I really enjoyed this interview scholar and critic Jeet Heer did with Seetha Srinivasan, who as former director for the University of Mississippi Press, published a number of stellar comics-related publications, such as R.C. Harvey’s Art of the Comic Strip and David Kunzle’s recent biography of Rudolphe Topffer:
Jeet: In your article for the International Journal of Comic Art, you mentioned that there has been some resistance to comics scholarship. Do you want to expand on that and talk about some of the difficulties the press and its authors have faced in this area? One area that might be worth exploring here is the issue of copyright and the difficulty of reprinting certain art and articles.
Seetha: One of our authors told me that when his dissertation topic was announced at graduation there was derisive laughter in the audience, and this after he had struggled to get his topic approved. Once when discussing a manuscript, I asked an author why his analysis of an aspect of comics was laced with theoretical considerations that were not integral to the subject. He assured me that the book manuscript would be stripped of these; they were in the dissertation to address concerns that his subject was not worthy of scholarship. I believe, however, that these barriers are disappearing as witnessed by the increasing number of comics scholars. Also, as I mentioned there was resistance from some of members of our editorial board who questioned whether UPM wanted to be known as a publisher of books on the comics. Were these worthy of consideration of attention from a scholarly press? It is to the credit of these members that they were willing to be persuaded of the central role comics played in a culture and to take a risk on the first titles. It is also to their credit that they subsequently acknowledged that they were mistaken about the value of this area of scholarship. So far we have not had trouble clearing permissions for use in our books. Even Disney gives permission, though it takes a long time to answer and charges a modest fee. We are particular in advising authors to limit images to those that are essential to the argument and not let them be eye candy. This helps us make our case to rights holders.