The (re)Collection Agency #5: A Conversation with Andréa Gilroy

Welcome to the fifth installment of The (re)Collection Agency, a post series where we bring you informal talks with comics scholars about their comics reading and collecting practices and how that intersects with their work. The idea is to open up the discourse a bit to integrate the personal experience of comics reading and material culture with the scholarly side of comics, historicizing, interpreting, and archiving.

(photo by Andréa Gilroy)

In a pattern that should not be surprising to those who have been reading this series, this installment features a talk with a comics scholar I met at the International Comics Forum conference in April 2016. Andréa Gilroy earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon in 2015. Her research focuses on the way comics are uniquely able to represent different aspects of identity like race, sexuality, and gender. She was most recently the Interim Director of Comics and Cartoon Studies at the University of Oregon, where she also teaches classes for the departments of English and Comparative Literature. She is currently the fundraising coordinator for the International Comics Art Forum.

Dr. Andréa Gilroy

At ICAF, we discovered our mutual love of Love and Rockets and the fact that we have some friends and acquaintances in common, and when I started this series I knew she’d be one of the scholars with which I’d want to talk.

Osvaldo Oyola: Ready to begin?

Andréa Gilroy: I’ve never done a text interview before.

OO: I think I invented it. Well, probably not, but I haven’t seen it done elsewhere. Using chat feels like a happy medium between the immediacy of a recorded interview (which is a pain to transcribe) and the longer, more thoughtful answers of an email interview, but that often ends up feeling less like an actual conversation—not enough back and forth.

AG: It does feel like we’re getting closer to my dream of being able to use an animated gif instead of having to write a concluding paragraph. Someday…

OO: So originally, I was going to start with asking you about how you got into comics either as a fan or as a scholar, and I still want to talk about that, BUT…having read through some of your dissertation (which you so generously sent me) I am eager to talk about it because I had no idea the degree to which our work complemented each other! Reading it, I thought about how if we had known each other when I was working on mine there would have been a bunch of cross-influence

AG: I had the feeling that would be the case from some of our ICAF discussions!

OO: So, while you were exploring the tensions and interactions of image and text as a way to conceptualize and think about identity’s messiness, I was exploring the relationship of serialization and narrative to identity, using comics as the go-to example.

AG: Serialization and its connection to identity is actually something I’d like to explore more, particularly with Love and Rockets. The identities of the characters in Love and Rockets are pointedly fluid and I can’t help but feel the ever-shifting nature of the text reflects that. Does when you’ve read Love and Rockets shift things? Have you read all the original issues? Are the reprints good enough? Which reprints? How much of each brother? In which order? Not to mention the ways both brothers edit and change their original work for subsequent re-printings…

Even the title of Gilbert Hernandez’s “Human Diastrophism” suggests tensions of identity simultaneous instability and foundational aspects.

OO: As I have written, “Identity is a ret-con”

AG: Absolutely. I love that.

OO: Though perhaps “Identity is a ret-conned serial” might be more accurate.

AG: Even better. I mean, that’s sort of Hume’s whole point, isn’t it?

OO: Tell me. My Hume is rusty.

AG: Well, so is mine to be fair. But as I remember it, mostly from The Treatise on Human Nature, the whole point is that our identities are not stable. They’re little slices and moments—he calls them “bundles of perception”—constantly put together. There’s no “pure self” at the base, the self is how we conceive or, perhaps, read, those bundles…which bundles we see, which we emphasize, which we remember, which we experience.

OO: Yes! Clearly, I need to cite that in my work.

AG: …It’s only a product of our belief in causality that we tend to read a “whole” from all the pieces.

OO: I essentially make that argument when discussing how readers conceptualize the identities of characters. I also used philosophers discussing authenticity and cultural studies folks talking about style. I saw you have a whole thing about visual and drawing style in your dissertation, which I want to read closely.

AG: Yeah, earlier I was about to say that serialization and style go hand in hand for me.

OO: How so?

AG: Style evolves and crystallizes, but it also breaks down. Part of what informs a lot of my thinking as a reader of comics is that I spent most of my youth drawing. I’ve got tons of sketchbooks and several aborted attempts at comics. I think there comes a time in many artists’ lives where they realize you’ve either got the natural talent to push you through, or they have to be ready to give up everything to work really, really hard. (Of course, folks with talent have to work hard, too.) But I didn’t have the complete talent and I didn’t want to give up everything else, so I kept drawing as a hobby and didn’t try to take it pro.

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to draw, and thinking about my own style, and copying other people’s style and thinking about the visual aspects of comics and artists I like. Maybe more than the verbal aspects, even.

OO: That is one of the complexities of comics. the multi-modal style. Solo creators’ styles “evolve and crystalize,” but when comics are made collaboratively (which is a lot more common) the instability of identifying a unique “style” can be even more obvious.

AG: Absolutely. But for me, anyway—and this seems to be the case everywhere—no one’s style is ex nihlo. We have the myth of the artist, especially the visual artist, as the pure expressionist. That something pure and individual comes out every time they make a mark, but that’s never true. It’s the product of reference and influence being repurposed for your own needs.

OO: That is part of what I was exploring in my own dissertation: the way we collect and re-purpose in creating identity, which can be read as a style of being, or at least a style of presenting a narrative of being.

AG: Allusion is a hugely important concept for me—maybe even more than “intertextuality”—because “allusion” focuses so much on the act of referencing. The idea of referents becoming part of your own language. I know, for example, we share a love of [Junot] Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and one of the many reasons that text was so powerful to me was that it worked like my brain worked. It’s certainly not the first; one could easily say Eliot and Joyce and the other high modernists did allusion and intertextuality as well, but Díaz did it in my language.

OO: Or at least, in one of your languages. We all have many, whether we realize it or not. I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve had to explain to folks that comics and fantasy novels often have footnotes, when they’ve tried to claim Diaz’s use of them is an allusion to the scholarly (which it is also, but by way of “low” culture, I think)

AG: Right! Straight outta [Stan] Lee’s playbook, with his “Check out issue #233!” The idea that it’s both? Gasp!

OO: So, in the intro to your dissertation you write about how the project evolved from one about more “traditional” literature to one that focused on comics. Can you talk a little bit about that?

AG: The dissertation choice was part practical and part political. The practical part was simple: I’m happiest and best when working with comics. I can do the other stuff, and do it well, but my best work has always been comics-based. Secondly, the project being mostly comics-based made more sense. I had thought about shoe-horning in something else, had a few ideas, but everything felt, well, shoe-horned.

OO: I definitely have some tightly fitting shoes in my diss project

AG: But ultimately, I believe in comics studies. I believe in the viability of a comics-specific project for its own sake and still believe that bringing in a lot of other forms of literature wouldn’t have helped that much. I also really believe in the power of pop comics, and genre comics, and stuck pretty hard to those. Love and Rockets (which I wrote about in the diss), is on the edge. I think it doesn’t quite fit into any category, which is part of my fascination with it.

OO: My own project would probably have been even more about comics, if I was not concerned with job market viability. As it is, I only examine two comics series – LnR and an underground mini-comic called Real Rap.

AG: I don’t know the second, I must admit.

OO: I would be surprised if you did. I had to order them directly from the creator. They are little photocopied black and whites.

AG: I’ve been asked if I should’ve been more concerned with job market viability in choosing my focus and I honestly don’t know. I have friends in really traditional fields having really hard times finding positions, and comics studies seems so on the brink of exploding.

OO: Yes, there is no way of knowing if you are making a good or bad choice (aside from the obviously bad choice most of us have made to get PhDs), so you gotta go with where you’ll do your best work, I think.

AG:  I wonder if that’s not the constant struggle of studying popular culture, being taken seriously as a field. It took film studies a very long time. That’s what I keep telling myself.

OO: Speaking of things people don’t take seriously, this might be a good place to segue into asking you about your Tumblr.

AG: Because, well, yeah, Tumblr.

OO: In a post about responses to the Wonder Woman film, you mention a point about high art’s ideological messaging getting kind of lost in the focus on the problematics of pop culture. I thought it was a great point, rarely considered.

AG: Thanks. That sprung from a big faculty email thread about the politics of Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman as a character and the politics of superheroes generally. I was reading it, and thinking about the people who teach medieval, Renaissance, modernist, 18th, 19th, 17th century literatures. . . As well as having read a lot of discourse about the film’s problematic aspects. It was also clear that a lot of the people in the email thread were boycotting the movie and hadn’t seen it, so some of the really broad claims about American exceptionalism and the superhero film were interesting in regard to what the movie actually did to downplay the jingoism of Wonder Woman’s actual origin story.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t a general issue of the Hollywood machine and superhero movies and American cultural imperialism, but I was thinking about how I like Hemingway, with the full acknowledgement that Hemingway as a person was an asshole. I think his texts provide a lot of ways to read the subversion of the very hypermasculinity he’s so often trying to portray. Or that I’ve read Ezra Pound in literature classes and we talk about how he was a fascist, but we still read his poems.

We understand there might be something worth saving in those guys, but any attempt to discuss questions of art or message or separating the piece from the artists/people behind it seems like it’s completely disallowed in popular culture texts…and at the same time, people are often more comfortable making broad claims about what popular culture texts do and say without having actually seen or read them, but just by responding to what’s “in the soup” of the culture, especially with influential figures like superheroes.

OO: Now I want to ask you about how you read Wonder Woman’s original origin as jingoistic, but don’t want to get sidetracked…

AG: I mean, in Diana’s origin story, she goes off to help Steve in the comics because she’s convinced of the US’s specific moral rightness. In the intro to Sensation Comics #1, we’re told, “The Amazon Diana fell in love with Steve Trevor and decided to bring him back to America and help him wage battle for freedom, and democracy, and woman-kind through-out the world!” Plus, her outfit is a specific call to American symbolism, with the eagle and the star-spangled culottes.

OO: Right. That makes sense. Sometimes I get so caught up in the subversive elements of that Marston/Peter original run, I forget the ways in which it also reinforced certain troublesome ideals. I am so muddled by all her various incarnations and origin stories. Or I should say, they are muddled; thus, I am confused.

AG: Which is part of my whole point. I don’t think that the text has to be jingoistic or subversive. It can be both…and in the case of Wonder Woman, that muddling is really intensified compared to some of the other superheroes because of the changing creators and surreal elements of the stories. Everyone’s confused about exactly who and what she stands for, myself included. We all have our own Diana, because who she is has been changed so much.

OO: Anyway, returning to my original question about the Wonder Woman post, do you think there is a tension between our academic interest in interrogating the ‘problematic’ as part of a productive inquiry and the needs of fans/fandom in pop culture?

AG: Man, this is one of my “things”…What is academia really, but a really intense fandom?

OO: I can imagine a lot of scholars who’d holler about that characterization (though I would not be one of them).

AG: Certainly. That’s because people assume fans just swallow all the problematic things about their object of obsession without question or analysis. But that has not been my experience. Certainly, there are different kinds of discourse, and there’s definitely a different kind of language. But academia and fandom are often closer than one would imagine. I mean, there’s the stereotypical image of a fanboy, right? White, middle-aged, middle-class…

OO: And that is close to (if not exactly) the image of the scholar!

AG: You beat me to it. On top of that, what you find out if you actually go to cons or hang out on the internet is that that’s a portion yes, but not the whole picture.

OO: Yes, I just started on a side project collecting pre-social media letters to Big Two comics that ask about or seek greater representations of women and people of color.

AG: Right! Those letters pages are amazing. For a long time, white male dudes dominated the discourse, because they had access. The fact is, women and POC have always been fans. I mean, one could argue women invented a lot of what we understand in contemporary fandom with Star Trek in the 1960s Now that we have the internet, people have much easier access, and so are much more visible. But to pretend they weren’t there before is to pretend every anonymous poet was probably a white dude.

OO: !!!

AG: Well, because we’d been speaking of allusion earlier, it only seems fair now to give props to Virginia Woolf on that one since I’m playing on her line about “Anonymous being a woman” in “Shakespeare’s Sister” in A Room of One’s Own. But fans are engaged. And thoughtful, and obsessive. And they do think about issues of representation and narrative and all that stuff. Ramzi Fawaz’s chapter in The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics on the letters in the Fantastic Four is really great about this.

OO: This links back to your comment about problematic messaging in so-called high art. When I read that I immediately thought of your claim as kind of anti-Adorno, which made me realize that even in the world of theory we have to pick and choose and navigate their problematics, since, for example, Uncle Adorno was elitist as all fuck.

AG: Oh, god, I’m Anti-Adorno and proud. I mean, I do understand his critiques of capitalist consumption, but the elitism. I mentioned Star Trek earlier, which always makes me think about fanfic, the most maligned of fandom topics…except for maybe fur-suits. But to me—and this is a future project I have bouncing around in my head—it’s so obvious that to write fanfiction requires critical engagement with the material you are a fan of. You have to have an interpretation of the character, an interpretation strong enough to drive you to write. A reading, if you will.

OO: Yes, I am not a die-hard Trekkie, but reading [Henry] Jenkins on Star Trek fan fic was some of the most fascinating research I did in grad school.

AG: I’m not necessarily a trekkie, either—and it’s precisely that history that Jenkins writes about that’s cemented the connection between Star Trek and fic in my head. My basic thesis is that fanfiction is a reading of a text performed creatively instead of analytically. And this gets truer the crazier the fic gets. Now me, I prefer my fic closer to canon because I’m kinda boring that way. But, the fact that people who might care less about literary theory being really intelligent about issues of canon because they’re engaged in fandom discussions? That’s amazing! And, it’s why one of the biggest political projects of my work is anti-elitism.

OO: Tell me more…

AG: Well, part of it is very personal. My dad came to the US from Argentina to play soccer when he was 19. He’s not an academic, not in the least. Neither is my mom. But both parents always encouraged me to do what I want to do, even though I know they don’t completely “get” academia or the work I do. And when I take my time, re-word and re-frame things, they do get it. I just don’t see why we spend a lot of time obscuring our work with overly complex language or by rejecting certain texts, genres, and modes as objects of study…Especially those of us who study popular culture. It’s a bit utopian or naïve of me, I guess. But if education is the ultimate point, who should we really be talking to?

OO: Yes, I saw someone tweet about this subject recently: if your topic is important enough to write a whole book about it, why would you write it in a way that is only accessible to 100 people?

AG: That’s precisely the reason I’m really careful to be clear, even plain-spoken, in my writing. I want to be accessible. But it’s also part of why I’m fascinated by objects of popular culture. They speak to so many people, can spark so many unexpected conversations. Yes, they’re mass-produced for economic interests. But the emotional connections people have to those franchises open up conversations and allow a way “in,” when purely intellectual concepts can be alienating. And again, all art—not just popular or mass culture art—is produced for some sort of economic or political interest. All art has some sort of market.

OO: Still, I also run into resistance from “lay people” (for lack of a better term) who want to know “Why can’t you just enjoy it?”

AG: Yeah, I hear that. But I think that when anyone really loves something, taking it apart and putting it back together is how you enjoy it.

OO: When I care enough to answer, I try to explain a version of what you mentioned earlier, which is “you are already doing a reading, too.”

AG: Right. If you really love music, you don’t listen to a song once and never listen again. You listen a million times, or figure out who the producer and musicians are. You maybe look up other things they’ve done, or similar artists. Some people learn how to play an instrument because of it. Or if people really love cars, they learn about what makes them go. If they really love sports, they pick favorite teams, and athletes, or learn their stats.

OO: Maybe, but to push back a bit…many don’t, but…

AG: Sure. For me, that’s the difference between casual enjoyment and fandom.

OO: That doesn’t mean they love it less.

AG: That’s true.

OO: I think the sticking point for me, is how to think about different forms of engagement that exist outside of “casualness.”

AG: I guess I can’t imagine a “fan” that doesn’t pay attention to something. It’s so natural to me.

OO: I just worry about those evaluations of “real” fandom leading to gatekeeping.

AG: Yes, I can see how that’s a danger. I guess for me, what makes the “border line” into fandom means that somehow, you’re engaging. It’s possible that you can really love something and just watch it/engage with it once and step away. I just have no idea what that looks like. Or rather, what it feels like. My lack of imagination shouldn’t necessarily be the defining factor, but it seems to me that even if fandom might not look like what you expect, it does require sort of engagement. It might be learning to do it yourself, it might be memorizing numbers, it might be watching all the games…

OO: That last one was exactly what I was thinking of as an example, in terms of sports, anyway.

Cosplayer Meevers Desu as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel

AG: Right. I’m a soccer/fútbol fan, and the difference between what that means for me and for my dad, for example…it’s something really intense. I “know” a lot, and can talk intelligently about my teams and players, but for my dad it’s his literal heart.

But to bring it back to comics, I’d say that’s like comparing someone who’s read every issue of every Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel-related title ever and knows it all by heart, and someone who’s only read G. Willow Wilson’s run on Ms. Marvel and cosplays at cons. Both are valid engagements, just different. It might be the difference between a generalist and a specialist in academia.

OO: Yes. . . I want to read more work about that…some forms of engagement are just more invisible, and I want more interrogation of those less visible ways. I am thinking of those Brit cultural studies guys who only ever talked about male subcultures of mods, punks, and rockers, because girls were tending to do their sub-cultural engagement in private settings (like listening to records with girlfriends at home) and someone like Angela McRobbie challenged that stuff. Or, more recently, Tia DeNora’s Music and Everyday Life (2000).

AG: Which make me think of identity and representation again. I guess one of the reasons I think comics is so good at representing different aspects of identity is precisely because it has access to both the visible and invisible aspects that we use to imagine and define ourselves and others.

OO: I’m with you, but can you elaborate?

AG: Representation tends to be an inherently visual/visible word; but identity isn’t. And yet so much of how we articulate our identity is done visually. So, we have an abstract concept—a messy, changing one at that—in identity (like we were discussing earlier), but a desire to see it; to see ourselves and others like us.

OO: And to be seen through it…if that makes sense.

AG: Yes. Because if you can see someone or something like me, then you can see some glimmer of me. And, people can choose the visual aspects, or even entire visual personae, as lenses that they want other people to interpret them through. It’s the whole point of choosing a “style.”

This is why I’m so fascinated by the word/image debate in comics, which seems to be at the base of so much comics theory. For me, words and images both are and aren’t different from each other. This is especially true in comics, because the word is written and graphically represented. It is part of the image.

OO: Yes, and in the case of sound effects, especially so.

AG: Definitely. They’re the most obvious examples of this boundary blurring. In my dissertation, for example, I write a bit about translating SFX and how it shows just how porous the border is between word and image. Looking at the consequences of linguistic translation forces us to think about how it shifts the graphic nature of that text and its function in the panel. But likewise all images must be read; they are complex systems that are filled with cultural signifiers. Even the most photorealistic ones. Then there’s the idea of the sonority of sound effects…

OO: There needs to be more written about that. I’ve written a little about Dazzler in that context.

AG: The issue is—and Charles Hatfield is really brilliant on this in “An Art of Tensions” in Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature (the piece was reprinted in A Comics Studies Reader, and he brings the topic up again in the chapter on style in Hand of Fire)—that we’re simultaneously stuck in a culture that values and teaches us different ways of reading word and image.

OO: Charles comes up in every single one of these talks…

AG: That’s because Charles is, honestly, one of the best thinkers around when it comes to the comics form. And he manages to articulate complex ideas with incredible clarity.

So, comics is this weird form that obviously relies on images and therefore gives us visual representations, but also uses words and verbal representation in ways that we’re all trained in certain ways to understand. We “look at” the pictures and “read” the words. But when a comic is really humming, it troubles those boundaries—we start looking at words and reading images at the same time. So, to return to why I think comics is such a good form for representing identity both as a general concept and in its more specific aspects (race, gender, sexuality, community, etc), our identities are messy, and they’re always in tension between an abstract idea or concept and the way we attempt to represent that self-conception to the world. All of that is wrapped up in the stew of cultural signals and signs and our cultural training in how to read those signs. Comics seems like the perfect form for examining these questions.

OO: I am on board for this whole comics and identity stuff, since that is my own work’s wheelhouse, but let’s move on, though in a way we’ll still be keeping on the subject of identity: Do you have a comics origin story, either as a reader and/or a scholar?

AG: The cheeky version I tell in my dissertation introduction is that I ended up a Ph.D. because I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. Technically, I wanted to be Usagi Yojimbo, but I only knew him from the cartoon (I wasn’t cool enough to be reading Sakai at seven)…and I figured people reading the piece or listening to my defense would know the Turtles better. But I fell in love with the idea of Japan-as-presented-by-TMNT, all ninjas and samurai and cherry blossoms, which led me to study actual Japan for a second grade book report.

OO: Oof! I can imagine that kind of young Japanophilia being both delightful and fraught.

AG: Yes. I mean, I guess. We’re all embarrassed by something we liked or how/why we liked it when we were younger. I was just at the right age when Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z were hitting TV, and I’d already been a bit of an anime fan. But, I feel like I “made good” on that “Japanophilia,” as you call it. I have studied Japanese culture, language, and literature; so it’s not a blind love of all things Japan. I ended up writing my honors thesis on the Jamesonian conception of nostalgia—that the complexity of history gets flattened into a single “past”—and the Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke. That essay got me into grad school. Hence, the joke that I became a Ph.D because I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle.

It wasn’t just manga, though. Young Andréa also had a comic Bible growing up. It was not the EC Picture Stories from the Bible, but like the EC stuff. And I loved the SHIT out of it.

OO: Wait, a literal comic book version of the Bible?

AG: Yeah! It was… The Picture Bible from 1978.

(From The Picture Bible – art by André LeBlanc)

OO: Nice! I had one too. Or at least, part of the Old Testament in comic form collected in paperback.

AG: This one was about 70% OT, but had some New Testament. Obviously, the Old Testament makes better comics. Amazing set pieces and gorgeous costumes.

OO: Yes, Old Testament comics even made me appreciate Crumb.

AG: As I mentioned earlier, I loved to draw. So, I ate comics up. I tended to prefer classic illustrator-style comics as a kid, so I wasn’t as into newspaper strips. I did learn to draw the Marvel Way, though. I recommend that book (How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema) to everyone. It’s not just about learning to draw, I think…but learning to think a little bit like artists think. What perspective means, how composition works, all that stuff…with Stan Lee alliteration.

OO: I had a copy of that but gifted it to a friend who frequently doodles Spider-Man.

AG: I was very into Spider-Man during the Clone Saga. I was nine, so it was SO INTENSE. So despite it being a universally despised storyline, I have a soft spot for it. I remember liking John Romita Jr.’s art in Sensational Spider-Man, and I think he was one of the first artists I paid attention to for that reason. I didn’t like his faces as much, but I loved the way he drew Spider-Man.

OO: So, do you see that younger experience informing your scholarship at all?

AG: I can only imagine it did. At the very least, I know my obsession with drawing and visuals did. So now, even though I work primarily in literature departments, the visual aspects of comics are almost more important to me. As a kid, I’d spend hours tracing pages and copying artists I liked. I never really went through a full “superheroes are lame” phase, but I did go through a “manga is cooler” phase. So in my teens, I spent as much time learning to draw the manga style as I had the classic illustrator style. Which is why, as I was saying earlier, it’s so clear to me that style is an evolving, allusive thing and not some expression of pure, artistic individuality.

OO: What about now? Do you read a lot /any current comics/manga?

AG: It’s a weird thing when you make what you love your job. I’m not as up to date as I should be. I’m very behind on manga. I tend to prefer to find old stuff, rather than keep up with new stuff. There’s SO MUCH now, which is great. When I was first into it we had so little, and now…that’s not the case. But manga publishing in the US has almost no sense of historicity, so you rarely see older texts, even important ones, in print. So, I try to track them down when I can.

OO: That sounds like collecting. Do you see yourself as a collector?

AG: Not really, but mostly because when I think “comics collector” I think of someone who collects single issues, and I don’t do that much. My husband and I (He’s a comics nerd, too) have a pull-list at our local comic book shop, but we usually donate the floppies to our nephews or friends once the trades come out…except for the handful we get signed.

We save our “collecting” money for original art or sketch commissions at cons. It’s a bit pricier, but the “aura”—to use Walter Benjamin’s term—seems stronger to me when I feel like someone’s actually touched something. We don’t have anything super impressive, but my crown jewel is a commission we got from Chris Samnee. It’s Superman and Lois Lane.

OO: Anything you want to shout out as current faves?

AG: Hmm. I just read Jillian Tamaki’s Hulk, which was annoyingly retitled She-Hulk for the trade, and I thought that was quite good. I don’t really like Hulk or She-Hulk so the fact that I enjoyed it was quite a feat. Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca’s Shutter just wrapped. I really love that series; I think it’s a fun adventure doing some daring stuff playing with comics history and form. I mean, they have a snake lady cowboy named Huckleberry in obvious reference to Moebius/Jean Giraud’s Blueberry. One of Shutter’s covers was a beheaded robot that looks like Felix the Cat only literally copying an iconic image from the Akira—not the movie, but the manga. Those “deep cut” allusions are really fun.

OO: Do you see what you currently read as shaping the direction of your scholarship, or is it a case of holding off until whatever current project is done?

AG: I am one of those people who tends to have a hard time reading “for fun” (with a few exceptions). So, I’m always looking for something that might “help” what I’m working on. I’ve just started My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. I’m kind of thinking about it in terms of the monstrous feminine and comparing it with Marjorie Liu’s Monstress (which I’m way behind on). So, I guess, the short answer is yes.

OO: My Favorite Thing is Monsters is the best book of any kind I have read in a long time, and I also love Monstress.

AG: I’m really looking forward to Monsters! I’ve flipped through and dipped in a few pages, but haven’t really dived in yet. It’s gorgeous to look at, that’s for sure.

OO: You’re in for a treat! So, this was a great talk. Thank you so much for agreeing to take part and taking the time to talk comics and identity with me. Tell us where else readers can find you or your work.

AG: Yes! I really enjoyed it, too. You can visit my blog at or email me at I’m always happy to chat! And with that, all I have to say is. . .

I want to thank Andréa one last time for agreeing to chat with me about the comics medium and identity, and everything else we discussed. I look forward to seeing her again at ICAF 2017 (this November in Seattle) and hope, given the intersection of our work, that we might even collaborate on a project in the not too distant future. And, I’ll be sure to update this post with links to her future work when available.

Stay tuned for more installments of The (re)Collection Agency featuring more conversations with comics scholars. Until then!

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity).


3 thoughts on “The (re)Collection Agency #5: A Conversation with Andréa Gilroy

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