1st Edition: Shaking the Foundations

Conference participants

CIRM and the Montréal Comic Arts Festival (MCAF) held the first edition of the Shaking the Foundations International Conference from October 28 to 30, 2021, at Auditorium BAnQ.

The full programming of the conference is available on the Shaking the Foundations website. It is also possible to watch the presentations on MCAF’s YouTube channel.

General theme

Metropolis, Gotham City, New York, Berlin, Brussels, even Montréal—be they real or dreamlike, dark citadels or beacons of light, urban landscapes often find their way into the creative universes of comic creators. Through the trials of their protagonists and main characters, the city and its foundations are repeatedly abused, redesigned, and reimagined. Buildings are shattered or used as weapons by superheroes, locked in epic battles with their adversaries in the city. Protagonists commute through the city of the future, whether utopian or dystopian, where the artist has taken the opportunity to draw both the boundaries of the expected city and the attention of critics and readers to urban design and its limits. Other creators may subvert the medium’s conventions or use architectural and urban metaphors to deconstruct their stories. With each stroke of their pen, comic artists shake the foundations of the real and imaginary city, the ways it is represented, and the urban issues it faces.

Which formal or thematic devices do comic artists use to shake these foundations? Proposals may address one or more of the following themes:

1. Shaking the foundations… of the city

The foundations of the city are disrupted in many ways in comics. Its architecture may be shattered, reduced to dust (fights between superheroes and their opponents, war situations, tales about the creation or dismantling of neighbourhoods, etc.). The founding principles of architecture or urban planning may also be reinvented by utopian or dystopian visions of the city of the future or imagined urban milieus (bringing to mind Winsor McCay, Mœbius, the cathedral skyscrapers of modernity inspired by Hugh Ferris, etc.).

2. Shaking the foundations… of society

It is also possible for comic artists to question preconceptions of urban societies. By illustrating and addressing some of the concerns experienced in urban centres, comic artists highlight cultural, religious, social, economic, and other disturbances, and thus an established social order that may be criticized at leisure. Consider the works of Guy Delisle (Shenzhen, Pyongyang), Joe Sacco (Palestine, Safe Area Goražde) or Chantal Montellier (Wonder City, Tchernobyl mon amour).

3. Shaking the foundations… of the comic arts

Finally, creators shake the foundations of the comic arts, namely by using urban or architectural metaphors in order to question their creative processes and storytelling, as does Chris Ware in his Building Stories or as François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters also endeavour in their Les Cités obscures.

Scientific Director

  • Mario Beaulac — Professor, École multidisciplinaire de l’image, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Members of the Scientific Committee

  • Johanne Desrochers — General Director, MCAF
  • Dominique Gazo — Director of Montréal Public Libraries, City of Montréal
  • Anna Giaufret — International Member, CIRM; Associate Professor, Department of Modern and French Languages and Cultures, University of Genoa
  • Marc-André Goulet — Head of Department, Arts and Literature, Grande Bibliothèque (BAnQ)
  • Dominic Hardy — Professor, Department of Art History, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Nik Luka — Associate Director, CIRM; Associate Professor, School of Urban Planning and Peter Guo-Hua Fu School of Architecture, McGill University
  • François Vigneault — Comic Artist

Organizing Committee

  • Johanne Desrochers — General Director, MCAF
  • Audray Fontaine — Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator, CIRM
  • Louise Guillemette-Labory — Board Director, MCAF
  • Virginie Mont-Reynaud — Programming and Logistics Coordinator, MCAF


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