Alison HalsallNov 12, 2023
Growing Up Graphic
The Comics of Children in Crisis
Ohio State University Press 2023
Dr. Halsall’s Growing Up Graphic: The Comics of Children in Crisis (Ohio State UP, 2023) has four primary objectives.
One, it explores this visual and literary medium that is heavily invested in the representation of children and youth, especially in relation to the depiction of particular experiences (social, political, cultural, racial, sexual, ableist, etc.) that young people have undergone and continue to live through. These texts contest images of childhood victimization, passivity, and helplessness, presenting instead children as actors who attempt to make sense of the challenges that affect them.
Two, it examines the many circuitous routes that graphic literature for young people takes in and out of discourses of nation, belonging, ableism, and identity, moving with and oftentimes against currents of power.
Three, it participates in a crucial intersectional trend in children’s publishing that looks to complicate and diversify the content and characters produced for young readers in the Global North. Specifically, it highlights visual representations of a range of young people, including child soldiers, migrants, Indigenous peoples in Canada, queers, and young people living with impairments and/or undergoing particular medical life events. In its investigation of such subjects it also considers questions of age and audience.
Finally, it considers the reader as a source tension itself: the reader that is produced by the graphic text and the empirical reader (who might be an adult, child, etc.). Ultimately, this project considers graphic narratives for children and about children, an under-explored field in itself, and one that provides surprising insight into the types of reading material that young readers gravitate towards and that complicate assumptions of readerly innocence. (Halsall 2023: P8)
In this interview Dr. Halsall talks about frameworks for analyzing comics aimed at young readers, how contemporary culture and politics can influence access to these works, and hopes for the creation of a new comics archive.
Dr. Alison Halsall is an Associate Professor at York University in Toronto, Canada, and the coordinator of the Children, Childhood and Youth Program, part of the Department of Humanities.
Her work is interdisciplinary and trans-generic – in addition to children’s literature she specializes in Victorian and modernist literatures, with a particular emphasis on Visual Cultures, which includes the study of paintings and illustrations, contemporary film, comics and graphic novels. Alison Halsall and co-editor Jonathan Warren received the 2023 Will Eisner Awards for Best Academic/Scholarly Work for editing The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions.
Elizabeth Allyn Woock an assistant professor in the Department of English and American Studies at Palacky University in the Czech Republic with an interdisciplinary background in history and popular literature. Her specialization falls within the study of comic books and graphic novels.