Komiks

Komiks: Comic Art in Russia

JOSÉ ALANIZ
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvmrr
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    Komiks
    Book Description:

    José Alaniz explores the problematic publication history ofkomiks--an art form much-maligned as "bourgeois" mass diversion before, during, and after the collapse of the USSR--with an emphasis on the last twenty years. Using archival research, interviews with major artists and publishers, and close readings of several works,Komiks: Comic Art in Russiaprovides heretofore unavailable access to the country's rich--but unknown--comics heritage. The study examines the dizzying experimental comics of the late Czarist and early revolutionary era, caricature from the satirical journalKrokodil, and the postwar seriesPetia Ryzhik(the "Russian Tintin"). Detailed case studies include the Perestroika-era KOM studio, the first devoted to comics in the Soviet Union; post-Soviet comics in contemporary art; autobiography and the work of Nikolai Maslov; and women's comics by such artists as Lena Uzhinova, Namida, and Re-I. Alaniz examines such issues as anti-Americanism, censorship, the rise of consumerism, globalization (e.g., in Russian manga), the impact of the internet, and the hard-won establishment of a comics subculture in Russia.

    Komikshave often borne the brunt of ideological change--thriving in summers of relative freedom, freezing in hard winters of official disdain. This volume covers the art form's origins in religious icon-making and book illustration, and later the immensely popularlubokor woodblock print. Alaniz reveals comics' vilification and marginalization under the Communists, the art form's economic struggles, and its eventual internet "migration" in the post-Soviet era. This book shows that Russian comics, as with the people who made them, never had a "normal life."

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-367-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: KOMIKS AGONISTES
    (pp. 3-10)

    In December 2003, the exhibitApocalypse Today(Apokalipsis sego dnia) opened at the World of Art Museum (WAM) gallery in Moscow. Billed as a modern revival of the sixteenth-century tradition of illustrated miniatures produced by the Russian Orthodox Church, the show brought together thirteen artists’ visions of the Book of Revelations. The works ranged from the humor-laden reinventions of prophecy by Georgy “Zhora” Litichevsky; the weightless, hallucinogenic sojourns of John to the higher realms, limned by Alim Velitov; the fantasy stylings of Askold Akishin; the monumental apparitions of Ilya Savchenkov; the faux naïve buffoonery of Pavel “Khikhus” Sukhikh, among others....

  5. PART I: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

    • 1 LUBOK AND THE PREREVOLUTIONARY ERA
      (pp. 13-30)

      The language of comics on Russian soil dates back to the country’s earliest religious icon-making tradition, which is to say, to the roots of Christianity and thus of the nation itself.¹ According to Bruce Lincoln, “while frescoes and mosaics proclaimed the glory of God in Keiv’s churches, paintings done on panels of well-seasoned alder, cypress, or lime (over which a layer of linen had been stretched and covered with several thin coats of gesso) became the windows through which the people of Rus entered the world of the spirit to receive the grace of God” (22).² Icons, having come to...

    • 2 COMICS DURING THE SOVIET ERA
      (pp. 31-78)

      The Bolsheviks, led initially by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, sought a radical break with the traditions of the past as well as with the capitalist West, and launched a bold refashioning of what they saw as backward Russian society into a modern industrialized state grounded on Marxist principles.¹ As a result, the seventy-year Soviet domination of Russia inaugurated by the Communist revolution of November 7, 1917 (new style), proved on the whole disruptive to the development of comics as an art form, consigning it to the margins of culture. Contrary to popular perceptions of comics (or their absence) under communism, however,...

    • 3 THE REBIRTH OF RUSSIAN COMICS
      (pp. 79-90)

      When the fifty-four-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev—the first Communist Party general secretary born after the Revolution—assumed power in March 1985, few predicted the depth of change the Soviet Union would undergo in six short years, leading to its collapse and the restoration of Russia as a quasi-capitalist, quasi-democratic country. Gorbachev’s policies of a new engagement with the West, ending the disastrous military venture in Afghanistan, economic reform, and loosening of censorship transformed Soviet society and opened vast new opportunities for (sub) cultural activities long suppressed. The era of Perestroika (“restructuring”), for the first time in six decades, offered comics the...

    • 4 RUSSIAN COMICSʹ SECOND WAVE
      (pp. 91-142)

      The years from 1991 to the present proved among the most exhilarating, groundbreaking, and frustrating of all in the medium’s checkered history. Despite the launching of festivals and journals, the rise of an active online community and publications abroad, efforts to establish a working industry repeatedly came to naught. Still, the “Second Wave” komiks subculture in contemporary Russia brings together an array of talent, diversity, and professionalism never before seen. Much disaffection remains, but the road to today’s gains was not easily paved, as shown in this chapter’s overview.

      Surveying the landscape for Russian comics in the mid-1990s, Sakov made...

  6. PART II: CLOSE READINGS

    • 5 ARTKOMIKS IN THE MUSEUM
      (pp. 145-161)

      Writing on the 2003 group exhibit “Viewing Area” at Moscow’s Central House of the Artist, Vladimir Moist betrays the bemusement of some Russian art critics toward the significant trend of comics appropriation in the post-Soviet era. His sardonic phrase “for us the most important of the arts” mocks a well-known utterance attributed to Lenin, “cinema is for us the most important of the arts.” (Recall that the KOM publicationKOM-paniiahad made the same pun in 1988 and had thrown in a drawing of Lenin reading comics to boot.) Similarly, theKulturacritic Konstantin Bokhorov, assessing the 2007 KomMissia Festival,...

    • 6 NEW KOMIKS FOR THE NEW RUSSIANS
      (pp. 162-179)

      As described by Anna Krylova in a 1999 essay on Russian subversion, laughter, and jokes, New Russians (novie russkie) are “a post-Soviet sociocultural category widely used in contemporary Russia to refer, usually unflatteringly, to the group of people who have ‘made it’ under the new market-economy conditions” (261). Recent critical discussions of the New Russians have highlighted both their “mythical” status and their precipitous slide (at least in their original form) into the dustbin of history.

      Mark Lipovetsky’s essay, in a 2003 issue ofRussian Reviewdevoted to the subject, begins by asking, “Are Those New Russians Real?” before ceding...

    • 7 AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN POST-SOVIET RUSSIAN COMICS: THE CASE OF NIKOLAI MASLOV
      (pp. 180-195)

      The genre of autobiography, a staple of Western comics—especially of the underground and alternative persuasion—has been slow to develop in post-Soviet Russia. This chapter will explore some of the reasons for why this is the case, through a reading of Nikolai Maslov’s comics memoir work and the scandal it provoked among komiksisty upon its publication in 2004 France. The scandal did not register among the Russian public at large, which had never heard of Maslov, nor in the Russian literary scene, as the work has to this day not been published in Maslov’s own country. The contretemps erupted...

    • 8 ʺI WANTʺ: WOMEN IN POST-SOVIET RUSSIAN COMICS
      (pp. 196-215)

      In her essay “The Visual Turn and Gender History,” Almira Ustinova posits the gender split in Russian culture as largely falling along a verbal versus visual dynamic. In a familiar move, she associates the masculine with language, the Law of the Father, history, while the feminine—that historically repressed element forever “looking in from the outside”—she relates to the visual register. Ustinova’s argument is more subtle than this description of a simple gender dichotomy might suggest (for one thing it recallsl’ecriture feminineand the critic Julia Kristeva’s notion of the pre-verbal “semiotic”), while its attention to the role...

  7. CONCLUSION: IMPOLITIC THOUGHTS
    (pp. 216-221)

    As KomMissia 2005 was taking place, across town, Moscow’s imposing House of the Artist played host to the annual Art Moskva art fair, with displays from over forty-five Russian and European galleries. Many of the works on display made use of comics iconography—showing yet again that in Russia, comics were everywhere and nowhere; only the rich would be purchasing such canvases.

    Television crews and reporters covering the show converged on one display in particular: that of the artist Pavel Shevelev and his exhibit of courtroom sketches from the trial of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The former chair of the...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 222-247)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 248-261)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 262-269)