I am very enthusiastic about comics scholarship in Hungary: in the last two years so many things happened! There were two comics conferences, and we have finally started to build a network of university people and critics who are not afraid of comics.
I have decided that I’ll publish more in my native language, and I was really happy when out of the blue I was asked if I could write about one of the major poets of the 19th century, János Arany. His poetry is very layered and amazing, he also translated the most of Shakespeare to become one of the most influential literary figures of his times. Well, he was born 200 years ago, so 2017 was devoted to celebration and a reflection on both his heritage and the cult around him. Lucky for me, an innovative and clever comics adaptation of one of his ballads also came out (link). The artist, Dániel Csordás is possible the Hungarian cartoonist with the greatest number of awards. It goes without saying that his adaptation won the best webcomic award in 2017.
So I was writing about the success of this comic, which is I think based on several factors. It is aesthetically more interesting than the other adaptations made that year (for me, naturally), it uses irony, it inserts the story of the ballad into the corrupt worlds of (Hungarian) politics of the present. But the success of this adaptation is also rooted of it being part of a marketing campaign, and also of the Hungarian cultural climate which still considers comics as curiosities. Csordás’s comic uses the wow-factor with which comics are surrounded really cleverly (wow, it is not only for children! wow, it uses literature! wow, I actually like it! wow, no superheroes! wow, it is not American!). I also argue in this article, that marketing agencies and non-profit organization, as well as institutions serving the memory politics of the current political regime often use comics — more often than we would suspect — but they always use the medium only once, and do not return to it in their next campaigns. Plus the people who see these marketing-boosted comics do not see the other comics that exist in our country under the radar: the translations of DC and Marvel, and the varied and (mostly) interesting original output made by Hungarian artists. (Let me take the opportunity and recommend the sci-fi comic series Fantomatika.) For the general public, comics is invisible, and it is because of this lack of cultural reception that marketing campaigns using comics are so successful.
I also interpret Csordás’s comic in light of Linda Hutcheon’s theory of adaptation and Henry Jenkins’s theory of convergence culture. And I am very grateful to the 13 secondary school teachers who shared with me their ideas on how they teach comics at school.