CSS (2018) #0
"In red, yellow, and blue, 'Earth’s Mightiest Hero' ushered in a new age of comic books."
That's the first line of "The Blue Age of Comic Books," which I'll be presenting at the 1st Annual Comics Studies Society conference (Mind the Gaps! The Futures of the Field) on August 9th. I'll be live tweeting as much of the conference as possible @AdrienneResha and blogging about it here as part of a series (#1 following the first day and so on). "CSS (2018) #0" is a month-by-month account of my first year as a PhD student, culminating in the conference this week.
August: Registration for my first semester of coursework at William & Mary opened on August 1st. In addition to the required "Introduction to American Studies," I signed up for classes on feminist theory and media studies.
September: That media studies course, "Old Media, New Media" taught by Professor Elizabeth Losh, began in early September. If I had a superpower, then it would probably be foresight because it was as early as the second or third week that month that I would know what I would be writing about for my seminar paper: the digitization of (superhero) comic books.
October: Between taking three classes of my own and serving as the teaching assistant for an undergraduate course, October is (now) largely a blur. I really needed to get my wisdom teeth out. My mom visited over fall break.
At some point between October and November, Ravynn and I started to think about what an independent study on comics would look like.
November: I did the bulk of research for my papers during November. As in previous years (2014 and 2015) when I was working on my master's, I stayed at school during Thanksgiving break.
December: Given the option of either submitting a traditional paper or creating a Scalar project, I opted for the latter (link below). The earliest version of the paper that I will be presenting at CSS 2018 shares its name with the presentation in the conference schedule.
The "Blue Age" Scalar has three pathways: "Alpha Flight," "Beta Ray Bill," and "Gamma Rays." Alpha is the primary pathway containing all pages of the project, while Beta and Gamma are secondary pathways, the former focusing on media theory (especially that which we covered in class) and the latter focusing on cultural studies.
The thesis statement:
"If the earlier ages of comic books were defined by corporate mandates and collector markets, then the Blue Age of comic books, such as I will argue for here, is defined by the digitization of comic books and comic book culture" (Resha 2017).
And at some point between November and December, we found out that the independent study on comics we'd dreamt up would be a seminar aptly titled "Comics."
December 28, 2017: Recovering from having had my wisdom teeth removed just after Christmas, I submitted an Individual Paper Proposal (prepared before going into surgery) for consideration by the committee of the Comics Studies Society conference.
January: I started thinking about how I was going to build on what I had already done with "Blue Age" in "Comics," namely: incorporate disability studies and perform more critical readings of key texts. "Comics" is one of the three classes in which I was enrolled this semester (I managed to write papers on comics and/or comics studies for all three classes).
February: I heard back from the conference committee, my paper had been accepted.
March: Spring break took place during the second week in March and, like Thanksgiving, I stayed at school. There was a two-week turn around between having my paper accepted and actually confirming my participation in the conference. It wasn't until a week after I sent my confirmation that applications for summer travel funds began to open. I submitted my first application (of three) at the end of March.
April: My second application for summer travel funds was bundled within a series of documents that my program uses to gauge my progress. At the end of April, I found out that my first application was successful. As in the fall, I did the bulk of research for my final papers in the penultimate month of this semester.
May: I spent the first two weeks of May writing furiously. "The Blue Age of Comics Books" became "The Blue Age of Comic Books: Accessibility, Adaptability, and the Superhero Genre." During finals, I found out that my second application for funds was also successful.
Between April and May, I submitted a third application for funding from a third party (within W&M but outside of my program and the graduate school).
June: I booked my flights and hotel. In the middle of the month, I found out that my third application for funding was successful.
July: I spent a lot of time reading. I also took my first trip to New York City thanks to the support of my parents and hospitality of my best friend (and Columbia master's student) Gaisu. After returning to Virginia, I started working (in earnest) on my powerpoint for the conference.
August: Last week, I finished my conference powerpoint and notecards. On Wednesday morning, I'll drop off my cat, Kirby, at the veterinary clinic where he boards and drive from Williamsburg to Richmond. From Richmond, I'll fly to Urbana-Champaign.
I will have the privilege of presenting my work alongside Professors Kathleen McClancy and Philip Smith as part of a panel on "Women Through the Decades," Thursday, August 9th.
CSS (2018) #0
What isn't accurately represented here are the hours spent in and out of class studying subjects that were almost entirely foreign to me, coming to American Studies from Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, and adapting to a new environment. I wrote about my wisdom teeth and trip to New York for the sake of transparency: I am not, nor have I ever been, alone in pursuing a PhD. When my mom visited in October, it was so that she could be with me while I recovered from a surgery that didn't happen. When I did have that surgery in December, it was at home. My trip to NYC last month wouldn't have happened had I not been able to stay with Gaisu in Manhattan while she finishes her graduate program.
Further, I am sincerely grateful to the W&M Graduate Student Association, American Studies Program, and Student Leadership and Development for making my conference travel this summer possible.
Finally, I've been looking forward to this conference all summer; I can't believe it's almost here.