Cover illustration: Ron Frenz and Josef Rubinstein, New York, New York by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (1985) TSR Role Playing Game booklet
It is often said that New York and the comic book share a unique relationship. It is less often said what that relationship is, exactly — beyond the use of the city as setting in text, or headquarters for the industry, historically. In this course, we look critically at the so-called “New York–comics relationship”: what it meant that the city was so often chosen as the backdrop for story, and how that pattern helped shape new, popular understandings of space, place, and belonging, using the particular narrative forms and rhetoric of the medium.
Nothing in a comic is there accidentally. It is always the result of artistic choice. No story about New York speaks to the same experience of the city, either. And no setting captures every part of it. All of this means something, framing particular, chosen images and ideas. By looking at a variety of comics set in NYC, and different themes — from superheroes and romance and crime to 9/11 and future visions of utopia and dystopia — this course offers both an overview of major tendencies in this genre of comic, and tools for understanding it.
As such, it explores how the so-called New York–comics relationship is created anew every time a creator or creative team decides to make the city its setting. And why New York is so often chosen, against other cities in the US. The course will focus on how New York City is represented, what parts of it are shown, and who in it. It also considers how structural factors, such as differing genre, format, audience, or creator, have produced sometimes wildly contrasting interpretations of the very same places, and, even, ideas.
–Martin Lund is Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at Malmö University in Sweden, a comics researcher, and a former Visiting Research Scholar at the Gotham Center for New York City History. His research mostly revolves around comics in relation to different forms of religion, identity, space and place, as well as racism and whiteness. A particular topic of interest is the representation of New York City in comics, and the rhetoric in fandom, pop culture journalism, and the Academy on the so-called “New York–comics relationship.”