The Comic Studies Society (CSS), one of the premier academic communities dedicated to comic studies, will hold its fifth annual conference at Michigan State University from July 28-30 this year. Supported by MSU’s Department of English, the MSU College of Arts & Letters Office of the Dean, and MSU Libraries, the conference is part of a multi-year agreement that will bring the CSS to MSU on a triannual basis. Future CSS conferences will return to MSU in 2025, 2028, and beyond.
Scholars attending the CSS Conference will have the opportunity to engage with the world’s largest publicly accessible collection of comic books, the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections at MSU Libraries, which holds more than 450,000 printed works, manuscript and archival collections, and ephemera.
“The Comics Studies Society is delighted to be gathering in person at MSU, following a canceled and online conference, for many reasons: this is our first year of a collaboration between CSS and MSU that will have us return there for future conferences, and we’re especially pleased to bring our members to the site of one of the world’s largest comics libraries and archives,” said Corey Creekmur, CSS Conference Committee Chair. “We anticipate many of our members may arrive early or stay after the conference to conduct research there.”
The incredible size of MSU’s Comic Art Collection will allow conference attendees to dive deeper into their research and explore a wider range of questions. It also will help facilitate a global conversation among comic scholars about the collection and research conducted at MSU.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring the scholars that care to a place that has resources and an established legacy in a way that’s really meaningful.”Julian Chambliss, Professor of English at MSU
“Having such a vast collection means that for almost any question we might think of there’s probably some way to explore it in the collection right now,” said Julian Chambliss, Professor of English at MSU, who helped bring the CSS Conference to campus. “It’s a great opportunity to bring the scholars that care to a place that has resources and an established legacy in a way that’s really meaningful.”
Conference Theme and Keynote Speakers
The proximity of the Comic Art Collection led to the conference’s theme, “Collections, Archives, Cultures,” which focuses on several key questions: How do comics communities, creators, and/or texts contribute to the creation of necessary counter-narratives within comic studies? How do we attend to archival gaps, distortions, and silences? How have communities formed around these goals? How can often-marginalized communities in turn begin to change the cultures of the discipline?
“Because of the collection, we selected a conference theme that encouraged our members to address those broad concerns, and we selected two keynote speakers, Karen Green of Columbia University, and the comics writer/artist John ‘Derf’ Backderf, who will speak to this topic from their unique perspectives,” Creekmur said. “Overall, there’s no better location than MSU for a conference on comics.”
Backderf is a Cleveland-based, award-winning creator of the graphic novels Punk Rock & Trailer Parks (2010), My Friend Dahmer (2012), Trashed (2015), and Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio (2020). He has won two Eisner Awards, a Ringo Award, two Alex Awards from the American Library Association, an Angouleme Prize, and a Robert F. Kennedy Award for political cartooning. He also is the creator of the long-running comic strip The City (1990-2014). His work has been featured in many gallery and museum exhibitions.
“This exciting event will maximize the visibility of the MSU Library’s Comic Art Collection and enhance the reputation of MSU as a destination for the scholarly study of comics and popular culture.”Justus Nieland, Chairperson of MSU’s Department of English
Green is a Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia University. Since 2005, she has been instrumental in building a collection and archives that now include the original art and papers of Chris Claremont, Al Jaffee, Howard Cruse, Jerry Robinson, S. Clay Wilson, Wendy and Richard Pini, and Kitchen Sin Press, among others. Green is highly active and visible at comics conferences and conventions and has been a judge for the Eisner Awards and the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning and co-produced the documentary She Makes Comics (2014).
“The Department of English is delighted that Dr. Chambliss is bringing the Comics Studies Society conference to MSU,” said Justus Nieland, Chairperson of the Department of English. “This exciting event will maximize the visibility of the MSU Library’s Comic Art Collection and enhance the reputation of MSU as a destination for the scholarly study of comics and popular culture. It will also offer a great opportunity for our students to engage with leading scholars and artists in this booming field.”