What is SIGNs ?

SIGNs Studies in Graphic Narratives is a new, peer-reviewed journal focusing on Comics (or, in contemporary jargon, Graphic Novels), from modern times up to the early decades of the 20th century.
Why a new journal ? We have been living a steeply growing interest in comics since the 1990s, with the medium gaining large acceptance as an art form and a significant part of popular culture as well as an investigation subject in social studies. This interest and intellectual appraisal has extended to the rich history of comics and related forms as well. However, hitherto the (still scarce) current scientific research tends to focus on post-1930s publications, and early comics remain largely unexplored. SIGNs aims at bridging this gap. Notwithstanding impressive field work by pioneers like David Kunzle in his two volumes of The History of the Comic Strip, the medium still suffers from a somewhat meager historiographic ‘legacy’.

Since Kunzle’s opus, though, a small body of research has dwelt on the intersections between visual and print cultures worldwide, mostly centered on the 19th century. This process is making possible the rediscovery and understanding of pioneering figures (such as Töpffer, Cham, Frost), contents and aesthetic models, formal and technological aspects (the ‘book format’ and the idea of album or graphic novel), cultural values and artistic traditions (relations between ideas of art, drawing, illustration, caricature, graphics), industrial models (the early days of licensing and merchandising industries), social discourses (the early star system of comics)...

Yet, a basis of shared facts so far remains to be devised, so SIGNs has the ambition to become a regular forum for establishing a common historical knowledge on comics, dismissing surviving myths and putting modernity under the limelight. SIGNs strives for the multi-disciplinary approach which is common today in other fields, encompassing economy, linguistics, cultural studies, aesthetics, publishing history and art theory, thus offering new pieces for the completion of the dispersed sort of puzzle that constitutes comics history.

has the ambition to push forward the historiography on the medium by bringing together the best researchers and publishing articles on Graphic Narratives – let them be called comics, graphic novels or sequential art – printed worldwide in a period roughly encompassing the 1830s and the 1930s. Each issue will also contain high-quality reprints of rare material, reproductions and translations of hard to find texts, and, in forthcoming issues, a review section surveying publications of relevance.

Even if our ambition is scientific, text readability and attractive, profusely illustrated, layouts are of great importance as well. We hope that the reader will find it a pleasure to glance over the pages, to become charmed by the drawings or to be caught up in a solid discussion.

Something is changing in the world of comics today. And in the current transitional climate – where digital media are restructuring our cultural scape – the self-consciousness of contemporary comics culture is linked to a reworking of comics history and memory. If retracing its past may contribute to redefining its nature, then historical studies are definitively a direction worth taking.

>>> Download the Angouleme 2007 preview

>>> Download the Napoli 2007 press release for the first issue

SIGNs #1: Table of Contents

Roger Sabin
Ally Sloper: ‘Our bibulous hero’
Possible Readings of a Comedy Type. 

Antoine Sausverd
The Imagerie Artistique of the Maison Quantin

Jaqueline Berndt
Traditions of Contemporary Manga (1)
Relating Comics to Premodern Art.

Alberto Milano
The Marriage of Marfisa
A Florentine Series of Prints from 1796.

Lo sposalizio della Marfisa
The Prints by Giuseppe Piattoli & Carlo Lasinio

SIGNs Who's Who

Editor: Fabio Gadducci

Managing Editors: Michel Kempeneers, Matteo Stefanelli

Editorial Board: Leonardo De Sá, Michel Kempeneers, Pascal Lefèvre, Roger Sabin, Ron Stewart

Consulting Committee: Jacqueline Berndt, Alfredo Castelli, Philippe Kaenel, Gene  Kannenberg, Alberto Milano, Thierry Smoldereen, Matteo Stefanelli, Mirko Tavosanis

Publisher: Felici Editore Srl
via Carducci 64c - loc. La Fontina
56010 San Giuliano Terme (PI) ITALY

Graphic: de[z]ign

Studies in Graphic Narratives
International Journal for the History of Early Comics and Sequential Art

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Table of contents
The articles appearing the first issue are listed below