I did, and I graduated in December. Unfortunately my concentration was terrible and the topic had a lot more potential than I was able to fulfil. On the one hand I’ve been able to make a number of points that other academics missed, and correct a number of misconceptions (such as that comics started in the late 19th century), but on the other I’m frustrated enough about the lack of cohesion and other issues that I haven’t even read the feedback. I think it’s actually a more interesting topic than I’d first thought though, so you’re welcome to check it out:
02a History of comics.pdf (1.3 MB)
02b History of comics.pdf (2.4 MB)
03 Translating comics.pdf (622.9 KB)
04 Analysis of alterations in Asterix series.pdf (2.6 MB)
One of the things I explored was the idea of comics as a form of intercultural and inter-class communication with a very long history – military, political and religious leaders communicating with conquered peoples or illiterate commoners, then commoners (e.g. manuscript illustrators) speaking back to power with satirical images, then Leonardo da Vinci’s grotesque portraits/caricatures and their use by the Vatican and the reformers in printed propaganda, then the different countries responding differently to satire of political figures during the 18th and early 19th century, which is when the first comic strips came out.
Unlike some other genres, comics seem to have a much more political voice and speak to their culture rather than just reflecting it. Asterix has an interesting mix of influences from different European countries, Jewish culture, the US (including superhero comics) and other areas, and is also influenced by the cultures of the languages it’s translated into. Both Tintin and Asterix were sometimes edited in response to the advice of translators and editors in other countries, and later books show that the conversation between the translator and writer goes in both directions. I think the humour owes a lot to Bell and Hockridge – while Tintin and Asterix had wordplays, Anthea Bell’s experience as the daughter of a Times crossword editor allows er to make more sophisticated puns and the original French seems to improve in that area later on.
One thing I never mentioned in my ‘family tree’ of comics is the art that was coming out in early 19th century Japan. Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s art is particularly interesting and dynamic: