Special issue of Status Quaestionis

The Italian academic journal Status Quaestionis, a comparative literature publication based at Sapienza University of Rome, is looking for articles on historical comics for a special issue to be published in 2021.

Like historical novels or films, historical comics ask writers and artists to reconstruct the past in order to tell their stories—or retell someone else's. It is a challenging endeavor, as the creator cannot rely on his personal memories, but must turn into a researcher, and this sets these sequential narratives apart from the rest of the comics world. Alan Moore famously wanted his V. for Vendetta to be set in the 1930s—like a classic noir movie—but such a gifted comics artist as David Lloyd declined, as a retro setting would have compelled him to study the design of cars, clothes, furniture, etc. from that age. Yet other practitioners of the sequential art haven't been scared by the plight of the historical verbal and visual storytelling: one may just think of Hugo Pratt's painstaking reproduction of old uniforms and tribal ornaments; Tardi's impressive recreation of W.W. I trenches; Chris Ware's almost obsessive rendering of past architectures; Frank Miller's controversial retelling of the Battle of Thermopilae; or Koike and Kojima's Path of the Assassin, which keeps in the background the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Historical reconstruction (or—to some extent—construction), however, has a complex relation with the times in which it is produced: the artists' ability to conjure up a long gone world, to resurrect the dead, to unearth forgotten stories, places, cultures is of course conditioned by the cultural, social, political background of those artists. What is shown and what is hidden; what is told and what is withheld; to what extent the historical graphic narrative is faithful to the facts, and to which facts; all these features of historical comics may reveal much, if properly questioned, about the times of the artists, not only the times they depict with words and sequential images. 

An analysis of historical comics may tell us much about how and why we remember the past, and what present concerns, fears and hopes make us look back at events far in time and space. A discussion of these graphic narratives may deal with such vital issues as gender, ethnicity, colonialism and post-colonialism, migrations, wars and revolutions, exploitation and oppression, racism, which surface in stories of individuals, communities, and nations set in a more or less remote past. We are looking for essays providing such an analysis and such a discussion, focusing on historical comics from the most diverse national and cultural backgrounds, be they from celebrated artists or from neglected or emerging practitioners of the sequential art. Essays on fictional and non-fictional comics are both welcome; we are also interested in articles dealing with educational comics, not to mention those which deal with the historical past with an ironic, parodic, or satirical approach.