History in Comics: Ethics and Choice Conference

This past year I’ve been part of the History in Comics research project, initiated by Eli Woock at Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic. We have had meetings, presentations, and discussion every second month, and we have had a great time. This research group meant that I could get connected to other comics scholars and I could think about questions that are not part of my usual what the fuck is going on in Hungary? routine. I have learnt a lot from the project participants, who are:

  • Elizabeth Wook, Palacky University, Olomouc, CZ
  • Dragos Manea, University of Bucharest, RO
  • Barbara Postema, University of Groeningen, NL
  • Mihaela Precup, University of Bucharest, RO
  • Johannes Schmid, University of Flensburg, D
  • Eszter Szép, here and there, HU

The project came to an end with the History in Comics: Ethics and Choice conference that took place in a hybrid form in Olomouc between 12-16 September 2022. We had a truly international crowd with offline participants coming from Austria, Germany, Hungary, the UK, and online presenters from the UK and the US.

The fact that the conference took place in Eastern Europe means so much to me. We are mostly left out of comics discussions & untranslated. The conference roundtables turned out to be TRULY inspiring and engaged discussions, not to mention the workshops & panels! And my book has been quoted a couple of times and it is an embarrassing and very good feeling at the same time.

John Miers on sketchnoting
Olomouc is really pretty
Kate Polak’s keynote

One of the things I enjoyed the most was that there were artists giving keynotes: John Miers and Fionnuala Doran. What is more, we had silent drawing sessions each morning between 9 and 10 to work on sketchnotes or do whatever we wanted. I went all mornings plus I spent 50% of my lunchbreaks there. This way, I could complete a nice academic comic on teaching Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story – it’s going to be published soon. 🙂

A second thing that was super cool in this conference was the roundtable discussions: members of the research group picked an exciting topic, prepared with provocative questions, and invited conference delegates to discuss them. These discussions were organized in a hybrid form, and the best part was that there was no need to hurry. The discussions were truly interesting, and many times the people present in Olomouc (but not on the panel) actively engaged in the discussion. I was invited to the talk moderated by Barbara Postema “Images in Past Tense: Visual Representations of History in Comics” on Tuesday.

A third cool thing was that one of the keynote speakers was Kate Polak, the author of Ethics in the Gutter, who came to Olomouc in person. I had the honor of introducing her keynote. She was taking about a very personal comic she is making, a comic that is very much informed by her academic perspective on narratives, contexts, and framing, as well as on questions and experiences of embodiment and vulnerability. Kate Polak was one of the peer reviewers of my book and wrote an extremely kind blurb for me, so meeting her for the first time has meant a lot to me.

This conference has been a blast, as it has allowed me to get out of Hungary, connect to interesting people, discuss topics that matter to me, and learn.


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