When I was still in elementary school I once overheard my mother on the phone
describing the type of books I liked to read as, “the ones with words in them”. While she was joking, I also knew that she was proud. Every Sunday we would head to the library with our “library bag” a large, reinforced canvas tote bag. The rules were simple, I could check out any book I wanted. My mother did not believe that their was any danger in exposing me to books or ideas that might not be considered appropriate. Sure this could lead to strange conversations or awkward questions, but it also fostered an independence and intellectual curiosity that I will forever be grateful for.
Occasionally we would go to a larger branch of the library that was connected to
a local college. This library had a significant amount of comics. Besides newspaper
strips, the first comics I read were the Archie digest comics available for purchase at the grocery store. While I grew up reading and enjoying comics, it wasn’t until I began taking adult cartooning classes at the Sequential Arts Workshop in Gainesville, Florida that I began to appreciate minicomics or other self-published comics. While I still read mainstream comics, most of my comics collecting is now focused on independent small press and self-published works.
In the past, comics have been dismissed as children’s literature or a lesser art form not deemed worthy of serious study. This has changed with comics studies slowly gaining legitimacy. Comic studies are an interdisciplinary field of study, integrating theory from diverse areas such as art history, cultural studies, and media studies. As a medium, the visual language of comics invites multiple ways of reading and interpreting.
Collecting independent comics and minicomics has become my passion. Mini comics are inexpensive and thoroughly invested in DIY culture. I am particularly interested in autobiographical work made by women of color. Women cartoonists and cartoonists of color have long been marginalized and overlooked in comics scholarship. My dissertation project, Graphic Intimacies: Identity, Humor, and Trauma in Autobiographical Comics by Women of Color, examines texts by women of color. The autobiographical cartoonist uses the medium of comics to create work that centers on their own lived experiences. In addition to tackling intimate subject matter they are labored over and extremely time-consuming to create. Paradoxically, autobiographical comics represent liminal spaces while being thoroughly invested in handmade materiality. Though confessional autobiography in general and autobiographical comics in particular can occupy a tenuous, illegitimate feminized space, this designation puts them in a unique position to embody a particular kind of feminist aesthetic. Collecting these comics has been incredibly rewarding as it has given me insight into the material concerns of the culture and allowed me to establish relationships with many comic creators.