The International Comic Arts Forum will hold their 18th annual conference at the Inn at USC Wyndham Garden this weekend from April 14 to 16.
The International Comic Arts Forum, or ICAF, describes itself as “an annual academic conference dedicated to promoting the scholarly study and appreciation of comic art, including comic strips, comic books, comics albums and graphic novels, magazine and newspaper cartooning, caricature and comics in electronic media.”
According to Qiana Whitted, site liaison, ICAF executive committee member and professor here, this is the first time the ICAF has hosted the event in the South.
"We’ve tried to feature scholarly presentations and special guest artists who have ties to this region and its culture," Whitted said, "without losing sight of our international scope.”
There will be over 45 presentations from creators on subjects ranging from analyzing a specific comic work, such as “Preacher,” to representation of minorities in comics.
The list of guests includes a number of well-known creators such as Howard Cruse, who won an Eisner Award for his graphic novel “Stuck Rubber Baby,” which is described as “an unflinching portrayal of a homosexual white man growing up during the civil rights era.”
Perhaps the biggest name on the guest list is South Carolina resident Roy Thomas, who is known for his long career writing for both Marvel and DC and taking over from Stan Lee as Marvel’s second editor-in-chief in 1972. If you enjoyed last year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” you can thank this man for creating the psychotic artificial intelligence of Ultron back in 1968.
However, the general public seems to be stuck in the mindset that comics are a juvenile form of literature and entertainment, despite the massive success of comic book movies over the past decade.
“It’s no secret that many people believe that comics are only for kids — and in fact, some of the best ones are!" Whitted said. "But the scholars who discuss their work at ICAF don’t allow misconceptions about comics to prevent them from scrutinizing the stories with the same depth of analysis that we regularly apply to literature, film, or visual art.”
In the same way, a lot of people do not know that there are far more genres than just the superhero genre in today’s comics.
“Superheroes may be what made the medium so popular, but the combination of words and pictures can focus on fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, memoir, slice-of-life, history, and much more," Whitted said. "As evidence, consider the autobiographical comics of ICAF guest artist Dominique Goblet from Belgium or YA (young adult literature) creator Cece Bell whose comic book persona in the graphic novel 'El Deafo' turns a hearing impairment into a superpower.”
The genres of comic books are just as abundant as the genres of literature or film. Classic superheroes from Marvel and DC may still hold the market share, but there are numerous types of comics to get into.
If you are interested in learning more about the ever-growing comic medium, or can already name the seven founding members of the Justice League and just want an in-depth analysis of other works, the International Comics Arts Forum is here for you. The event will be free for all three days, and more information, including an in-depth schedule, can be found at the official ICAF website.