1981-1982 Video Games as Culture – Graphic Notes
This research mini-comic is meant as an introduction to a talk at the Comics/Game conference, held on November 5-7 in Hanover, Germany. While I have criticized in the past the use of “talking heads” in the context of academic comics, I have come to revise that position slightly, as I have reevaluated the usefulness of empathy in these productions. Here, the binary rhythm (illustration or document / my face) serves as an echo of the format of the presentation along which these comics will be used.
I should add that this is a concise – thus simplified though hopefully still accurate – rendition of a much longer and much detailed talk, mentioned on page 8, which will appear in full as a traditional article in Les Cahiers de l’Artes, in 2019.
For reference, here is the abstract I submitted for the conference:
A Sudden Discovery: early mutual representations (1981-1983)
Though systematic intermedial circulations between North American comics and video games are a fairly recent phenomenon, the two media have been closely associated in fact (as demonstrated by the abundance of video games in comics but also by sociological studies, see for instance Woo 2011) as well as in popular representations (for instance in the Stranger Things TV show) since the early 80s.
This presentation will seek to examine the years in which this affinity was suddenly discovered and consolidated, in 1981-1983. Indeed, the first video game column in a comics magazine was introduced in 1981 (in Epic Illustrated in August, then in Heavy Metal magazine in October); the first ads for video games appeared in comic books in 1982, Mad magazine ran two video-game themed covers the same year, while Atari packaged DC-produced mini-comics with some of its cartridges; then in 1983, Marvel launched its short-lived Blip magazine. While the two media had ignored each other, they suddenly became intertwined.
While this period offers ample opportunity for a study of changing cultural practices and identities, I plan to focus specifically on the embryonic remediations to be found in the aforementioned examples. Of particular interest are the attempts to redraw video games as comics: John Holmstrom’s column in Heavy Metal (24 chronicles between 1981 and 1984) frequently take the form of non-fiction comics. The presentation will thus use the Atari mini-comics, the Heavy Metal columns as well as the 7 issues of Blip to identify the various strategies in which video games were represented (and acculturated) for comics readers.