Grace Gipson at MSU Comics Forum

19 Apr, 2019

Grace Gipson at MSU Comics Forum

Grace Gipson received a Spring 2019 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover her costs attending the Michigan State University Comics Forum. Grace presented "Marvel Comics Misty Knight's Technological (Dis)Ability: Combatting Fear and Prosthesis." Read more about her experience in her own words below!

On a cold winter weekend, I would trek to the Midwest for the annual Michigan State University Comics Forum to not just present my own research, but engage with fellow scholars, creators and fans of the comic medium. This year’s forum included an array of panels, which covered: “Imagining the Superhero Body” to “Race and Representation in Comics” to “Culture, Memory, and History in Graphic Memoir and Nonfiction” and roundtables which engaged in such topics as “Historical Comics in the Digital Age: Translating Violence and Trauma Across Time and Space” and “Hip Hop and Comics: Cultures Combining”. Each of these panels and roundtables spoke to the forum’s overall mission of “a staunchly comics-focused, international event where current, high-caliber work from noted practitioners and underrepresented groups is highlighted in an inclusive space where scholars, creators, and readers connect.” Thus, this weekend would be filled with discussing comics not only as entertainment, but as a versatile literary art form and a scholarly source of engagement.

As a presenter, I would take part in a panel titled, “Afrofuturism in Contemporary Comics.” Defined as an evolving inclusive genre, aesthetic, and platform that allows for the reimagination of Black diasporic identities, it is fitting to discuss the relationship between Afrofuturism and comics. I would speak to a specific reimagining of exploring Black female bodies as technologies via the Marvel Comics character Misty Knight. Misty Knight who, after being seriously injured in a bomb attack, is outfitted with a bionic arm that gives her powers of magnetism and technopathy. Like Donna Haraway’s cyborg, Misty Knight functions as a feminist critique of identity politics and moves beyond the traditional Western ideas of [the female] gender. The image of Misty Knight’s character pushes the limits of how disability is defined and plays with the hybridity of woman and machine. Moreover, Afrofuturism troubles the slim boundary between (wo)man and machine in order to reimagine a super-humanity. The panel would also engage with the technical aspect of Afrofuturism and visual storytelling as personified with space and place in “Black Panther’s” Wakanda and the growing work of the Hashtag syllabus.

Marvel Comics, 'Misty Knight'

In addition to the panel presentation, another highlight of the MSU Comics Forum was the Scholar Keynote Speaker given by University of South Carolina professor Qiana Whitted discussing her latest book EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest. Whitted’s presentation not only examined the provocative stories of EC Comics, but the ways in which the publisher used comics to combat racism and other societal-ills.

Scholarly Keynote address and book signing of Qiana Whitted

All in all, I would not only appreciate the opportunity to present some of my dissertation research but continue to build my network of fellow scholars and fans. Each new opportunity to share my research in a variety of spaces, further confirms that my efforts are not in vain, and truly do reach a wide-audience. Considering MSU is home to the largest public collection of comic books in the world, I would also add another academic space to call home and further hone-in on my overall research of race and representation in comics.

The MSU Comics Forum is an annual event and inclusive space that I would recommend to anyone interested and or wanting to learn more about the diversity of the comic book and graphic novel medium, as well as those who already have an invested interest.