There has been an unusually long silence on this weblog, but for a good reason: two months ago, the evaluation reports for the PhD thesis I had submitted in late August 2020 arrived at long last, and then I had to prepare for my viva voce a.k.a. oral defense a.k.a. disputatio – which I passed on June 30. Hooray! (Or should I say, yatta!)
However, my journey towards a PhD is far from over, as I still need to turn the thesis into a book. I’m already negotiating a deal with a publisher, and when the book is available I’ll make sure to advertise it here. In the meantime, regular blogging (at approximately 1 post per month) will resume shortly, so stay tuned.
After many long years in which there seemed to be hardly any progress at all, my dissertation about English and German manga translations in the late 1980s and early 90s is now completed. Last week I submitted it to Heidelberg University.
When I started this weblog in 2012, I had thought it was going to be a ‘watch a PhD thesis grow’ type of journal, but I quickly abandoned that idea and blogged about all kinds of other things instead. So even if my journey towards a PhD is slowly but surely coming to its end, The 650-Cent Plague isn’t going away. Regular readers might have noticed that the posting frequency has recently slowed down from two posts per month to one. Nevertheless, I still enjoy writing these blogposts and I’m already looking forward to the next instalments of the regular series, such as the horror manga review for Halloween, the year-end best-of list in December, the Women’s History Month theory post in March, and the Warren Ellis politics post on May 1.
Plus, if and when my PhD thesis gets turned into a book, rest assured that you’ll read about it here.
If one year for a dog equals seven years for a human, then five years in ‘Internet years’ equals… a long time. I started this weblog on January 15, 2012 and published two posts a month ever since. A look back on the first two years is already available, so here are some facts from the WordPress statistics about The 650-Cent Plague in 2014-2016:
- For some reason, 2014 is still the most popular year with 9% more visitors than in 2015 and 3% more than in 2016.
- The blog post with the most hits in these three years is still my completely off-topic review of Luzia Simons’s and Sarah Jones’s flower photography, probably due to reasons outlined in my 2nd anniversary post. However, its number of hits is declining from year to year, while the second most popular post, on Erwin Panofsky, is on the rise. The post with the 3rd most hits is the one on Heinrich Wölfflin, which makes me like to think that people might be interested in this whole ‘theory in comics’ series. So maybe I’ll write some more of this stuff this year.
- Most visitors come from the US, followed by Germany. So far, so predictable, but what baffles me is that Germany is closely followed by France (UK on 4th place, Canada on 5th). There has been almost twice as much traffic from France than from the UK!
- By far the most requested image is
gayyoung Ozymandias and his “… aquaintance” from Before Watchmen.
- Apart from image links, most outward traffic from The 650-Cent Plague goes to www.manganet.de, the website of German publisher Egmont Manga (which they seem to have changed to http://www.egmont-manga.de recently). In contrast to e.g. Marvel and DC, their manga series URLs are relatively stable, so I don’t hesitate to include them in manga reviews.
What will I write about at The 650-Cent Plague in the future? Well, is there anything you would like to read here? Tell me in the comments!
According to the traffic statistics provided by WordPress, the series of “[theory] – in comics?” posts is one of the most popular (or rather, least unpopular) parts of this weblog. I even keep returning to them myself to remember what I read. However, I admit they’re not easy to find: even when using a tag or category, you have to scroll down a long page of posts displayed in chronological order of posting. Wouldn’t it be good to have an index in which you could see all of these posts at a glance, and in a more meaningful order? Or better still, several indices? Here you are: last name | keyword | year of publication | title | comics creator | comic title
Alphabetical by last name:
- Alpers, Svetlana
- Anderson, Benedict
- Appadurai, Arjun
- Assmann, Jan
- Barthes, Roland (1, 2)
- Bellour, Raymond
- Bhabha, Homi K.
- Butler, Judith
- Danto, Arthur
- Foster, Hal (1, 2)
- Foucault, Michel
- Gombrich, Ernst
- Hutcheon, Linda
- Jameson, Fredric
- Krauss, Rosalind E.
- Nochlin, Linda
- Owens, Craig (1, 2)
- Panofsky, Erwin
- Pollock, Griselda
- Riegl, Alois
- Ryan, Marie-Laure
- Sontag, Susan
- Wickhoff, Franz
- Wölfflin, Heinrich
- Zschocke, Nina
Alphabetical by keywords (with which the posts are not necessarily tagged):
- Albertian mode of representation (Alpers)
- borderless panels (Barthes)
- centrifugal vs. centripetal (Krauss)
- characteristic shape (Gombrich)
- cinema / other cinema / autre cinéma (Bellour)
- colonial imitation (Bhabha)
- colour / local colour (Gombrich)
- commonplace objects (Danto)
- complementary method of narration (Wickhoff)
- confusion (Bellour)
- continuous method of narration (Wickhoff)
- counter-sites (Foucault)
- cultural memory (Assmann)
- depth (Wölfflin, Jameson)
- descriptive mode of representation (Alpers)
- deviation (Foucault)
- discursivity (Foster/Owens, Foster, Owens)
- exploded story (Bellour)
- fallen woman (Nochlin)
- feminism (Owens, Pollock)
- fragmented perception (Bellour)
- gender performativity (Butler)
- global cultural economy (Appadurai)
- grids (Krauss)
- group portrait (Riegl)
- heterotopia (Foucault)
- hybridisation (Owens)
- illusion (Gombrich)
- imagined community (Anderson)
- irritated gaze (Zschocke)
- isolating method of narration (Wickhoff)
- isometric projection (Panofsky)
- memory (Assmann)
- message, linguistic/literal/symbolic (Barthes)
- mimetic routine (Assmann)
- mimicry (Bhabha)
- modernity at large (Appadurai)
- modes of representation (Alpers)
- narration (Wickhoff)
- narrative (Ryan)
- nation (Anderson)
- neoconservative postmodernism (Foster)
- northern mode of representation (Alpers)
- other spaces (Foucault)
- packages (Barthes)
- pain (Sontag)
- perception, fragmented (Bellour)
- performative acts (Butler)
- perspective (Panofsky)
- plane and recession (Wölfflin)
- polyvision (Bellour)
- postmodernism (Foster/Owens, Foster, Owens, Jameson, Hutcheon)
- poststructuralist postmodernism (Foster)
- recession (Wölfflin)
- representation (Alpers)
- rites (Assmann)
- segmentation (Bellour)
- self-reference (Danto)
- semiotics (Barthes)
- subjectivism, subordination, symbolism (Riegl)
- symbolic form, perspective as (Panofsky)
- vanishing point perspectival system (Panofsky)
- visual irritation (Zschocke)
- war (Sontag)
- Woman (Pollock)
Chronological by year of original publication or writing:
- 1895 (Wickhoff)
- 1902 (Riegl)
- 1915 (Wölfflin)
- 1927 (Panofsky)
- 1960 (Gombrich)
- 1964 (Barthes)
- 1967/1984 (Foucault)
- 1970 (Barthes)
- 1978 (Nochlin)
- 1979 (Krauss)
- 1980 (Owens)
- 1981 (Danto, Krauss)
- 1983 (Alpers, Anderson, Foster, Owens, Pollock)
- 1984 (Bhabha, Jameson)
- 1985 (Foster)
- 1988 (Hutcheon, Butler)
- 1992 (Assmann)
- 1996 (Appadurai)
- 2000 (Bellour)
- 2003 (Sontag)
- 2006 (Zschocke)
- 2007 (Ryan)
Alphabetical by title:
- The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism (Owens)
- The Anti-Aesthetic. Essays on Postmodern Culture (Foster)
- Art and Illusion (Gombrich)
- Cultural memory and early civilization. Writing, remembrance, and political imagination (Assmann)
- The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism (Owens)
- Empire of Signs (Barthes)
- Grids (Krauss)
- The Group Portraiture of Holland (Riegl)
- Das holländische Gruppenporträt (Riegl)
- Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Anderson)
- Interpretation without Representation, or, the Viewing of Las Meninas (Alpers)
- Der irritierte Blick: Kunstrezeption und Aufmerksamkeit (Zschocke)
- Lost and Found: Once More the Fallen Woman (Nochlin)
- Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse (Bhabha)
- Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Appadurai)
- The Originality of the Avant-Garde (Krauss)
- Of an other cinema (Bellour)
- Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias (Foucault)
- Packages (Barthes)
- Performative Acts of Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory (Butler)
- Perspective as Symbolic Form (Panofsky)
- A Poetics of Postmodernism (Hutcheon)
- (Post)Modern Polemics (Foster)
- Postmodernism: A Preface (Foster)
- Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Jameson)
- Principles of Art History (Wölfflin)
- Regarding the Pain of Others (Sontag)
- Rhetoric of the Image (Barthes)
- Toward a definition of narrative (Ryan)
- The Transfiguration of the Commonplace. A Philosophy of Art (Danto)
- Die Wiener Genesis (Wickhoff)
- Women, Art, and Ideology: Questions for Feminist Art Historians (Pollock)
Alphabetical by last name of comics creator:
- Aki Eda (Nochlin)
- Arreola, Ulises (Gombrich)
- Azuma, Kiyohiko (Barthes)
- Cooke, Darwyn (Krauss)
- Davis, Jim (Assmann)
- tom Dieck, Martin (Zschocke)
- Farazmand, Reza (Danto)
- Hamazaki, Tatsuya (Wölfflin)
- Hernandez Walta, Gabriel (Appadurai, Panofsky)
- Ishinomori, Shōtarō (Foster/Owens)
- Izumi, Rei (Wölfflin)
- Janin, Mikel (Gombrich)
- King, Tom (Appadurai)
- Kita, Kyōta (Alpers)
- Koike, Kazuo (Foucault)
- Kojima, Gōseki (Foucault)
- Miller, Frank (Butler)
- Milligan, Peter (Gombrich)
- Morrison, Grant (Foster, Owens)
- Nagai, Gō (Bhabha)
- Nagayasu, Takumi (Anderson)
- Nakazawa, Keiji (Alpers)
- Nihei, Tsutomu (Wölfflin)
- Nishi, J. P. (Wickhoff)
- Ogata, Keiko (Alpers)
- Ōtomo, Katsuhiro (Anderson)
- Reis, Ivan (Foster, Owens, Riegl)
- Revel, Brahm (Hutcheon)
- Rowntree, Winston (Bellour)
- Sacco, Joe (Jameson)
- Shiina, Karuho (Barthes, Krauss)
- Shirow, Masamune (Ryan, Sontag)
- Yang, Gene Luen (Riegl)
- Yukimaru, Moe (Pollock)
Alphabetical by comic title:
- .hack//Legend of the Twilight (Wölfflin)
- À Nous Deux, Paris! (Wickhoff)
- Appleseed (Sontag)
- Astonishing X-Men (Panofsky)
- Azumanga Daioh (Barthes)
- Barefoot Gen (Alpers)
- Batman/Superman (Riegl)
- Black Magic (Ryan)
- Bonnouji (Nochlin)
- DC: The New Frontier (Krauss)
- Devilman (Bhabha)
- Garfield (Assmann)
- Guerillas (Hutcheon)
- Hadashi no Gen (Alpers)
- Haine / Heine (Alpers)
- Japan Inc. (Foster/Owens)
- Justice League Dark (Gombrich)
- Kimi ni Todoke (Barthes, Krauss)
- Knights of Sidonia (Wölfflin)
- Kozure Ōkami (Foucault)
- The Legend of Mother Sarah (Anderson)
- Lone Wolf and Cub (Foucault)
- The Multiversity (Foster, Owens)
- L’Oud Silencieux (Zschocke)
- Palestine (Jameson)
- Paris aishiteruze (Wickhoff)
- Poorly Drawn Lines (Danto)
- Rōnin (Butler)
- Sarah (Anderson)
- Die schweigende Laute (Zschocke)
- Shidonia no Kishi (Wölfflin)
- Subnormality (Bellour)
- Suisai (Pollock)
- The Vision (Appadurai)
These lists will be continuously updated.
A little bit delayed, but here are the final items on the list:
Now that I’ve seen part of the adorable anime series, I keep wondering what Kiyohiko Azuma’s manga Azumanga Daioh looks like (or, generally, how a yon-koma (4-panel strip) manga can be adapted into a continuous anime at all). This might be the next comic I’ll buy.
As a child I read a lot of Franco-Belgian humorous adventure comics, many of which I only borrowed from the library instead of buying them (or having them bought for me). One of these series was Les petits hommes by Pierre Seron. I vaguely remember that it wasn’t that great, but apparently there are many more albums in this series than I’ve actually read. Maybe I should give it a second chance.
And that’s it. I almost managed to finish this ’30 day comic challenge’ in time. Looking back, I realise that this format has some issues, mainly because some of the items on the original “30 day song challenge” list don’t translate well into comics. Furthermore, the list items would be more interesting if they weren’t so personal – “a song that reminds you …”, “a song that makes you …” – because you can’t really argue about these things. Instead, I would have preferred less subjective and more absolute statements, e.g. “the longest song/comic you know”, or “the song/comic that best represents globalisation” (or what have you), “the song/comic with the most unexpected twist”, etc. Who knows, I might create my own “30 day comics challenge” one day.
I hardly ever blog about French-language comics, so some people might think I don’t like them. But I do, actually – Donjon by Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar, for instance, is even on my top 10 favourite comics list.
Day 16 – A
song comic that holds a lot of meaning to you
Civil War by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven was the first comic I’ve written about in a scholarly article, so naturally this comic has a lot of meaning to me.
Day 17 – A
song comic that annoys you
Comics can be annoying in a lot of different ways. It’s annoying when you have wasted time reading a comic you don’t like, or wasted money purchasing a copy. It’s annoying when other people or advertisements tell you how great a certain comic is, when you have already found out you don’t like it. Rather than merely being disappointed with a comic that you’ve read once and tossed away for good, however, annoyance is more of a perpetual nuisance: an annoying comic just keeps popping up and demanding your attention. For the last couple of months, Hajime Isayama’s Shingeki no Kyojin a.k.a. Attack on Titan has been that annoying comic for me. Although no one could possibly expect this manga to live up to the enourmous hype surrounding it, one is at the same time tempted to think, “millions of readers can’t be wrong, right?”. So I thought I’d give this series a chance and at least read the first volume. I did, and annoyed I was. With other best-selling shōnen manga, I can at least understand why other people like it, even though I don’t like them much myself: One Piece is genuinely funny, Naruto is well drawn – but Shingeki no Kyojin is neither, nor has it any other redeeming qualities. Still, now that the live-action film adaptation is around the corner, there seems to be no end to the hype.
Day 18 – A
song comic you have as your ringtone/want to be your ringtone desktop background image
My computer desktops still have their standard operating system images, but the other day I was tempted for a moment to change that when a nice wallpaper image of Kozue Chiba’s Koi toka, kiss toka, karada toka was posted on I Love Shojo (see also my blogpost about ILS). Then again, I haven’t read this manga yet, and I didn’t even like Kozue Chiba’s Crayon Days much (see my short review), so ultimately I left my desktops as they were.
Day 19 – A
song comic you’re currently obsessed with
Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s Akira will probably play an important part in the PhD thesis I’m writing, so I currently spend more time reading this comic (and reading about it) than any other.
Day 20 – A
song comic episode from a new album collection you are waiting for to come out
Day 21 – A
song comic you want to dance to read at your wedding
I’m not sure how the hypothetical bride would feel about this, but Action Comics #1 would certainly make a nice wedding present. On the other hand, it may be a bit too long to be read at the wedding right away. So how about a 1986 Sunday strip of Calvin & Hobbes, watercoloured by Bill Watterson himself, instead?
Day 08 – A
song comic you liked when you were younger
I’m still fond of many comics I liked as a child. A series I don’t quite like as much now as I think I did back then is Hägar the Horrible, still drawn by Dik Browne at that time. Some gags will always be hilarious, but many are not. Often, Browne simply ignored the Viking setting and made dull jokes about marriage and taxes instead. Current strips (by Chris Browne) can be read at hagarthehorrible.com.
Day 09 – A
song comic that makes you want to dance draw
Granted, “draw” isn’t exactly to “comic” as “dance” is to “song”, but I couldn’t think of a better analogy, and at least the transfer from passive reception to activity is retained. Initially I was thinking of comics that represent the act of drawing, such as Kozue Chiba’s Crayon Days (briefly reviewed here), but one of the few comics that actually made me pick up pencil and paper was Civil War: X-Men. The drawings of penciller Yanick Paquette and inker Serge Lapointe make use of clear outlines and compact shadows, with often only minimal parallel hatching, which makes them relatively easy to copy. It’s not as if the colouring (by Stephane Peru) wasn’t good, but the quality of the pencil and ink drawings is palpable even in the finished comic.
Day 10 – A
song comic that makes you cry
Although I can’t say it actually made me cry, I remember a scene early in Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant as a striking rendering of sadness and despair: Prince Valiant (and that other guy, Prince Arn) mourning the death of Ilene. That must have been around episode #80, from 1938.
Day 11 – A
song comic that reminds you of summer
While some episodes of Jirō Taniguchi’s The Walking Man are clearly set in other seasons, some most likely take place in summer, e.g. “Night Swimming”. Generally, taking a walk or aimlessly wandering around (which is what this comic is all about) is more fun when it’s warm and bright.
Day 12 – A
song comic that reminds you of your best friend
Back in school, Pat Mills’s Sláine was popular among me and my friends, particularly the albums of Simon Bisley’s run. That was at the same time when Braveheart became a cult film among us, and when listening to Irish folk music and drinking mead became fashionable.
Day 13 – A
song comic you sing to read in the shower bathroom
Currently there’s a “Snoopy & die Peanuts” collection (i.e. late Peanuts, originally from the mid-80s) that a flatmate put there. I think I’ll read some of it eventually, although I don’t like what I’ve read so far.
Day 14 – A
song comic you like hearing being read live
Uli Oesterle’s reading of Hector Umbra, which I think took place around the time it was re-released by Carlsen (2009), was great fun. He even had a DJ with him (which is only fitting, as there is also a DJ in the story).
Instead of just making other people take on the “30 day song challenge”, I’m going to try it myself. However, just like Paul Downey, I’ll replace “song” with something more suitable for this weblog. In my case, that would be “comic”, of course. Here are entries #1-7:
Day 01 – A
song comic that makes you happy
This already raises a tricky question. What exactly is it about a comic that can make you happy? The process of reading it? The memories of having read it? Owning a copy of it? Looking forward to reading it? And would it be enough for such a comic to be simply good (whatever that means), or should that comic have a specific emotional appeal in order to elicit happiness? Intuitively, I think I’ll simply pick Karuho Shiina’s Kimi ni todoke (the first two volumes of which I’ve briefly reviewed here in February) because it works on all of these levels. It’s a series that succeeds in letting its readers join its protagonist on a rollercoaster ride of feelings, so when Sawako finds happiness, why shouldn’t the readers be happy too?
Day 02 – A
song comic that helps you clear your head
Although I haven’t done any research on this, I’d wager that “clearing one’s head” is one of the more under-theorised concepts in the field of reception aesthetics. I imagine this “clearing” works like this: first you become so absorbed in a work that your mind is completely taken off of everything else, but after the act of reception you find it easy to focus on something else again – your head is clear. To cause such an effect, I guess a comic should be easily accessible, but maybe also have a certain abstractness and superficiality (in a good way), so that it doesn’t preoccupy you for hours after reading it. A comic that works well in this respect is Reza Farazmand’s often surreal webcomic Poorly Drawn Lines.
Day 03 – A
song comic that makes you laugh
I found Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui to be surprisingly funny. Nicholas Theisen blogged about it last year, but it was only recently published in German.
Day 04 – A
song comic that reminds you of something sad
Comics in which sad events take place are likely to remind readers of similar events in real life. In Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw, for instance, many sad things happen to the characters, some of which surely many readers can relate to.
Day 05 – A
song comic that has a new meaning to you every time you hear read it
Gudrun Penndorf’s presentation at the comics translation conference in Hildesheim last month reminded me that there are still some references in Goscinny’s and Uderzo’s Asterix that I don’t get. Every time I read an Asterix album nowadays, though, I wonder how little I must have understood when I last read them.
Day 06 – A
song comic you can always relate to
I find most of Mawil’s semi-autobiographical comics easy to relate to. In particular, the events depicted in Die Band should feel almost eerily familiar to any reader who has ever played in a band. It has been translated into Spanish (La banda) and English (The Band).
Day 07 – A
song comic that is your guilty pleasure
While I don’t feel much guilt about any comic I read, sometimes people are surprised when they learn that an adult man regularly reads shōjo manga. I particularly enjoy high-school romance stories, a favourite of mine being Masami Tsuda’s Kare Kano.
This blog post marks two anniversaries: I started this weblog two years ago (on January 15, with a review of the now-defunct manga magazine Daisuki), and this is also the 50th post. That means, for two years I’ve been publishing two posts per month here. On this occasion, I thought a look back might be appropriate. WordPress provides detailed traffic statistics, so here are five ‘fun’ facts about The 650-Cent Plague:
- Even if we bear in mind that web traffic statistics are always to be interpreted with caution, and that the number of hits isn’t equal to the number of people who have read a blog post, it boils down to: virtually no one is reading this.
- The people who did read this weblog probably didn’t find what they were looking for: most traffic comes via Google, and the most frequent search terms were related to the flower photographs of either Sarah Jones or Luzia Simons. Given that these searches were for the most part performed on Google Images, it seems likely that those visitors were simply looking for images by these two artists (which are available in better quality at the artists’ websites, anyway), rather than my short comparison of their art on the occasion of the Goslar exhibition.
- Another source of relatively high traffic was Facebook. I don’t have a Facebook account myself, but Robin Vehrs kindly posted a link to my review of his comic on Facebook. This resulted in the highest hits-per-day number in the history of The 650-Cent Plague (on August 4, 2012). The downside is: some people left comments pertaining to my review on Facebook, and I don’t have the chance to reply. Still not loving Facebook.
- Anyway, the real currency in blogging are not hits, but comments. And the comment numbers for this weblog are dismal. Still, thank you, everyone who left a comment here – all five of you.
- Having hardly any readers wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t take me so much time to write a blog post. I keep track of such things in a spreadsheet, and the average time spent on a post is almost 3 hours (not counting the time I spend reading the texts I write about).
That being said, I still think blogging is a good exercise for any scholar. It helps me thinking about things, expressing that in writing, and remembering them. So I guess I’ll continue ‘talking into the void’ at The 650-Cent Plague for the time being. Any suggestions for how to make this weblog more interesting are highly welcome, of course.