The International Graphic Novel & Comics Conference

The 2021 Joint Conference of the International Graphic Novel & Comics and the International Bande Dessinée Society

University of Cambridge, 21-25 June 2021

Comics and Their Audiences / Audiences and Their Comics 

Organised by the International Bande Dessinée Society, the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, and Studies in Comics




Click here to register


Click here for 2021 provisional programme


Keynote Speakers

Sara W. Duke, “A century of collecting international comics: Cartoon art at the Library of Congress”

Kate Charlesworth, “Making It Up as I Go Along: An Uncurated Career”

Lara Saguisag, “Toxic Lessons: When Oil Spills into Children’s Comics”

Kazumi Nagaike, “Queer Seduction in Japanese ‘Essay Manga’: An Analysis of Manga Physicality and Gay, Lesbian and Fujoshi Eroticism”


Comics enthusiasts have long considered comics a uniquely participatory medium. As readers breathe life into static images, convert page space into narrative time, and transform splatters of ink into emotion, they engage with comics in languages that audiences and artists have developed in tandem, negotiating over generations.

The theme of this conference explores the idea of audiences in all its meanings. We consider, for example, comics audiences as physical people, individuals, and groups who engage with comics in different situations. Thus, the relationship of readers accessing comics in different languages allows inquiry into questions of translation and adaptation. Readers inhabiting different periods or surviving traumatic public and private moments allow historical and biographical readings. Attention to how audiences identify themselves—according to different or multiple racial, sexual, religious, ethnic, gender, or national identities, physical ability, or migration status—offers to validate marginalised perspectives and fracture traditional understandings. Thinking about comics as texts for or forbidden to children, ideal or inappropriate for adults connects to fields across the curriculum.

The theme also provides space for more abstract senses of comics audiences.

– As audiences have transformed, how have comics adapted to meet them?
– How must readings of touchstone texts shift—and how do those readings resolutely resist change?
– As the definitions of producer and consumer of comics have stiffened and relaxed, how has piracy changed the way that comics are read, perceived, discussed, revised, collected, and distributed?
– How have fans pushed or subverted the industry, and how has the industry marshalled its fan base?
– How have readership and audiences been affected by the context of comics within transmedia universes?

These questions conceive of audiences as both larger and more nuanced, as communities divide and duplicate, working with and against comics publishing.

Questions? Reach out to us at or