Meet comic book legends at free academic conference

ICAF 2017

Courtesy Design by Jim Woodring

via The Daily of the University of Washington

You too can join forces with a foundational Japanese manga creator, an award-winning Peruvian comics journalist, a Fantagraphics Books co-founder, a local cartoonist, a comic book rock star, and a league of international comics speakers.

Their elusive annual headquarters, the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) conference is free to attend and open to the public Nov. 2-4 in the HUB.

The three-day event offers an impressive array of lectures and papers from international and domestic creative and academic guests, among them Moto Hagio, Jésus Cossio, Gary Groth, Jim Woodring, and Kelly Sue Deconnick.

“It’s a great meeting of artists and scholars,” said José Alaniz, who is a UW professor of comparative literature, the ICAF executive committee chair, and this year’s site liaison.

As an international conference, part of ICAF’s goal is to highlight global artists who may not be as well known in the United States.

Alaniz is particularly excited to welcome both Hagio and Cossio to the conference because they come from countries and artistic backgrounds outside of the western European school of influence.

“Either one of those international guests in a year would be pretty amazing. To have them both together is extraordinary,” Alaniz said.

If you are attending for the first time, Alaniz’s advice is simple. “Take in as much as you can,” he said. Artists will be available to chat and sign their work.

Guest speaker events are scheduled in the late afternoons and evenings, often at a slightly larger venue than the HUB. A complete schedule, including locations, can be found on the ICAF website.

During the day, intriguing academic lecture topics range widely, from borderless superheroes, to LGBTQIA+ contextualization, reframing comics history, and the comics gaze.

Sample paper titles include “‘My Spanish is way better when I’m pissed off!’: Tensions between Puerto Rican and American identities in La Borinqueña and America,” and “‘Wrong on the Internet’: xkcd and the Comics Panel.”

The organization accepted so many papers on the works of Kelly Sue Deconnick, they dedicated entire sections of Saturday morning to conversations about her comics.

Alaniz explained ICAF’s unusual blind review process for submissions. Unlike most popular culture-focused conference, reviewers are presented papers without author names attached to attempt to account for gender and racial bias.

The result is an acceptance rate for submissions of about 50 percent, which is a relatively low number for conferences of this type, according to Alaniz.

“We want to highlight the cream of the crop, the best of the best scholarship available,” Alaniz said.

Saturday afternoon, events move to the Vera Project in the Seattle Center, in conjunction with conference partner, the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival.

Short Run is an annual Seattle expo featuring local small and microprint comic and zine creators. This is the festival’s seventh year, but its first time teaming up with the ICAF event.

ICAF is an itinerant conference, hosted in a different city every year, so be sure to take advantage of this free event while you can.