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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

As some past readers of this blog may have noticed, I have a thing for Andy Warhol (one that infected at least one of my students). So imagine my delight when on the first day of our family vacation last month, our Amsterdam canal guide steered us past this unlikely sight:

I’m a little slow, but I eventually figured out it was an ad for a Pop Art exhibition in the city that same month. Warhol’s “Marilyn” was pleasantly everywhere:


Given that the original work is a commentary on the nature of reproductions, these ads seem like a natural extension of Warhol’s vision. And, by an even more pleasant coincidence, the actual exhibition was housed in the same building as the conference I was attending:

Though I’ve looked at dozens of book illustration reprints and online pixel-versions of Warhol’s art, it was startling to see the originals in person:

And if I’m obsessed with Warhol’s “Marilyn,” then Roy Lichtenstein’s “Crying Girl” is a close second:

None of the online versions I’ve looked at include his signature:

These two Pop Art paintings have been my top influences as I’ve dabbled in Word Paint for the past year:

When the new online journal Sequentials announced its first CFC (“call for comics”), I leapt:

“The late-20th Century ushered in a multi-disciplinary reaction to modernism that influenced various disciplines, artists, and thinkers. Since this time, postmodernism has been taken up in literature, film, music, philosophy, architecture, theory, and more. Despite its widespread influence, however, postmodernism remains a debated movement with many scholars and creators arguing that it lacks clarity and meaning. Characterized by an emphasis on deconstruction and critical theory, postmodernism has evolved in past decades to include innovative, if contested, ideas and structures. For Sequentials’ first Call For Comics, we seek visual interpretations of the concept of postmodernism…  Submissions must be illustrated in comics form and can visualize a particular aspect of the concept or the movement as understood through a particular discipline. Additionally, submissions may visualize an explanation and/or critical inquiry of the subject.

“This project asks contributors to (re)imagine the meanings of both the subject they are drawing about andthe form that their interpretation takes. By encouraging contributors to conceptualize their work in a distinctly visual way, this project highlights the unique creative capabilities of the comics medium and reflects TRACE’s overall focus on innovative research, writing, and knowledge production. The Sequentials project seeks to display and circulate original visual scholarship, providing alternative modes of meaning making and centralizing issues of form.”

My response, “This Is Not Marilyn: The Dailies,” began with a newspaper-like strip of the publicity photo that Warhol used in August 1962 to create his first requiem-like silkscreen after the news of her death:

Then I started layering and playing with the comics conventions of talk balloons, thought bubbles, and caption boxes:The complete, eleven-strip sequence is available in Sequentials‘ first issue here (though personally, I prefer Oriana Gatta’s contribution.)

Meanwhile, back in Amsterdam, I kept finding more Marilyns, including Banksy’s Kate Moss variations:


And meanwhile in the online universe, Sequentials‘ next issue will focus on “queer”:

“For Sequentials’ second special Call For Comics, we seek visual interpretations of the complexity of queer existence, discourse, and theoretical concepts. We are particularly interested in submissions that comment on the relationship between various deployments of the term “queer” and concepts of visibility, visuality, and art-as-activism. Submissions must be illustrated in comics form and can visualize, for instance, a particular interpretation of a given theorist’s concept(s), a unique contribution to the field of queer theory, or the possible connection between comics and queer theory.”

[To be continued . . . ?]

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