»Being Old – or Doing Age? Sketching Age in Comics« #9 CLOSURE

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
CLOSURE: Kiel University e-Journal for Comics Studies #9

Call for Papers – CLOSURE: Kiel University e-Journal for Comics Studies #9

(November 2022)

Thematic Section: »Being Old – or Doing Age? Sketching Age in Comics« 

Open Section

At the end of autumn in 2022, the e-journal CLOSURE once again offers a forum for all facets of comic research. From cultural, visual and media studies to social or natural sciences and beyond: our ninth issue of CLOSURE embraces (supports, publishes) essays and reviews that deal with the ›state of the comic‹. Whether detailed analysis, comic theory or innovative new approaches – our open section welcomes a diverse range of interdisciplinary studies of all things ›comics‹.  


Thematic Section: » Being Old – or Doing Age? Sketching Age in Comics« 

»To the gods alone, old age and death never come« Sophocles lamented of old age and deigned that everything that came with it as troublesome. For centuries, the natural aging of the body has been used to be the very image of angst. The way age has been thought about is as an increasing and decreasing curve: After an initial growth and flourishing, decay follows, inevitably, even if the exact beginning of this last phase of life remains undefined. Depictions and readings of this last phase are characterized by dwindling attractiveness and sexual attraction (and activity!), declining motor and mental abilities, as well as illness and imminent death. In short: the older the age, the less ideal the body becomes.

Recently, pathography has received considerable attention in comics studies research. In these enquiries, the ageing and elderly body and mind, such as in cases of dementia, is depicted in clinical pictures. Often, these stories are told from the perspective of the relatives or caregivers; the sick are rarely the protagonists. An exception is Rebecca Roher’s Bird in a Cage. The ageing of (grand-) parents is equated with illness and the need for care; their getting older becomes a narrative of the younger generations’ concerns.

But the perception or experience of old age is not only relevant on the basis of physical and mental developments or comparisons. A concise turning point at the middle of the 20th century was how the term ›generation‹ began to convey a diametrical view of age, especially in the linguistic usage since the end of the 1960s in the western industrial nations. Yet, the perception or experience of old age is not solely based on physical and mental development or comparison. Young and old are depicted as two opposing groups, where the latter is seen as embodying traditional values, reactionary attitudes and stagnation. Such »cultural patterns of interpretation« (Parnes /Vedder / Willer) create stereotypes which continue to have an effect. Regardless of the generational matters depicting the family experience (for example, grandparents) or units that are formed by shared generational experiences (›baby boomers‹, senior citizens), the supposed opposition to the younger cohorts was subsequently stylized from as an »economic generational conflict« (Krüger) rather than an ideal because of demographic changes in the 1980s. Thus, the economic consequences of the so-called ›aging‹ of society increasingly shaped the public discourse.

The interpretation of age and the corresponding assignment of social roles have changed considerably. Today, older people have widely diverse lifestyles, some of which are just as adventurous as those of the young. Countless comics pick up on this, and seniors are no longer just sidekicks, but protagonists. These can be the Les Vieux Fourneaux (Lupano / Cauuet) or the Old Farts (Vazelina). Memory is not only a topic because of its absence, but is also examined in terms of content, just like the changes in the ways we live together (as in Special Exits: A Memoir by Joyce Farmer). So, how does the comic host debates in which classism, materialism and normative ideals come to the fore? Which images and experiences of the phenomenon of ›old age‹ are shown – and through whose voice? Is it still ›others‹ who are (indirectly) affected? The demographic change is noticeable beyond the panels of the comic industry: readers, as well as artists, are getting older. Indeed, Kaoru Endo, professor of sociology at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, states that for the manga market: 

»Different social problems and concerns rise up as opposed to when society is centered around young people, and manga that show the reality of an aging society are in demand from both readers and writers. Demand for stories focused on the elderly has grown alongside their audience: 27.7 percent of Japanese are older than 65, up from 21.5 percent just a decade ago.« [11.08.21]

And these aspects can be transferred to the entire market, as shown, for example, by the careers of Posy Simmonds or Alan Moore that have grown over a long period of time. 

So, after the comics have ›grown up‹ - are they allowed to age, too? We look forward to submissions that examine these very different aspects of the phenomenon of age in comics. 

Possible topics include but are not limited to:  

  • Old age as a vision of fear: change, injury, loneliness, loss? 
  • Materiality and anti-matter of old age: self- and externally determined spaces and objects 
  • The invisible: addressing the (missing) representation of old people 
  • Social taboos: sexuality, violence, aging in ›dignity‹ 
  • Forever Young? Alternative designs, versions and fictions about growing old: ›cultural body‹, escape from the body; youth mania and body modification 
  • ›Silverfox‹ vs. ›strange old people‹: clichés and stereotypes pertaining to age
  • Visual and linguistic construction of the phenomenon ›age‹ 
  • Demographic change in comics: the age of protagonists, sidekicks, focalization etc. 
  • Demographic change in the comics scene: authors, readership, accessibility, marketing, etc. 

Please, send your abstract (approx. 3000 characters), as well as a short bio, for consideration for our ninth issue of CLOSURE to closure@email.uni-kiel.de by December 15st, 2021. The contributions (35,000-50,000 characters) are expected by May 1st, 2022. For more information about the e-journal CLOSURE and our previous issues, please visit www.closure.uni-kiel.de