From the Woman who walked to the Golden Canopy, decentering collections of natural history through comics

As part of the Applied Comics network conference on 28th March, I have a talk on the work that’s been done by the digital content team at the Natural History Museum, exploring new media for sharing ‘untold’ stories about the collection and the many and varied, fascinating people who contributed.

Description

How do we tell the untold stories of the Natural History Museum? The challenge to make collections more accessible to a wider range of people has led to an experimentation with different media to reach out to an ever increasing digital audience but also shift perceptions for our physical visitors. This talk will explore how comics are being used to explore new perspectives and hidden stories of the Museum’s collection, revealing as much about institutions as they do its history.

The slides from my talk can be viewed at this link.

 

References

Applied Comics Network

Image credit: Natural History Museum and Sammy Boras

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Where Next for AfroFuturism? Thoughts on the Nine worlds panel et al.

I spent much of my Saturday at the Nine Worlds convention in Hammersmith, the first time I’ve ever been actually able to make it though not the first time I’ve heard of it. It’s been touted as one of the most inclusive geek events in the UK and for myself, I think that’s definitely the case, or at least from what I saw.

So wherefore my attendance? Well, I was on a panel titled ‘Where Next for AfroFuturism’, a panel I’d been invited to by Chella Ramanan from BAME in Games who I knew from January’s Afrotech Fest. A lot of – in fact all of – my recent talks have been on tech and inclusive design so it was nice getting to chat about AfroFuturism to a new audience.

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Superhero, Heal Thyself: The Popularity of Disabled Heroes in Comics

One can say a lot of things about Mark Millar, and CA’s own Chris Sims has covered a lot of it: He’s sensationalistic, juvenile, puerile, not as clever as he thinks he is, etc. Even die-hard fans would have a hard time arguing against these or any other labels applied to the Scottish superstar. It’s who he is; it’s part of his charm. But I can honestly say that despite everything negative that can be said about the writer, almost all of which I’d agree with, I can still call myself a Millar fan. Eat it, Sims. Other people would like to write about Batman, you know.

Despite senior writers and their distaste for him, you have to admit: Millar knows comics. He knows how to write to artists’ strengths, he knows how to promote himself, and he knows what sells. But beyond that: he knows comics. He understands the history of the medium, sees trends, and has some insight into the psychology of the reader and symbolism of the form. The little “-” in Kick-Ass, for example, queues up a syllabus of context and association that informs the reader’s experience whether s/he knows it.

It’s interesting, then, that Millar and Leinil Yu’s recently released “Superior” features a disabled superhero. It’s a story that’s been explored in comics in many different ways. As “Superior” hits the shelves, there’s word that none other than Stan Lee is planning to take on the idiom as well. And in the feel good story of the new millennium, a group of American and Syrian children collaborated in creating the Silver Scorpion, a handicapped Muslim superhero who has the power to manipulate metal and defrost your jaded little heart.
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