Our digital symposium Sugar and Spice, and the Not So Nice: Comics Picturing Girlhood was launched on 22 April 2021 with a profound and personal keynote by Mel Gibson. Using herself as a case study she reflected on being a reader, a librarian, a scholar and an individual who, in a variety of fields, has represented non-standard notions of ‘girl’. In workshops for librarians, teachers and scholars, Gibson uses comics for object elicitation, allowing her to encourage others to reconsider themselves as child comics readers and the complex ideologies knotted up in this experience. Gibson’s work provokes the notion of the individual as a role model, a unique and precise representation with particular qualities, interests and passions. Using restorative nostalgia entails not just reflecting back on, but also resisting, shame and embarrassment, forgiving and accepting ourselves as the child readers we were. Gibson shows a respect for the powerful and evocative materiality of comics and offers a compassionate model for identity. Whilst speaking personally about comics reading, Gibson engaged with discourses of hierarchy, child development and affect, interrogating the simple truth that what we read is part of making us who we are.
Image courtesy by Dragana Radanović.