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Welcome to 
The Middle Spaces


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 first newsletter of 2019, so as you can tell, we'll never spam you!

While this newsletter is meant to be "infrequent" (never more than four times a year with a promise not to spam you), the gap between the last newsletter (sent out back in November 2018) and this one is a little more infrequent than I had in mind when I started doing these.
It has been a busy six months for me. In addition to the usual workload of academia, researching, writing, teaching, grading, in April the International Comics Art Forum held its 2019 conference in Davenport, IA. I help to organize this conference and there is a lot to do. As regular readers probably already know, in the past I have written a long overview of the conference for The Middle Spaces (like I did in 2016 and 2017), but this year I have just been too busy to get it done. (I will talk a little about it below). Heck, I've been too busy to even write much for The Middle Spaces! I have only written one original post in 2019 so far.

Most of this busyness has been on account of personal life stuff, the foremost of these being my wife and I's impending move from Brooklyn, NY to Pittsburgh, PA. We've been going back and forth regularly to undertake and/or supervise renovations on our house and our final move is next month.

However, despite this lack of productivity on my own writing for the site, I have been able to make up for this absence with a spate of fantastic guest posts. Last year there were seven guest posts if you include the three posts that were part of the Bitch Planet Round Table (co-edited by Qiana Whitted), but so far in 2019, there have already been eight guest posts if you include the four posts that were part of the "Seeing Sounds / Hearing Pictures" round table.  It is my hope that 2019 will turn out to be Year of the Guest Post, and we can have three or four more before  2020 comes around.
The Tail End of 2018
But before we talk about all of 2019's guest posts, let's do a quick recap of the two posts that went live in December 2018, after the last newsletter went out.
  • "Guess Who’s Coming Home for the Holidays: Intergenerational Conflict in Bitch Planet" - It may be way past the holidays, but if you missed it you may find this post on a Christmas-related story set in the Bitch Planet universe useful in thinking both about the limits of satiric reversal and the intersection of patriarchal and white racial cognizance.
  • “I AM (not) FROM BEYOND!” – Situating Scholarship & the Writing “I” - The most recent in the Year-End Meta series of posts I do in place of the traditional end of year round-up, considers how disclosing the personal in the academic works not only as a rhetorical appeal but as a way to acknowledge how our scholarly work is "provisional, conditional, embedded in contexts." The post also goes on to connect this point of view with the feminist scholarly writing that inspired me in grad school.
2019 Guest Posts
As mentioned above, so far 2019 has been a banner year for guest posts and round table posts.
  • Seeing Sounds / Hearing Pictures Round Table - This series of four posts (co-edited by Joshua Abraham Kopin) brought together 15 different scholars to discuss the role of sound in comics.
    • Part One examines silence (and its production of sound) in comics, representations of linguistic difference as markers of identity, and how rhetorical innovations for deafness in comics are also present in the depiction of other medical scenarios.
    • Part Two asks questions about the use and role of music in comics and the form of the book and record set.
    • Part Three examines the politics of silence and gender, indigenous representation, and language.
    • Part Four asks questions about the erotics and rhythms of comic sound, the transmedial adaptation of sound, and the contribution of page design to sound.
The Middle Spaces will be trying to do a round table at least once a year, so look for an announcement about the next one and its theme in the fall.
More 2019 Posts & Other Stuff
While I have not written a post on comics so far this year (wild, I know!), I have written one on an unlikely subject, the 1980s NBC sitcom, Cheers. "Where Everybody Knows You’re Men: NBC’s Cheers & White American Masculinity" doesn't try to examine 11 seasons of the acclaimed show but rather focuses on one from the final season that I think distills both its moments of promise and its deeply problematic assumptions, assumptions that reflect the decade it was made in. Since I finished watching all of Cheers I started on all 11 season of its spin-off Frasier, but fell out of the habit sometime in the 3rd season. I will probably eventually get back to it, but in the meantime I am watching all of Star Trek: Voyager for the first time and have kind of fallen in love with it, surprising me!

More in line with the usual subject on The Middle Spaces, in March we published the 11th installment of The (re)Collection Agency, the series in which I sit down to talk with comics scholars. In this installment I got to talk with Dr. Marc Singer of Howard University about his new book Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies (Texas UP, 2018). His book has caused something of a stir in the field of comic studies, since it tries to take the temperature of the field and is not afraid of naming names in targeting very specific criticism of some scholars and the perspectives and methodology (or lack thereof) they represent. The book even inspired comic critic Kim O'Connor to start a reading group on Twitter. She covered the book chapter by chapter over the course of several Mondays, though some personal stuff has interrupted the weekly schedule, and I am not sure she has made it all the way through. She started it with the #burnbook hashtag, but later changed it to #msinger when the former hashtag was apparently not specific enough.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons for my slowed productivity this year was the energy put towards helping to organize ICAF 2019. While I did not have the opportunity to write up a detailed overview as I did in the past, I do not want that to be read as suggesting the conference was in any way less amazing as I have found it in the past. Taking place over the course of three days at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA, there was a particular transnational flavor to the conference embodied by guests like keynote speaker Dr. Ana Merino, and artists like Alberto Ledesma (Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer),  Fernando "Kohell" Iglesias (Impresiones de la Isla), and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets, The Love Bunglers). Those who know me know that last guest was particularly meaningful for me. I was honored to be able to introduce him in conversation with my friend and colleague Andréa Gilroy and was sincerely worried that I was not going to be able to hold together while talking about Jaime Hernandez in front of Jaime Hernandez. As I said in the introduction:
Part of what makes Jaime’s comics amazing, beyond the master draftsmanship and genre playfulness, the willingness to make us spend time with difficult characters we always love, but sometimes do not like, to watch them age, to sometimes watch them die, is that it presents a vision of America that highlights—rather than works to obscure—the seams of American life and that centers the people that so much other canonical work sidelines at best and warps into ugly thoughtless caricature at worst. It felt like my America, mi barrio, reflected back at me, not because southern California Chicanx life is interchangeable with my own 70s and 80s New York City Puerto Rican upbringing, but because the simultaneous openness and specificity of the world Xaime depicts lets me imagine my own in similar terms with similar value and a cosmic scope.
If that doesn't give you a sense of how I see his work (and his brother Gilbert's, too), I am not sure what can. Regardless, the talk went great and the next day we even got Jaime to accompany a group of us to the local comic shop (where I filled some gaps in my run Master of Kung Fu and continued my hunt for every appearance of White Tiger in the 70s and 80s) and then all went out for pizza and beer after. Fun times!

The next ICAF won't be until 2021, but I am already looking forward to it. I will be presenting a paper at CSS in late July (in Toronto) and co-running a workshop on public scholarship with Adrienne Resha. Maybe I will see some of you there.
Andréa Gilroy, Jaime Hernandez, and Osvaldo Oyola following their talk at ICAF 2019 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA.
Osvaldo's Podcast Plug

Speaking of Andréa Gilroy, despite not being an actual podcast, I wanted to use this space to signal boost her You Tube series Comics Crash Course.

A free weekly online resource for comics studies, Comics Crash Course began in January 2018, and week by week (with some breaks), Andréa has undertaken introducing the key historical, thematic, and structural or theoretical aspects of comics in a way that is accessible to the layperson wanting to begin to understand this farrago of material but that can also be helpful to those of us already familiar with it. For example, since manga is outside of my wheelhouse and I have read very very little of it, I have been enjoying her recent series of episodes on manga and learning a lot.

Comics Crash Course is a great resource for teachers introducing their students to the world of comics studies and for those looking to get or reinforce that education for themselves. With episodes that range from explaining Fredric Wertham and Seduction of the Innocence, exploring lettering, and in my favorite move, taking an entire episode to discuss Roland Barthes's "The Death of the Author" as to relates to comics, after having spent the episode before it breaking down all the roles that contribute to the creation of most comics.

Most episodes are around 10 minutes long and they offer something for everyone. Andrea is smart, funny, and takes from a diverse set of example comics to demonstrate her various subjects.  I encourage you to check it out. You can see the channel homepage here.
Coming Soon? As I write this there is nothing close to ready for publication yet. There are however at least a couple of potential guest posts in the works at various degrees of readiness. Furthermore, I have started research and note-taking for two different potential posts that has been delayed by my move and the packing of books, in addition to perhaps having to acquire some execrable comics to do it right. I suffer so you don't have to. One post is about Marvel and DC's tribute issues meant to raise money for Ethiopian famine, the other is about Marvel's 1980s Secret Wars maxi-series in conversation with the United States' Central American interventionism. In other words, the actual secret wars that were being waged at the time.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope that if you are able and enjoy the content made available by at The Middle Spaces that you'd consider supporting our Patreon (did I mention this move means leaving my job?). Even pledging a dollar a month helps towards keeping the site ad free and paying our guest writers, which makes it more likely for there to be more of them. Check out the patreon site for details of pledge levels and some of the benefits we offer. 
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 © 2019 The Middle Spaces, All rights reserved.

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