'Tinta(s) Femenina(s)': The 'Discovery', 'Conquest' and 'Takeover' of the Panel as Venue of Feminist Discourses. Women (Characters) in the Spanish and Latin American Comic Production (2019-)

Jasmin Wrobel, RA 4: Literary Currencies
Postdoctoral Research Project

In 2016, the list of nominees released by the Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême, the most important comic festival in Europe, provoked an outcry of protest: none of the 30 nominees indicated for the Grand Prix was female. The organizers of the festival reacted to the protests with the nomination of world-famous comic artists Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds, adding the equally criticized statement that “The Angouleme [sic] Festival loves women… but cannot revise the history (of comics)”.

Parting from the Angoulême statement regarding the supposed lack of women authors in the history of comics, my research aims to reconstruct the female presence in sequential art in Spain and Latin America in the 20th and 21st century. Even if it is true that the history of comics is characterized by a male dominance and – of equal importance – by a male gaze and perspective, it is also a fact that several female authors and artists already in the beginning of the 20th century draw political caricatures, cartoons or comic strips, and whose names often have been forgotten or at least neglected in the respective studies on national comics. Furthermore, the existing studies often lack a comparative perspective especially between Hispanic America and Brazil, although the Americas – despite existing differences – share important characteristics and elements not only in their respective histories of colonialization, slavery, independence movements and revolutions, but also in their political and artistic movements and developments in the 20th century.

This project begins with the hypothesis that the female presence in Spanish and Latin American sequential art can be divided into three stages: the “discovery” of the graphic medium in the first half of the 20th century, the “conquest” of this “masculine territory” in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and the (ongoing) “takeover” of the “panel” as a venue for the negotiation of feminist discourses since the beginning of the new millennium. The terms used to denominate the three stages in the working title of the proposal, evoking a colonialist and war-related background, are chosen deliberately in this context.

With the emergence of new feminist comic magazines, the foundation of feminist collectives, the publication of independent fanzines and, furthermore, the establishment of new publication forms like the webcomic, women are no longer dependent on the male dominated platforms. Women take their art into their own hands and create their own spaces. Nevertheless, in all three stages the medium is used – not exclusively, but in growing quantity and quality – to protest the conditions of women in (patriarchal) societies even while including elements of self-irony and self-criticism.

As a part of Research Area 4, “Literary Currencies”, this project investigates, firstly, the relevance of a medium whose cultural and artistic “value” has been repeatedly questioned, especially in the field of Literary Studies. Secondly, it deals with the visibility of female authors and creators in an art form that is remains male-dominated. Thirdly, the project addresses and discusses changing platforms and their respective conditions, from comic strips in newspapers to independent fanzines and new formats such as the web comic.