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Giving Comics Back to Children

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In 1954 a group of schoolchildren from the Gorbals district of Glasgow ran amok in the Southern Necropolis following sightings of an iron-toothed vampire. Media reaction was intense, with local notables and members of the Kirk quick to blame imported horror comics.

With the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s came a social and cultural revolution in comics: Robert Crumb’s Underground put political taboos above board, and Barbarella went from strips to stripping.

Today, we no longer need to justify the reading of comics as a grown-up intellectual pursuit. But included in the span of possibilities that they create comes that of pedagogy. Frank Quitely’s version of the Gorbals Vampire was to be used in partnership with the Citizens Theatre for an outreach production, comic exhibitions might have a ‘red curtain’ adults-only area, but they also have a children’s section, and Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (2006), complete with references to Ellis Island and Hieronymus Bosch, is on school syllabi worldwide.

In this talk, Professor Grove sketches a history of children and comics in the modern world, attending to when comics were and weren’t for children—and when comics were and weren’t good for children.

Laurence Grove is Professor of French and Text/Image Studies and Director of the Stirling Maxwell Centre for the Study of Text/Image Cultures at the University of Glasgow. His research focuses on historical aspects of text/image forms, and in particular bande dessinée (French comics). He is President of the International Bande Dessinée Society (‘www.arts.gla.ac.uk/ibds’). As well as serving on the consultative committees of a number of journals, he is joint-editor of European Comic Art. Laurence Grove has authored (in full or jointly) eleven books and approximately sixty chapters or articles. He co-curated Comic Invention and Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics and is co-author of their accompanying books. He is currently working towards the creation of a National Comics Centre for Scotland.

This talk is part of the Children's Literature series.

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