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Welcome to 
The Middle Spaces

(Infrequent)
Newsletter

This is the newsletter we send out whenever it feels right (but not too often) to let you know what's been going on with The Middle Spaces blog of comic, music, culture, and what is on the horizon. 

This is our fourth and final newsletter this year. We'll never spam you!

The fall is typically a quieter time at The Middle Spaces. The beginning of the school year means I am busy doing class prep and grading papers. Add to that my other writing projects and the start of the academic job season (a job unto itself) and you might get the picture: writing material for the blog has to be slightly deprioritized, even if I am thinking about and taking notes for posts all the time. 
 
Nevertheless, there has still been a bunch of things going on at The Middle Spaces since the last issue of this newsletter went out. Let's take a look at some!
Support The Middle Spaces Patreon!
 
In September of 2018, we established a Patreon for The Middle Spaces. For those unfamiliar with the site and its model, Patreon allows for "Patrons" to support a creative endeavor by pledging as little as a dollar a month. It takes the Kickstarter model of goals and benefits for those who contribute, but pledged on a monthly basis. This allows for money to be pooled  to make all the contributions meaningful.
 
As of this writing, The Middle Spaces Patreon is already up to $25 a month from 11 different donors, which already assures that the site will remain ad free and allows us to continue to pay guest writers and start budgeting for raising the twenty-five dollar honorarium to fifty dollars. The next goal (when we reach $50 a month) will allow us to pay our copy editor for his work, and goals after that include a established pattern for recurring well-paid guest writers and a custom site.
 
Patrons also get some gifts and acknowledgement for their generosity, including "No-Prizes," The Middle Spaces stickers, and even a comic book grab-bag!
 
Please consider contributing; no pledge is too small (well, I guess technically less than a buck is too small, but that is because of the limits of the system, not because we wouldn't take it).

If making a monthly pledge is beyond what you can offer, we still take one-time donations through ko-fi.
Seeing Sounds / Hearing Pictures
A Roundtable on Sound and Comics/Sound in Comics
After the resounding success of the three-part Bitch Planet roundtable last March, I decided that I wanted to try to do roundtables, once, if not twice, a year. After hearing Joshua Kopin's presentation at Mind the Gaps in August,  in which he talked a little bit about representations of sound in comics we got to talking about the topic, and I called back to my posts on Sounding Out! - "This is Not a Sound: The Treachery of Sound in Comic Books" and "Blinded By the Sound: Marvel’s Dazzler – Light & Sound in Comics" - in which I explored the under-theorized topic. We decided to co-edit the next roundtable on that subject.

Entitled "Seeing Sounds / Hearing Pictures - A Roundtable on Sound and Comics/Sound in Comics," you can find the call for proposals on the blog here.

The roundtable will focus on questions developed by contributors examining some aspect of the relationship of sound and comics (or sound in comics) with their short essay exploring possible answers to the question for further scholarly inquiry. Final essays will be around 750 to 1000 words long each and thematically grouped into posts of three to four contributions by the editors. The essays will be developed through one or two rounds of edits and should include visual examples or references (links to YouTube, soundcloud or other similar sites for possible sonic examples are also encouraged).

Those interested in contributing should email a clearly articulated question they seek to explore in their post and the title of a comics text they plan to use as an example or subject for their contribution. In addition, please include a copy of your CV and a brief bio. Send contributions to themiddlespaces@gmail.com.

Possible Topics Include:
  • Theorizing the word balloon/caption
  • Sounds, effects, and affects
  • Power Books Comic Book and Record sets
  • Music in comics/comics in music (Dazzler, A-Ha, Love and Rockets, etc.)
  • Drawing sound effects
  • The word balloon and the visual sound effect outside comics
  • “Hearing” race, ethnicity, and class in comics dialog
  • Comics as an audiovisual stage
  • Silence in comics (Marvel’s “Nuff Said” issues, Mind MGMT’s all thought-balloon issue)
 
The deadline for proposals is Friday, November 16, and contributors will be notified by or on Monday, December 17. We hope to publish the roundtable in the first quarter of 2019.
 
Recent Posts on The Middle Spaces
Since July's missive, there have only been a handful of new posts on The Middle Spaces, but they were all noteworthy. I completed the Alpha & Omega reading series in which I read an issue of the original 1976 Omega the Unknown comic book series against its numerical counterpart in the 2007-08 re-imagining, a pair of issues at a time.
  • Alpha & Omega #10: Omega Without End covered issue #10 of each of the series, which ostensibly was the end of the story. but. . .
  • Alpha & Omega #11: An Evolutionary Dead-End covered the two issues of The Defenders in which Steven Grant was given the job of sloppily wrapping up the story, while also taking a look at some of the paratextual material in the collected edition of the 2007-08 version.
Not sure what, if anything, will be the next reading series, but if people have suggestions be sure to hit us up on Twitter.

In early August we published the ninth installment of The (re)Collection Agency, a series in which I sit down to talk with comics scholars and teachers about the intersection of their work and their collecting. This time I spoke with Michael Sharp, a former teacher of mine from my PhD program and who is better known as Rex Parker of Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword. We discussed intersections of comics and crosswords, teaching comics, and early experiences of collecting comics.
 
Also in August, I flew out to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois for the first annual Mind the Gaps conference held by the Comics Studies Society. I wrote a very lengthy post covering my experiences there both as an attendee and as a presenter. As with my experiences at ICAF, it was a delight to engage both intellectually and socially with fellow comics scholars and to see both old friends and new ones. It also exposed me to a bunch of new work and new ideas.

Last week, the most recent installment of The (re)Collection Agency featured a great talk with Margaret Galvan, Assistant Professor of visual rhetoric in the Department of English at the University of Florida. We discussed comics archives, keeping a spreadsheet of a comics collection, and the importance of research into grassroots periodicals in the study of queer comics.
The most recent essayistic post on The Middle Spaces was "YA = Young Avengers: Asserting Maturity on the Threshold of Adulthood." This post took me quite a while to write. Part of that was because I had to re-read the 15-issue second volume of Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, which I originally read as it came out month-to-month but had not sat down to read all the way through since then. However, the most difficult part of writing this was the plenitude and richness of the material, particularly in the context of my examination of it as an exploration of the slipperiness of adulthood's signifiers. 

As such, there was much I wanted to include in the post that I did not have the room to explore, but I'd like to at least mention some of it here because I find them to be rich examples (and they might inspire someone else to write about them).

As I mentioned in the essay, one of the most compelling aspects of the series was the concern Kate Bishop (aka Hawkeye) had regarding her imminent 21st birthday and the tension between the actual experience of maturation and the artificial standards used to determine when the responsibilities of adulthood are considered final and unchanging.  What I did not mention is that the series opens with her dealing with the psychological aftermath of having slept with Noh-Varr. Her consideration of this new experience is wrapped with the social expectations regarding young women and sex. "I should be ashamed" she thinks, but that "should" is clearly and immediately framed not as her own actual feelings, but external pressures she disregards in favor of a healthier attitude towards sex not burdened with shame and guilt. In that moment, two different narratives of what adults should (and would) think exist in the scene, highlighting the lack of a distinct and unified attitude considered adult (and furthermore, painting the "shame-filled" narrative as toxic, even if Kate understands there there can be undesirable results of an active sex life).
Loki, looking like a young Tom Hiddleston and explaining to Wiccan the plan for defeating "Mother" (from Young Avengers vol. 2, #11)
At the end of the series, part of the convoluted plot required Billy (aka Wiccan) to temporarily adopt the form of his prophesied adult-self - the so-called god-like "Demiurge" - in order to defeat Mother and her minions. This is not only more evidence of my liminal model for understanding adolescence and young adulthood (and thus adulthood itself), but is in conversation with an aspect of the series I didn't get explore: that these young legacy heroes are under a constant implicit threat of becoming the adult versions of themselves. While the anxiety of turning into our parents can be a real-life one, in the context of superhero legacies, there is an assumption that the young versions of heroes will become the "standard" or adult version one day, even if the reality of the ongoing serial basically guarantees that that possibility will be temporary at best and foreclosed at worst. (See also CJ Stephens's guest post "Titans Together! Superhero Sidekicks & The Anxiety of Influence.")
I was also struck by how at the beginning of the series when Teddy is playing superhero behind Billy's back, he takes the role of Spider-Man with his shape-shifting powers. This is a telling choice because Spider-Man is the original quintessential adolescent superhero, forced into a role of responsibility while still dealing with the business of growing up. Hmm, makes me wonder if there is evidence for writing about college-aged Spider-Man as an example of the "prolonged adolescence" I first heard about with Gen Xers, was explicitly connected to Millennials, and is likely to remain a narrative about Generation Z.
Finally, while I mentioned the use of Instagram timeline based panels to both provide a dump of narrative information and exposition and how this also resonates with how young people create networks of friends and acquaintances online for support, I was also struck by how the comic made frequent self-conscious references to "Heropedia," a Wikipedia-like site existing in the Marvel Universe that keeps people up to date about characters' powers and life stories. So when, Prodigy comes out as bisexual, Teddy comments that his entry on Heropedia needs updating. I loved this self-consciousness and the resonance of how identity is performed and understood remotely in the current era, an experience that young people are likely to understand better than some old fogey like me.

There was also a ton of McKelvie's art I wanted to include but didn't have room for, but I have included a couple of examples here.
"Mother" the main antagonist of Young Avengers volume 2 was a polymorphic protoplasmic interdimensional parasite, which used the language of parental authority and conservative practicality in trying to assert her will. (from Young Avengers vol. 2, #1 [March 2013])
Good-bye Ruby Thursday. . .
 
Speaking of art I didn't get to include in a post, in the final installment of Alpha & Omega mentioned above, I did not get much of a chance to talk about Ruby Thursday, one of Marvel Comics stranger and more troubling villains. Perhaps if there had been better examples of art with her included, I would have made sure to do so. With a head replaced by a polymorphic supercomputer that looks like a red bowling ball and a body still adhering to superheroic female body ideals, she looks like she's from a straight nerd boy fetish comic. As I wrote in that post, "It makes her very womanliness seems inhuman, like her body is literally objectified in association with the featureless perfectly round head." In one panel we see an elongated arm shoot out from her head to punch at Hellcat and in another her head sprouts wings to let her fly. In the end, whatever appeal her weirdness might have is undercut by how perfunctory she is killed when the Wasp bio-blasts her head open.
Ruby Thursday killed by the Wasp in Las Vegas (from The Defenders #77 - November 1979) [Art by Herb Trimpe]
Osvaldo's Podcast Plug!
While the last installment of The Middle Spaces (Infrequent) Newsletter plugged a podcast by Nathaniel "Hub" Hubbard, and I should be mixing things up for the sake of fairness, I wanted to use this space to encourage readers to check out a Titan Up the Defense-related podcast with a mouthful of a title: What the Duck?! A Podcast Most Fowl (But with a "W" 'Cause He's a Duck) That's the Full Name of the Show.

The monthly podcast is only available to Patreon supporters of the Titan Up the Defense podcast (at any level!), but it is well-worth it. For as little as a buck a month, your get to hear Hub and his sharp and ever-delightful wife, Lisa, cover Howard the Duck beginning with his first appearance in Adventure into Fear #19 and working their way towards the original Howard the Duck series written by Steve Gerber. While frequently as hilarious and freewheeling as the parent podcast, What the Duck tends towards a closer thematic analysis of these comics (usually driven by Lisa's perspective) without being bogged down with a dry academic approach.

Best of all, since there have only been three episodes so far, it is easy to catch up and jump on without feeling like you are missing something by not going back to listen to years of previous episodes. Heck! They haven't even gotten to Howard the Duck #1 yet!

If you are interested, click on over to the Titan Up the Defense Patreon page and pledge a little something. The links to the What the Duck episodes should then appear in the posts!

Tell them Osvaldo sent you!
We have a couple of more posts planned before the end of the year, but it is difficult to say what and when exactly, given all the obstacles to scheduling. I do have a traditional Year-End Meta post in mind and another Christmas-themed post about a story from an issue of Bitch Planet Triple Feature.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and until next time, I wish you all well!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions don't hesitate to reach out via emailFacebook, or Twitter, and be sure to also check out bonus content on my We Are In It and Notes from Comics Collecting tumblrs.

Kind regards,
Osvaldo Oyola
Editor, The Middle Spaces
Copyright © 2018 The Middle Spaces, All rights reserved.

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