning when I tried to work out where to go, found a MAP in the programme and got a TAXI all the way across to the other side of Cambridge... only to (eventually) discover that it was just the venue for a RECEPTION later on, and that the ACTUAL conference was happening all the way back near where I'd started from, requiring ANOTHER taxi.

Still, once I was actually THERE I had a bloody GRATE time. The fact that've been so many times meant that there were LOADS of friendly faces and I must say ALSO rather lot of BRILLIANT talks. I think my favourite one was a keynote by Milo Ira and Cameron Carley called "Two-Spirit illustration: Sequential art for connection and resilience". Partly this was because of the subject matter, which was about "two-spirit" as a way to LOOK at types of identity, sitting alongside indigeneous approaches to AUTISM (which felt HIGHLY relevant to my interests), but also because they were BRILLIANT at presenting. They were so CONFIDENT but also LOVABLE, and they did a whole thing about the need to call people IN rather than calling them OUT. It's the sort of thing that SOUNDS like The Daily Mail are going to complain about it, but in a room full of Worried Academics it was PROFOUNDLY MOVING. They did a bit before the questions where they said "Don't worry if you get some terminology wrong" and you could feel the GRATITUDE of the whole room. I must admit I got a bit teary in some bits, and there was a big queue afterwards of people wanting to tell them how ace they were.

On Tuesday I CHAIRED a panel on "Comics, caring and parent wellbeing" which felt WEIRDLY like a step back in time, as part of it was done by a PATIENT group collaborating with a HEALTH ACADEMIC, which reminded me of many conferences what I'd been to in my previous life in Health Expectancy. TERRIFYINGLY there weren't many questions at the end, so I had to do most of them as CHAIR - I think it worked out OK, but I didn't half have to concentrate!

My favourite day though was THURSDAY because that was the day I did MY talk, entitled "Why Aren't We Talking About The Beano?" It was all about the FACT that Comics Studies almost NEVER talks about the Beano (e.g. only 0.5% of ALL presentations at IGNCC over the past 10 years have even MENTIONED it, and that's including mine that day!) and looking at reasons why that might be. Partly, I argued, it's because we feel we have to spend more time looking at "Posh Comics" i.e. nice, safe, SERIOUS comics that won't frighten Vice Chancellors or cause THE MEDIA to say "They're spending money reading The Beano!" I wasn't saying we should NEVER look at "Posh Comics" though, and didn't want to single out a particular TEXT for criticism, so made my OWN Posh Comic to show what I meant. Here it is!

Beforehand I had had VISIONS of my INCENDIARY REMARKS inciting a complete upheaval of the field and me being carried out on shoulders as we set off to tear down THE ESTABLISHMENT. It didn't QUITE go like that, but everyone did LARF at my jokes, and I was VERY RELIEVED INDEED that people seemed to agree with me, ESPECIALLY some of the Pioneers Of Comics Studies who were in attendance. PHEW!

The only real downside to all this was at the end of the day when I had SEVERAL pints of BEER to celebrate and ended up sat in a (very nice) pub telling various COLLEAGUES that "I AM AN INTERNATIONAL ROCK STAR". I mean, it's true, OBVS, but I think it might have been better if I hadn't said it QUITE so many times.

Other than that it was a LOVELY week with much THORT and IDEAS and even PLANS for exciting future projects. I'm VERY much looking forward to next year already, but this time I think I'll a) stay in a hotel again and b) try NOT to have quite so much beer on an empty stomach!

posted 9/7/2023 by MJ Hibbett

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