Past Workshops
Disciplining Comics

Disciplining Comics


  • James Danky (Journalism and Mass Communication)
  • Adam L. Kern (East Asian Languages and Literature)
  • Vanessa Lauber (English)
  • Leah Misemer (English)

ContactAdam Kern or Leah Misemer

The Mellon Comics Workshop provides the community of students, scholars, artists, and other interested parties with a shared intellectual space to explore questions about comics broadly defined (bande dessinée, comic books, comic strips, graphic novels, manga, political and editorial cartoons, underground comix, web comics, and myriad other forms of visual-verbal narrative). The primary goal of the workshop is to engage this community in a meaningful dialogue about the intellectual, institutional, and disciplinary challenges confronting the emerging field of Comics Studies in order to evaluate the exciting possibility of launching such a program at UW-Madison.

The central questions for the workshop thus revolve around the challenge of how Comics Studies might best be disciplined: How might Comics Studies avoid the pitfalls encountered by other genre- or media-specific fields in their early stages? How might interconnections with animation, film, literature, and computer games be explored and stimulated? How have such interconnections—particularly in the age of web comics—changed the very notion of comics? Does it make any difference how comics are defined and by whom? How can we map a disciplinary field that is emerging only now? How do comics work within, apart from, and against established literary and artistic canons and academic disciplines? How can the real pedagogical potential of comics (not unlike computer games) be more fully realized? How might educational comics, infographics, and the like be used to communicate with a general audience, to reach at-risk youths, to disseminate important information about public health and safety? How can creating one’s own comics not only provide an expressive voice but augment an intellectual understanding of these issues?

For more information about the Comics workshop see our Facebook page.


Contact Leah Misemer for information about events and to access password protected documents.

You may also learn more about our events on our Facebook page.




Lector Leaps In: The Confluence of Comics, Games, and Theater in 19th Century Japan

Glynne Walley

Friday, May 1, 2015 @ 3pm
Van Hise Hall, Room 104, 1220 Linden Drive.

Boards for the game sugoroku were one of the most popular forms of woodblock-printed ephemera in 19th-century Japan. Like modern board games, this format lent itself to tie-ins with other forms of mass culture, including the ever-popular kabuki theater. This talk will explore one of these gameboards, showing how it combines the mechanics of gameplay with the visual-verbal narrative logic of comics to provide fans with a total immersion in the celebrity-obsessed world of the theater.

Glynne Walley is Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Oregon. He received his PhD from Harvard University. He specializes in popular fiction of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is currently working on a book-length study of Eight Dogs (Hakkenden), a masterpiece of the early 19th century Japanese novel. He has also translated several works of contemporary Japanese popular fiction, including Suzuki Kōji’s Ring series.

This event is free and open to the public. Sponsored by the UW-Madison A.W. Mellon Workshop on Comics, a program of the Center for the Humanities with generous support from the A. W. Mellon Foundation, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature.


Monkey Business: New Writing From Japan
Public Reading and Reception

Thursday, April 30, 2015
5:30 - 7:00pm  Public Talk, Van Hise Room 104
7:00 - 8:00pm Free Dinner Reception, 14th Floor Lounge, Van Hise
1220 Linden Drive

This event is free and open to the public. 

Members of the Japanese literary journal Monkey Business will perform a public reading in English translation of the recent works of a popular avant-garde author, Ms. Aoko Matsuda, and an award-winning picture book author-illustrator, Mr. Satoshi Kitamura. 

The moderators are the journal’s primary editor and founder, Professor Emeritus Motoyuki Shibata (University of Tokyo), and editor Mr. Roland Kelts (writer for The New Yorker and The Japan Times as well as author of the highly regarded book Japanamerica). 

The event will be hosted by Professors Adam L. Kern (UW-Madison) and Glynne Walley (UO-Eugene).

An NPR interview with Roland and a short video on "Monkey Business" in NYC.

Aoko MATSUDA is one of the most promising young Japanese novelists today. She has published two collections of short stories, and has also translated Karen Russell’s story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Among English translations of her work are “Photographs Are Images,” which was translated by Jeffrey Angles and is included in the latest issue of Monkey Business, as well as “Planting,” which was translated by Angus Turvill and appeared in Japan Earthquake Charity Literature, a project by the literary journal Waseda Bungaku.

Satoshi KITAMURA is an award-winning picture-book artist and illustrator. His own books include When Sheep Cannot Sleep: The Counting Book, Millie’s Marvelous Hat, and Lily Takes a Walk. He has worked with numerous artists and poets, especially with poet John Agard, with whom he has collaborated a number of books including The Young Inferno and Goldilocks on CCTV. Kitamura has contributed to the latest issue of Monkey Business “Variation and Theme,” a picture narrative inspired by a poem by Charles Simic.

Roland KELTS is author of the best-selling Japanamerica (2007), and his articles, essays and stories have been published in The New Yorker, Time, Zoetrope: All Story, The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal, A Public Space, Newsday, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Yomiuri and The Japan Times among others. He is contributing editor to Monkey Business, a literary journal focused on contemporary Japanese writing.

Motoyuki SHIBATA taught American literature and literary translation at the University of Tokyo until 2014. Among others, he has translated Paul Auster, Rebecca Brown, Stuart Dybek, Steve Erickson, Laird Hunt, Kelly Link, Steven Millhauser, Richard Powers, and Charles Simic. He is one of the founding editors of Monkey Business.

Sponsored by the Japanese Student Association, the Anonymous Fund, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, the University Lectures Committee, the UW-Madison A.W. Mellon Workshop on Comics, the Center for the Humanities, the Center for East Asian Studies at UW-Madison, the Nippon Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature.


Co-Sponsored Panel: Asian American Women in Comics

Thursday, April 23, 2015 @ Time TBA
Location TBA. Check Facebook page for updates or send an email to

The Mellon Comics Workshop is proud to co-sponsor a panel on Asian American women in the comics industry, with comics artists Hellen Jo ( and Julia Kuo ( 

The panel is part of "Asian American Heritage Week," sponsored by Asian American Student Union - UW Madison. Hosted by Xee Vue ( and Victoria Lu (

For more information, please send an email to:


Osamu Tezuka and Astro Boy: Creating the Modern Manga/Anime Complex

Fred Schodt

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 @ 4pm
Van Hise Hall, Room 104, 1220 Linden Drive

Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) is often referred to in Japan as the “God of manga.” In this illustrated talk, Fred will discuss how Osamu Tezuka’s greatest contribution was to create a framework for the modern manga and anime industries, now at the core of the entire “Cool Japan” movement. In the process, Fred will cover the history of both Tezuka and Mighty Atom, or “Astro Boy,” and highlight the development of manga and anime as global entertainment media.

Frederik L. Schodt is an award-winning author of numerous non-fiction books on the convergence of Japanese and American popular cultures. He is also a well-known translator of Japanese manga and literature, and a simultaneous conference interpreter in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2009 he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for helping to introduce and promote Japanese contemporary popular culture. His website is (profile @ | biblio @ His latest book is Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan—And Japan to the West.

This event is free and open to the public.


Talk with "Hospital Suite" Creator John Porcellino

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 @ 4:30pm
Memorial Library Room 126

John Porcellino—creator of the spectacular zine King-Cat Comics—will be in town to speak in Colin Gillis's class in the English Department, but has kindly offered to speak to us one evening about his new work, Hospital Suite, that has been drawing major praise from NPRDrawn & Quarterly, etc.

John Porcellino was born in Chicago in 1968, and began drawing and writing at an early age, compiling his work into little hand-made booklets. His acclaimed self-published zine, King-Cat Comics and Stories, begun in 1989, has found a devoted worldwide audience, and is one of the most influential comics series of the past twenty years. In the words of cartoonist Chris Ware, "John Porcellino's comics distill, in just a few lines and words, the feeling of simply being alive."

This event is free and open to the public.


Forgotten Superheroes of the 1940s: Or 'What Can We Learn From The Lost Characters Of The First Comic Book Boom?'

Ben Saunders

Friday, March 6th, 2015 @ 3pm
6191 Helen C. White

Superheroes have had a powerful grip on the popular imagination in the United States since the late 1930s. In fact, more than 700 different superheroes were created between 1938 and 1946 during the first boom period of the modern comic book industry (an era known to fans today as “the Golden Age” of comics). Only a tiny handful of those characters have remained in continuous print since that time, however; most are entirely forgotten by the public. 

What can we learn - about the comic book industry of the period and about the psychological, historical, and sexual appeal of the superhero fantasy - by looking at some of these “lost” comic book characters?

Professor Ben Saunders is the author of two book length studies: Desiring Donne (Harvard University Press, 2006) — nominated for best academic title of the year by Choice magazine — and Do The Gods Wear Capes: Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes (Continuum Press, 2011)— a widely cited analysis of classic superhero comics. He is also co-editor (with Roger Beebe and Denise Fulbrook) of Rock Over The Edge: Essays on Contemporary Popular Music (Duke University Press, 2002), and author of numerous shorter writings on different aspects of both early modern and contemporary literature and culture. 

He founded the first Undergraduate Minor in Comics Studies at the University of Oregon in 2011. He was a Special Guest at the San Diego Comic Con in 2012, and has also served as a judge for the Eisner Awards (the comics industry “Oscars”). He is currently working on a major art exhibition and critical anthology devoted to the achievement of the legendary 1950s comic book publishing company known as EC.

This event is free and open to the public.


Lincoln for Beginners

A Reading by Paul Buhle

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 @ 6pm
A Room of One's Own, 315 Gorham Street

UW-Madison AW Mellon Comics Workshop core member Paul Buhle will be reading from his new book, Lincoln for Beginners.

There is no greater symbol of the American presidency than Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln himself, his personality, the sources of his dedication and his idealism, remain very much a mystery. The sudden rise to world stature of a hard-traveling lawyer from the frontier, with no prominent family or social connections to back him, was a wonder of the age. Well over a thousand books about Lincoln have been written and still the enigma remains, perhaps because it is the enigma of a young country finding its footing and its destiny. Yet, no part is deeper, more perplexing, than Lincoln's own beliefs about god and destiny. Featuring a foreword by Pulitzer prize-winning author Eric Foner, Lincoln For Beginners sets to demystify the man behind the legend.

Paul Buhle, formerly a senior lecturer at Brown University, produces radical comics. He founded the SDS Journal Radical America and the archive Oral History of the American Left and, with Mari Jo Buhle, is coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. He lives in Madison.

This event is free and open to the public.



When Are Two Comics the Same Comic? 

Roy T. Cook, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Minnesota

Friday, February 6th, 2015 @ 4pm
University Club 313

A significant amount of work in comic studies has focused on providing a definition of comics - that is, an account sharply demarcating those objects that are comics from those objects that are not. This literature has loosely recapitulated earlier debates regarding definitions of art, with early formalistic accounts (e.g. McCloud) being rejected in favor of historical (e.g. Meskin) or institutional (e.g. Beatty) approaches. After briefly surveying this literature, I will focus attention on a distinct, but intimately related question in the metaphysics of comics: determining when two comic tokens (e.g. individual floppies, or printed strips in newspapers) are in fact instances of the same (multiply instanced) work type. In short, the challenge is to provide identity conditions for comics. This question, like the definitional one, is open to formalistic, historical, and institutional approaches. After a brief examination of how these approaches might work out with respect to the identity conditions question, I will argue that a formalistic approach looks more promising here than it does for the definitional project.

Co-author of the book The Art of Comics: A Philosophical Approach, Roy T. Cook is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota.

This event is free and open to the public.





FALL 2014


Comics as Academic Inquiry

Heather Rosenfeld

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 @ 1:55pm
Social Sciences 2435

Part of the Sociology Gender Brownbag Series. This event is free and open to the public.


Power, Politics, and Comics Studies

Kent Worcester

Monday, December 8th, 2014 @ 5pm
Memorial Library Commons

Historians and specialists in literature and communication arts have played a central role in the development of Comics Studies. This illustrated presentation will investigate the distinctive contributions that political and social theorists can bring to this burgeoning transdisciplinary field. Drawing on a diverse range of cases, Kent Worcester will make the case for a revisionist conception of Comics Studies, one that incorporates the insights and concerns of political and social theory.

Kent Worcester teaches political theory at Marymount Manhattan College. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of eight books, including C.L.R. James: A Political Biography (1996), A Comics Studies Reader (2009), and The Superhero Reader (2013). His recent publications include “Jesse Cohen, Laura Slobe, and the Hidden History of Political Cartooning” (with Ethan Young; International Journal of Comic Art, 2013); “New York City, 9/11 and Comics” (Radical History Review, 2011); “The Punisher and the Politics of Retributive Justice” (Law Text Culture, 2012); and “Graphic Novels in the Social Science Classroom” in Robert Glover and Daniel Tagliarina, eds. Teaching Politics Beyond the Book: Film, Texts and New Media in the Classroom (Bloomsbury, 2012). He also coedited a print symposium with Matthew Costello on “The Politics of the Superhero” that appeared in the quarterly journal PS: Political Science and Politics (January 2014).

This event is free and open to the public.


Crowdsourcing Humor: The New Yorker Caption Contest

An Evening with Bob Mankoff

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 @ 7pm
Wisconsin Discovery Building, DeLuca Forum

Humor is traditionally at the hands of its author. What happens when the audience picks the punchline? Each week, on the last page of the magazine, The New Yorker provides a cartoon in need of a caption. Readers submit captions, the magazine chooses three finalists, readers vote for their favorites. It's humor crowdsourced and with more than 2 million submissionsprovided by 500,000 participants, it provides tremendous insight as to what makes us laugh.

Bob Mankoff, The New Yorker's cartoon editor, will analyze the lessons we learn from crowdsourced humor. Along the way, he'll explore how cartoons work (and sometimes don't); how he makes decisions about what cartoons to include; and what crowds can tell us about a good joke.

This event is free and open to the public.


The Business of Comics

A Discussion with Milt Griepp and Denis Kitchen

September 17, 2014, @ 3:00pm
Helen C. White 6191

Would you like to work in Comics?

Sure comics are wonderful entertainment, maybe you create your own, but have you wondered what it would be like to be part of a billion dollar industry? The Mellon Workshop on Comics presents Milt Griepp, President of ICV2, and Denis Kitchen, of Kitchen Sink Books who will talk about the present state of comics and the career possibilities in the business. Griepp's ICv2 is one of the leading pop culture consultants in the country with particular expertise in graphic novels and manga. Kitchen is among the most significant figures in comics over the last thirty years. His Kitchen Sink Press was one of the leading publishers of alternative comix and his new Kitchen Sink Books is an imprint of Dark Horse comics, publishing large format, heavily illustrated books. Each of our speakers will outline the industry as they see it, leaving plenty of time for your questions.

To RSVP email Leah Misemer at
Join the conversation with #MellonComicsWorkshop on Twitter

Presented in partnership with the Center for Visual Cultures and the Center for Humanities






Comics Studies at UW-Madison: A Panel Discussion

James Danky, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Jessica Gross, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies
Adam Kern, East Asian Languages and Literature
Jon McKenzie, DesignLab and English
Leah Misemer, English Literature

Friday, April 18, 2014 @ 2:00-4:00pm
College Library Media Studios, 2252A & 2252B

Interested in the possibility of launching a Comics Studies program at UW-Madison?  If so, what do you think such a program should include? Make your voice heard! Join the conversation with those on campus whose teaching and research involves comic books, graphic novels, manga, political cartoons, comic strips, and so on.



Organizing Comics! Cartooning Truth to Power

Mike Konopacki

Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 2:00-4:00pm
College Library Media Studios, 2252A & 2252B




Words, Images, and War: Joe Sacco and the Work of Documentary Journalism

Hilary Chute
Keynote Lecture for the MadLit 2014 Conference on "Texts and Violence"

Thursday, February 20, 2014 @ 7:00 pm
Fluno Center Auditorium, 601 University Avenue

This lecture focuses on Joe Sacco's work to examine how graphic narrative is a prominent form for reporting on violence, investigating two related questions. First, what work does the visual articulation of violence do in texts about war? Second, why has drawing re-emerged as a form for reporting on war--after the age of the camera and of film--and what does this tell us about the exigencies and ethics of representation and contemporary literary and journalistic practice.

Comics in Academia: Reading, Writing, Teaching (Workshop)

Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 2:00-4:00pm
College Library Media Studios, 2252A & 2252B



FALL 2013


Children, Comics, and Print Culture

Carol Tilley, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 1:00-3:00pm
College Library Media Studios, 2252A & 2252B





Drawing Words and Speaking Pictures: The Mysterious Thing We Call Comics

Lynda Barry, WID Discovery Fellow

Friday, October 25, 2013 @ 1:00-3:00pm
College Library Media Studios, 2252A & 2252B

Participation is by registration only. To register, e-mail Leah Misemer.





When Comic Books Went Underground: Cartoonists During America's '60s/'70s Counter-Culture

Dennis Kitchen, Jim Danky, and Bruce Ayres

Friday, September 27, 2013 @ 1:00-3:00pm
College Library Media Studio, room 2252