Vermont in the Comics

Finally going public with a project a group of friends and I here in VT have been casually working on for a while now: a comprehensive list of appearances of the state of Vermont in comic books.

Awesome two-page spread from Batman 237. Admittedly I’m a little distracted by the tight crotch pants. Art by Neal Adams. Whole shebang copyright DC.

But Andy, you ask, how is this relevant to ethnography and the comics?

Well if it has to be, lets just say that as an ethnographer of Vermont I’m really interested in seeing how the state has been represented in comic books. That work?

Check it all out over at our Parent Entity, Devil’s Dream: Vermont in the Comics.





Comments Off on Vermont in the Comics

Filed under Comics and Culture, Vermont

When I Returned – new collection of veterans’ stories from CCS

White River Junction’s Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) made the Boston Globe recently with their new publication, When I Returned.

When I Returned cover

I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but I have finally gotten around to ordering a copy and I will post a review when I manage to get it together.

Through my day job I get to visit CCS from time to time to talk about ethnography and comics, and the first trip my colleague Greg Sharrow and I made over there several years ago was connected to this particular effort.

Not that this is an ethnographic project, mind you. When I last talked about it with CCS folks the orientation was really around journalism and oral history – with emphasis on the authorial voice of the cartoonists rather than on the collaborative construction of narrative/meaning with the storytellers.

Nothing wrong with this, of course, there are plenty of valid ways to go about telling other people’s stories. I’m really curious to see how it all turned out.

Comments Off on When I Returned – new collection of veterans’ stories from CCS

Filed under Comrades and Fellow Travelers, Cool Shit, Vermont

A Graphic Documentary of Tropical Storm Irene


Today marks the fifth anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene striking the state of Vermont. Like most people around here, I remember August 28, 2011 beginning as a beautiful, clear Vermont morning and turning uglier as the day progressed. Although large swaths of the state experienced little more than a solid – if not overly threatening – tropical storm, many other parts of Vermont were devastated by resultant flooding. Most of Chittenden county, where I live, got through it with minimal impact, but in other parts of the state, in towns such as Rochester, Wilmington, Mendon and others, the storm did extensive and horrific damage.

Map of Burlilngton's Interval

Map of Burlington’s Intervale from Iona Fox’s “Irene.”

In Chittenden county one site that did suffer intensely was Burlington’s Intervale, a 900 acre 1  flood plain 2 bounded in part by the Winooski river in the city of Burlington, VT. The Intervale has been used in a variety of ways going all the way back to the native Abenaki, and currently it houses many small organic farms, homeless encampments, the non-profit Intervale Center, and probably its most famous occupant, Gardener’s Supply. Down in the Intervale (as we say around here) rain from the storm caused the Winooski to rise rapidly above its banks, flooding the farms, destroying crops, and damaging buildings and equipment.

In the weeks following the storm the staff at my day job began to organize a response, so at the time I was thinking a lot about documenting experiences of the storm and the recovery, as well as paying attention to other activities directed toward the same end. Somewhere in there I came across Iona Fox’s little comic, Irene.


From Iona Fox’s “Irene.”

Although I had already been thinking casually about comics and ethnography – and more broadly, the use of comics as a documentary medium, Iona’s work was one of two important things to serve as a real catalyst for refining my thought and getting my ass in gear. 3

Iona is an artist/farmer and graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT. Iona completed Irene prior to attending CCS, and in regard to it and her other comics work up to that point, Iona says:

I did lots of short comics beforehand but they were mostly written in terrible academic jibberish – just another 20-something saying “take me seriously, world!” Irene was the first comic I just wrote for my friends, and, surprise! the first comic that was actually fun to make.4

At the time of the storm Iona was working with her partner at Pitchfork Farm, and Irene presents the experience of the storm from the perspectives of the Intervale farmers themselves – Iona included.

I was really excited to see a local cartoonist documenting local experience, and I immediately fell in love with Iona’s drawing style, storytelling, and her treatment of the events. I’ll dedicate a future post to exploring Irene in detail – with Iona’s input.

And so, with the anniversary of the storm on my mind, let me point you all toward Iona Fox’s Irene.

From Iona Fox's "Irene."

From Iona Fox’s “Irene.”

Comments Off on A Graphic Documentary of Tropical Storm Irene

Filed under Comrades and Fellow Travelers, Cool Shit, El viaje mas caro, Vermont

Culture through Comics at The Nib

Whit Taylor recently gave us a great piece on The Nib entitled, Finding Your Roots – about her hair. A little history of African-American women’s hair care, a little personal experience, a little hair science, and a whole lot of cultural insight.

Whit Taylor comics

“Finding Your Roots” by Whit Taylor.

Vermont cartoonist, Stephanie Zuppo shared this on Facebook – big tip of the old ink pot to her for that.

Comments Off on Culture through Comics at The Nib

Filed under Comics and Culture, Gender, White Guy Talks About Race

Cartoonist Marek Bennett on Bakhtin on the Essence of Ethnography

I met New Hampshire cartoonist, Marek Bennett through a mutual friend several years back as we were beginning to formalize the work that would become the El viaje mas caro mental health/wellness applied cartooning project.

comix by Marek

“Bakhtin: ‘Deepest Communion'” by Marek.

Marek has become an invaluable partner in El viaje mas caro – and an awesome friend to me and my family.

Ethnography is a new concept to most of the cartoonists I meet, and Marek took to some of the core notions of the ethnographic method immediately. He was actually excited! Imagine that?

Following the advice of my buddy, El viaje partner, and anthropologist, Teresa Mares I hipped Marek to the intro of D. Soyini Madison’s Critical Ethnography as a place to begin a more formal engagement with ethnographic concepts.

Not long after, Marek came up with this: Bakhtin: “Deepest Communion”.

Made me love the guy even more.

I’m hoping Marek and I will get it together to work on something together soon.

As a sidebar, I really recommend his travelog, Slovakia (over 600 pages of awesome comics about Eastern Europe for a mere $30!).

His newest, The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby is a huge treat as well. It’s like a US Civil War companion to Emmanuel Guibert and Alan Cope’s Alan’s War in the way it highlights tedium and boredom – something that contrasts with more dramatic accounts of wartime experience, and diversifies the narrative of both these conflicts.

Comments Off on Cartoonist Marek Bennett on Bakhtin on the Essence of Ethnography

Filed under Comrades and Fellow Travelers, Cool Shit, El viaje mas caro, Ethnography

On the De-Objectification of Female Characters…

“As an artist, what can I consider if I want to de-objectify and add power to female characters?”

Renae De Liz

Drawing by Renae De Liz. Borrowed by Andy.

In a series of tweets compiled by Heroic Girls, cartoonist Renae De Liz gives a terrific, thoughtful overview of how to think about – and address – objectification of female characters in superhero comics.

And Geezum, does she select a great character to use as an example: Power Girl.

De Liz’s discussion provides great insight into the changing culture of comics fandom and – in reviewing the comments – the sexism that continues to be persistent in it.

Give it a read here: How To De-Objectify Women in Comics: A Guide.



Comments Off on On the De-Objectification of Female Characters…

Filed under Comics Culture, Dude Talks About Women, Gender, Sexism, Superheroes

Centre for Imaginative Ethnography!

““What is the place of graphic anthropology in the larger field of graphic non-fiction and graphic journalism?”

A wonderful question from the folks at the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography, and one I’ve wondered about myself for the last several years.

Not being an anthropologist (folklorists don’t count as such) I tend to think more in terms of “comics ethnography” or maybe even “graphic ethnography,” but that’s not a beef at all.

I was very excited to come across their site, in particular their Drawings section–with work form Sally Campbell Galman no less!

I’m even attempting to join.

I’m a joiner.


Comments Off on Centre for Imaginative Ethnography!

Filed under Comrades and Fellow Travelers, Cool Shit, Resources