For several decades, a movement, or rather a loose body of different movements has existed on the periphery of the comics industry. They have become the hallmark of a glorious era of the ninth art that had previously become mired in esthetic clichés and standardized ways of doing things. These movements beg a number of questions: Do they oppose or influence the standardized practices of the field? Can we talk of an avant-garde inspired by creative geniuses aware of their historicity, or are we simply dealing with the steady onset of new standards? Are publishers mere merchants, or are they working to affirm a new esthetics? How can we group together these movements which emerged in different historical and artistic contexts? Are they independent, alternative, underground or counter-cultural? In order to tackle these questions, the ACME group has explored the ways in which the more generic idea of dissent can be applied to the comics worlds.
A plural and bilingual work
On leafing through the pages the reader is treated to a clinical dismantling of the idea of independence. Although the authors are united in the quest to understand the meaning of contemporary comics, each one adopts a different approach. The result is a rupture with the idea of independence which is both surprising and yet coherent given the volume’s broad scope of investigation . While the work is notable for its multi-disciplinary approach, it is particularly through its socio-economic focus relating to the positions taken by both authors and publishing houses that it produces a new vision. “It is quite rare to study editorial structures and this was not our final objective, but it opened up another dynamics in the approach to comics studies. We did not wish to exhaust the debate about the notion of independence but rather to explore it from a new angle so that others would take up the discussion in yet other directions”, the researchers acknowledge.
(1) Christophe Dony, Tanguy Habrand, Gert Meesters (éditeurs), et al., Comics in Dissent, Alternative, Independence, Self-Publishing, Presses Universitaires de Liège, Collection ACME, 2014