Drawing new conclusions from comics and cartoons

This book combines eight individual comics that the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in partnership with Umlando Wezithombe, circulated to schoolchildren and others for free between 2005 and 2007. It is among those displayed in a Doe Library exhibit on comics from around the world. (Image courtesy of the UC Berkeley Library.)

Comics and graphic novels offering intriguing glimpses of visually arresting, sometimes amusing and often sobering stories of cultures, politics and economics around the world are on display in Doe Library’s Bernice Layne Brown Gallery at UC Berkeley through March 2017.

The exhibit, “Beyond Tintin and Superman: The Diversity of Global Comics,” reflects the collaborative work of a team led by Liladhar Pendse, UC Berkeley’s librarian for Slavic, East European, Armenian and Central Asian studies collections, as well as acting librarian for African Studies. 

The comics and graphic novels on display come from the library’s collection, as well as some loaned from Pendse’s personal collection. The materials — with their striking imagery and layers of subtexts — come from Mexico, Egypt, Argentina, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Colombia, Poland, Israel and other nations, and include Japanese woodblock imagery and contemporary manga stories.  

Pendse leads a brief tour of the exhibit in the video below.

UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally

There is a copy of the DC Comics 1987 classic, Watchmen, as well as graphic novels and comics covering atomic bomb survivors, young Yemeni women forced into marriage, a collection created in response to the January 2015 terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, love in a Japanese boys’ boarding school, and a translation of a two-volume work of a French professor of Middle Eastern studies, historian and award-winning artist that tells the complicated stories of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East.

“The world has always been a violent place,” says Pendse. “And so my question as a professional is, how can I contribute to peace? Through building our uniquely rich collections, and making information available, I believe I am contributing to increased understanding in the world and in cultures at large.”

Pendse has helped curate previous exhibits, including displays of posters and printed works from Cuba and Soviet Union during the Cold War, and Russian America, about the 1857 purchase of Alaska drawn from the library’s Russian-American collections. He is planning future exhibits, one on popular Brazilian chapbooks, another on Bollywood.

‘Cartooning the Landscape’

Meanwhile, at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, landscape architecture and environmental planning professor Charles “Chip” Sullivan is celebrating publication of Cartooning the Landscape, a book presented in graphic novel format and filled with Sullivan’s comic strips illustrating significant concepts and milestones of landscape architecture.

Landscape architecture professor "Chip" Sullivan has a new book out that uses cartoons as a teaching and learning tool.

Landscape architecture professor Chip Sullivan’s new book uses cartoons as a teaching and learning tool.

Some of the strips were published earlier in Sullivan’s Creative Learning series in Landscape Architecture magazine, which focused on the creative process and landscape representation. The drawings have been exhibited at Clemson University, a breakthrough show of landscape comics in the U.S. Other strips in the book are brand new. 

Sullivan, a strong proponent of hand drawing in an era of computerized drawing tools, takes readers on an illustrated tour of the sculptures of the Tree Circus on California’s Highway 17, the network of tunnels and fortifications comprising France’s Maginot Line, Walt Disney theme parks, the aerial perspectives introduced by hot air balloons and a range of artists’ tools from the camera obscura to optical illusions.

He has said that his passion for landscape design and how it is represented evolved from his childhood love of comics, movies and model railroads.


Read more about the global comics exhibit here.