It has been over a year since Dr. Ault approached me about helping out with ImageTexT, and looking back, we've certainly come a long way from our initial planning meetings to where we are now. Throughout that process, I've usually been content to operate in the background, but I'd like to take a brief opportunity to welcome you to this issue of ImageTexT and share some thoughts about the project and our goals for its future.
In the dynamic, “blogtastic” world of Internet publishing, it seems that academic journals are still trying to find their niche. The World Wide Web is a noisy forum, and there are unique challenges and opportunities facing the would-be publisher of an online, academic journal, some of which bring to light the nature of the current Web and the ways in which information crawls across its surface. Accordingly, not only must ImageTexT compete with or offer an alternative to print journals like IJOCA, we also have to make ourselves heard over the din of nearly 18 million bloggers in the United States alone. That figure is according to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which also finds that 16% of the American population or about 47 million people regularly read blogs. This is encouraging. The fact that there is this tremendous audience for written material on the web means that there is an appreciation for solid, interesting prose, and those capable of delivering it eventually rise to the top of the blogosphere.
Clearly, ImageTexT is not a blog, but as we consider our audience and the forum into which we insert ourselves, it's hard not to consider the attention span of the web as we essentially join that community by having our material appear alongside theirs in a list of search results. Our review process sets our material apart and prevents the kind of immediate turn-around possible with a blog, but as our production overhead is minimal and our technology communicates literally at the speed of light, our content reaches readers far more quickly than a print journal with similar review procedures. In the context of an increasingly literate Internet, relevance and access are at a premium, and in general, I've often found that academic writing is at its best when it presents complex information or rigorous argumentation in a clear and accessible manner. Along those lines, it has been our goal to maintain a high level of academic rigor with engaging material that is relevant to a wide audience, and so far the results have been good. We've received favorable coverage in local (Gainesville) media, and a nice review in the Times Literary Supplement as well as numerous kind words and links from related sites. More importantly, our contributors have delivered quality work that focuses on understanding comics and related media from a number of different disciplines and theoretical leanings, and we continue to seek out and publish works that focus on comics and the ways in which they do what they do.
We did not set out to present this issue as a “themed” one, but looking through the contents, a pattern definitely emerges. The perennial theme of “High vs. Low” culture appears to be almost parallel to the question of rigor vs. accessibility, at least in areas of study that could be construed (broadly) as popular culture studies. In this selection of essays and reviews, you will find a variety of approaches to this topic, with appropriately different conclusions. Alvaro Alemán, in his essay titled “Paraliterary Immersion and the Puzzleform: An Essay in Social Restitution” uses Superman comics to take on the notion of consumption in and of paraliterature as a question both of reading strategy and narrative play. Approaching the issue from an opposite but complimentary angle, “Pound’s Poetry as IMAGE TEXT” by James McDougall performs an imagistic reading of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, finding common ground among Pound's High Modernism, Chinese ideographs, Blake's illustration of Dante's Inferno and Betty Boop cartoons of the early 1930’s. The idea of High vs. Low takes on an additional, literal meaning in Bianca Isaki’s “Gendered Visions of Graphic Fiction: Adrian Tomine’s Summer Blonde” as the author offers a close reading of Summer Blonde’s use of visual perspective and gaze in the composition of its panels.
This issue also contains reviews of some recent monographs and collections in the field of comics studies, all of which seem at least obliquely to address the issue of High and Low culture. Travis Fristoe reviews the collection Give our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics, edited by Sean Howe, James Fleming takes on Geoff Klock's How to Read Superhero Comics and Why, and Vanessa Raney takes a close look at Charles Burns' Black Hole collection.
As ImageTexT continues to grow, one of my concerns as webmaster is making our site as user-friendly and accessible as possible. This approach takes on two distinct objectives: making content accessible for users with disabilities (in compliance with Section 508 guidelines) and making the content “machine-readable” so that search engines like Google can index our material correctly. We also hope to take better advantage of the new Google Scholar service by coding our pages in clean, validated (X)HTML. Along these lines, expect to see some major upgrades to the site’s structure and layout. Subscribe to our announcements list-serve to stay up to date on any changes.
Finally, this issue is dedicated to the memory of pioneering comics historian Bruce Hamilton (1932 - 2005), without whose efforts much of comics scholarship today would not be possible. Donald Ault is preparing a tribute to Bruce which will added to this issue at a later time.