Introducing Michigan State University Comic Art and Graphic Novel Podcast

Professor Ryan Claytor at Michigan State University introduces the new Michigan State University Comic Art and Graphic Novel Podcast as well as the new Comic Art and Graphic Novel Undergraduate Minor at MSU.

msu

The Michigan State University Comic Art and Graphic Novel Podcast (msucomics.libsyn.com) is a new interview program (launched Sept. 1st, 2016) hosted by Ryan Claytor.  Here’s an outline of what you can expect on a per episode basis, as each show will consist of three segments.

The start of the podcast will share updates about various comics-related events around Michigan State University (MSU), such as students’ book signings each semester (more on this later) or the yearly MSU Comics Forum, a multiday event for scholars, creators, and readers of the comics medium (more to come about this, too).

The introductory announcements will be followed by a brief discussion with Michigan State University Special Collections Comics Bibliographer, Randy Scott, who has built something we are very proud of at MSU, the largest public collection of comics in the world.  This collection is located in the basement of the Michigan State University library and is accessible to anyone; you do not need to be affiliated with MSU in order to visit or view the books.  In fact, many scholars from around the globe come to East Lansing, MI to do just that.  So, in this second segment of our episodes,  Randy Scott will highlight a different selection from our Special Collections Library.  The item he picks may be notable due to its age, rarity, significance to the medium, or simply an oddity that you wouldn’t know to look for.

After that, we make way for the headliner of the podcast, an in-depth interview with a professional award-winning cartoonist, many of whom have visited Michigan State University as keynote speakers for the MSU Comics Forum.  During these lengthy interviews, we’ll take a deep dive into the creator’s artistic history, get uniquely personal descriptions of their working process, and discuss their past, present, and future work.

So those are the three segments you can expect on a per episode basis, the introductory announcements, the MSU Special Collections Highlight, and the In-Depth Creator Interview.

Regarding the frequency of the podcast, you can expect a new episode at the start of each month.  Each season will consist of 9 episodes that will release monthly for the duration of the academic year (September-May), the show will go dark in the summer months (Jun-Aug), and resume for its subsequent season the following September.

Now, if you’re wondering who I am, my name is Ryan Claytor.  As a creator, I’m probably best known for creating my award-winning autobiographical comic book series, And Then One Day, which explore the human experience as well as autobiographical theory and how it relates to the medium of comics.  You  can find out more about my work at my personal website, www.ElephantEater.com .

I’m also a professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. where I teach a number of Comics Studio courses in the Art Department.  In fact, Michigan State University is also home to a new Comic Art and Graphic Novel undergraduate minor, which is a cross-departmental minor between Art and English.  Classes focus on producing comics, like my comic art courses in which students script, illustrate, and self-publish their own comics.  Students finish the semester by selling their work during an in-store signing event at a local comic book retailer here in town, which was coincidentally co-founded by one of my former students.  But the minor also includes courses in the English department, which have a literary focus on comics .  Plus, there are some built-in options for you to tailor your experience to a more art or literature focused experience.

In addition to spearheading this new minor, I’m also the Director of the Michigan State University Comics Forum.  As I mentioned, the MSU Comics Forum is a multiday event which aims to bring together scholars, creators, and readers of the comics medium.  There are many events which focus on these groups individually, but our goal is to allow these disparate comics-interested folks a space to co-mingle and influence one another.  Each year our Comics Forum features a number of events such as our academic panel discussions, an artist alley featuring dozens of creators, workshops, film screenings with accompanying discussions, in-store signings, and more, but the highlight of the event is our award-winning cartoonist keynote speaker.  Friday night of the event, the speaker delivers a unique and intimate audio visual address about their career in comics.  Just to give you a brief sample of our invited keynote speakers, in the past we’ve hosted Guy Davis, Stan Sakai, Jessica Abel, Nate Powell, Sergio Aragones, David Petersen, Phoebe Gloeckner, Nick BertOzzi, and Tom Hart, with more on the way.  We’re approaching the 10th anniversary of the MSU Comics Forum in February 2017, so tune into the podcast for announcements about the event and our next keynote speaker.

Those are some of my roles in comics and I suppose I can now add podcast host to that list.  I hope you’ll consider listening to the podcast each month, and if you like it please tell a friend.  We’ve tried to make it easy for you to connect.  Outside of our podcast homepage (msucomics.libsyn.com), we’re also on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter (both @MSUComicsCast), as well as a number of podcatcher apps, like iTunes, GooglePlay, TuneIn, Stitcher, and Pocketcasts.

If you have any questions or suggestions about the show, feel free to write me an email with the title “Comics Podcast” in the subject line, and send it to rclaytor@msu.edu.

Introduction: Francesca Lyn, Member at Large

10363347_10106570690510361_4712203260538544823_nHello! My name is Francesca Lyn and I am currently a doctoral candidate in Media, Art & Text at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I am originally from North Lauderdale, Florida and I received both my BFA and my MA from the University of Florida, where I started off as a painter and printmaker. My master’s thesis was on music mashups and online culture.

After graduating with my Master’s, I took a year off from school and worked in an office doing public relations. I always planned to return to my studies eventually, but wanted to take some time off to really think about my future and research programs of study.

While working at my office job, I decided to take classes at the Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW), a comics arts school in Florida that was also conveniently located two blocks away from my apartment. While I was always a comics reader, taking these classes sparked a deeper interest in comics and I have since taken several classes at SAW, including a week-long workshop with autobiographical cartoonist Gabrielle Bell.

I wrote reviews for the comic and pop culture news website Comics Bulletin. I read critical theory on comics for fun, and I revisited Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. My collection of comics continued to grow, with friends introducing me to incredible examples of small press works. Comics became more and more important. Eventually I transitioned from studying gendered digital representations to studying gendered representations in comics.

My dissertation “Graphic Intimacies: Identity, Humor, and Trauma in Autobiographical Comics by Women of Color” examines five texts by women of color written in the new millennium. I am interested in how autobiographical comics offer a new framework for exploring transgenerational trauma through the complex and intersecting themes of race and gender.

My teaching is also focused on comics, and I have created and taught an interdisciplinary course called “Gender, Race and Comics”. In this course students learn how to do comics research with special emphasis on utilizing VCU’s Comic Arts Collection. Students explore how the formal qualities of comics are utilized in order to tell compelling memoirs as well as fictional narratives. Particular emphasis is given to graphic narratives created by women of color.

In my free time I enjoy performing both standup and improv comedy. I have taken several classes at Coalition Theater and enjoy looking very silly.

Introductions: Rachel Miller, Secretary-Treasurer

RachelMiller

Following our recent CSS elections, we wanted to introduce our two new board members. First up is Rachel Miller, our new Secretary-Treasurer -ed.

Hey y’all! I’m Rachel Miller, current PhD student in the Ohio State University’s English Department, lover of mini comics, zines, and hanging out on the many porches of Columbus (even in the winter months). In my academic life, I work on Post-1945 American lit, gender and sexuality, and popular culture (especially as it pertains to the “trash[ed]” culture of teenage girls 1984 – present). I received my MA from Ohio State, defending a paper about Ghost World, the Riot Grrl movement and what teen girl bedrooms can tell us about periodization and literary history; and I hold a BA from the University of Chicago.

My current project considers how teenage girlhood, particularly as it emerges through feminist activist archives in the early 90s and across a range of pop culture text from this period, might help us resituate dominant modes of talking about what happens to postmodernism at the end of the millennium (and after). I consider how the archival methods of teenage girls (bedroom culture, diary keeping, etc.) represented in film and comics; the use of “girl” and girl culture as both a marketing ploy and a feminist rallying point during the early 90s; and the ties between feminist comics, small press, and arts practices of the period might point towards methods of rethinking time, history, and the archive (or something like that, who knows.) I work a lot with comics by Phoebe Gloeckner, Lynda Barry, and Dan Clowes, but I also hope to excavate the really rich comics made by women and girls at the smallest of small presses (early work by Ariel Bordeaux, Ariel Schrag, Jessica Abel, etc. etc. etc. there are a lot of them).

In my non-academic life, I run the blog Trash Queens where I write about and review (what else) contemporary comics, mini comics, webcomics and zines by girls and women. I also care for and mother a small black pug named Wallace – our life is eerily similar to the above panel from Plutona (except I don’t live with my mom and my pug’s name is Wallace not Loki, though that is, admittedly a pretty rad name for a pug).

GSC Election Results

css

Members of the Comic Studies Society Graduate Student Caucus:

I am proud to announce the newly elected Executive Committee of the Graduate Student Caucus:
President: Colin Beineke
Vice President: Joshua Abraham Kopin
Secretary/Treasurer: Rachel Miller
Member at Large: Biz Nijdam
Member at Large: Francesca Lyn

We look forward to serving you as the board of our changing and growing organization. If you have ideas for how we can help comics studies graduate students or would like to contribute to the blog, please contact us at grad@comicssociety.org

Finally, thank you to founding board members President Ben Novotny Owen, Secretary/Treasurer Alison Monaghan and Member at Large Theresa Rojas. Your contributions made the Grad Caucus what it is, and we hope we can carry on your good work.

-Colin Beineke,
GSC President

Grad Students and the Comics Conference: Zack Kruse on MSU’s Comics Forum

2016MSUComicsForumAs the CSS Grad Caucus moves into its next phase, we’re hoping that the CSSGC blog can become a place for grad students working in comics studies to write about any and all aspects of training to be a scholar in our growing field. MSU’s Zack Kruse is first up; who’s next? -Ed.

In 2015, I was invited to take on the role of panel coordinator for the Michigan State University Comics Forum, and I was honored to accept the position. The Comics Forum has been an annual event at MSU since 2008, and prior to taking on the role of panel coordinator, it’s an event that I had benefitted from both as a comics scholar and as someone who makes comics. Moreover, Michigan State is the birthplace of the academic comics library, and our collection began in 1970 with a donation from Russell Nye. Randy Scott has curated the collection since the mid 1970s, and it is now the largest comics library in the world. Without trying to sound like an advertisement, Michigan State is a great place to be for comics scholarship, and hopefully we’ll see that role continue to grow over time.

For this year’s Comics Forum, we received a record number of panel applicants, and from that pool, we were able to produce high quality, well-attended, panels on witnesses, trauma, reflexivity, and the role of the comics library/archive, along with a host of other topics that demonstrated comics’ ability to work as a self-contained area of critical study as well as one that demands the application of broader theoretical approaches. Before stepping in as panel coordinator, I organized a comic book convention for six years,[*] and I have been the comics area chair for the Northeast Popular Culture Association since 2013. In addition, I also had other significant stints in comics and comics retail, and while there is a lot of overlap between these roles, no one of them necessarily prepares you for the others. As a grad student, there are multiple levels of value in taking on these kinds of organizational responsibilities. They’re not just lines on a CV; they’re opportunities to interact with our discipline on an intimate scale, providing insight into new ideas and names to watch in our field. Of course, not the least of such benefits is the opportunity to be in a leadership position that, by forcing us to connect with other members of our field, holds us accountable to them.

However, it’s not just being in a leadership position that has proved beneficial. Attending and presenting at a comics-focused academic conference, like the Forum, has proven absolutely critical in my success as a comics scholar. Before taking on the role of the panel coordinator, I had attended the MSU Comics Forum as both a comics creator and a panelist for three consecutive years, and in those years, I found exactly what I was looking for in comics scholarship. In my years as an attendee, I presented work on Steve Ditko as well as on Warren Publishing’s Blazing Combat. I found the Forum to be a place where my ideas were thoughtfully challenged and encouraged, and a large part of the credit for the publication of my article on Ditko[†] is owed to the feedback I specifically received at the Comics Forum.

Because the Comics Forum offers a full slate of academic panels along with a traditional artists’ alley, it’s also a place where I had an opportunity to re-connect with industry friends and talk shop with the likes of Stan Sakai, Nick Bertozzi, Sergio Aragonés and others in an intimate setting. A key result of this blending of the traditional comic con with an academic conference is that the Forum (and other events like it) asks us to take very seriously the works of the creators in attendance and to interrogate both the works and the process so we can gain a greater sense of appreciation and understanding that can be applied to our work and shared with our students.

Comics don’t need validation, but they do need informed, thoughtful voices to communicate with the public about their work. As grad students, we need a place to really develop our voice and the Comics Forum is a wonderful place to develop such a voice. I hope to see you there in 2017!
Zack Kruse

@zackkruse

http://zackkruse.com

http://comicsforum.msu.edu

[*] From 2009-2015, I ran Appleseed Comics and Arts Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana (http://appleseedcon.com). After the 2015 show, I put the event on hiatus to pursue my Ph.D.

[†] “Steve Ditko: Violence and Romanticism in the Silver Age.” Studies in Comics. 5.2. 2014.

 

Announcement: CSS Grad Caucus Elections

cropped-CSS-Logo

The Graduate Student Caucus (GSC) of the Comics Studies Society (CSS) will be holding elections for its Executive Committee. The poll will open Saturday, April 16, the day after the GSC meets at ICAF, and conclude Saturday, April 23. All graduate student members of CSS are automatically members of the GSC and are eligible to vote on caucus matters and to run for caucus positions. The positions currently slated for the ballot are Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and two Members-at-Large. Please see descriptions for each officer below.

The next 18 months will be an exciting and formative time for both the GSC and the CSS. Official incorporation and the inaugural membership drive, which began last month, means that membership of the CSS has grown more than tenfold; the CSS’s journal, Inks, will appear in 2017; and the CSS will be making foundational decisions about its institutional affiliations and partnerships. The GSC will be looking for new ways to serve graduate students engaged in comics studies, especially in terms of their scholarship, teaching, and future career. Part of this growth will involve drafting and approving a permanent constitution which most accurately defines the goals and structure of the GSC so that it might best serves the comics studies graduate student community.

The current GSC Executive Board will be accepting nominations starting now, and concluding 5PM Friday, April 15. There are two ways to nominate yourself. You can either write to owen.179@osu.edu, including the position you’d like to run for and a bio of approximately 100 words. Or, if you will be attending ICAF in Columbia, SC, you can propose a nomination during the GSC’s meeting at 11:40AM on April 15. If you are nominating someone other than yourself, please email owen.179@osu.edu with the name and contact information of that person by the end of April 8, to allow time for the GSC to contact the nominee before voting begins. The descriptions of the positions in our interim constitution are:

Vice President: The vice president shall work with and assist the president in various duties, acting as a stand-in if necessary. S/he shall manage internal committee affairs, such as overseeing and delegating various tasks to committee members working cooperatively on rendering the GSC functions operational (building online presence, delivering news, organizing workshops/events, etc.). Additionally, the vice-president is in charge of recruitment of new grad student members. Upon completion of the 18-month term, the vice president will assume the functions of the president until the next annual meeting.

Secretary-Treasurer: The secretary-treasurer assumes the responsibility of managing the society’s finances, keeping minutes from all meetings, and keeping a membership list. The secretary-treasurer shall present a financial statement at the annual meeting. 18-month term.

Currently, the role of Member-at-Large is not defined by the interim constitution (and one of the earliest tasks of the next Executive Committee will be to define the role within the constitution), but is likely to include: Providing general oversight of the running of the Caucus and the decisions of the Executive Committee, including voting in decisions the Committee makes. Members-at-Large are also likely to serve on subcommittees assigned with particular work on behalf of the Graduate Student Caucus. 18-month term.

Introduction: Theresa Rojas, Member at Large

Graphic Medicine Panel-Theresa RojasHello from Boston! I’m Dr. Theresa Rojas, a SHASS postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies & Writing program.  SHASS is the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.  I work Post-1945 American literature, US Latino literature and popular culture, narrative theory, and gender, with a particular interest in comics, neuroaesthetics, and visual culture.  I received my PhD in English with an emphasis on comparative media and narrative theory from The Ohio State University, my MLA from Eastern Michigan University in Women’s and Gender Studies, and a BA in English from UC Berkeley.  I’m also an artist who works primarily in acrylics, wood, and ink.  I’ve been exhibiting my work since 2009 and am working on a comics series about living in Boston.

On the comics front, I am heavily interested in Graphic Medicine, which involves the relationship between comics and healthcare/medicine (broadly conceived).  In addition to comics scholars, folks interested in Graphic Medicine include medical practitioners, healthcare workers, comics artists and writers, and a wide variety of patients as well as general comics fans.  The panel above was recently included in Graphic Medicine Manifesto (2015) published by Penn State University Press.

What many folks don’t know about MIT is that the university is deeply invested in offering an outstanding arts and humanities education.  In fact, in 2015, the Times Higher Education 2015 World University Rankings named MIT one of the top three universities worldwide for arts and humanities.  As such, I’m thrilled to be part of CMS/W, where we are encouraged to “apply critical analysis, collaborative research, and design across a variety of media arts, forms, and practices.” For me, this means exploring storytelling across media and the ways that this kind of intermediality can be used as a lens to for studying Latino narratives to help us understand diverse representations of Latinos in American and how those representations are consumed.  This is the central work of my dissertation and forthcoming book project: Manifold Imaginaries: Latino Intermedial Narratives in the Twenty-first Century.

ICAF 2016

The deadline for submissions for ICAF 2016 are approaching, and fast. 2718632_orig

The last iteration of the International Comics Art Forum was my very first academic conference. I was green behind the ears and, while I had given some comic studies papers to my peers when I was an undergraduate, I had never presented any kind of paper to an audience that wasn’t made up of my friends. A colleague of mine had attended a big national conference earlier in the semester and had had a very lonely, very stressful few days, so my expectations were not very high. I didn’t know who I would meet, I didn’t know if they would want to talk to me, and I didn’t know if my paper — on a one panel quotation of Van Gogh in one of Gilbert Hernandez’s Heartbreak Soup stories — was any good.

My fears were unfounded. Unlike the big national conferences, which are forty or fifty intersecting discourse communities having individual conversations under the umbrella of one big theme, ICAF is one community, tightly knit and still welcoming. I got to interact both with my grad school peers and with academics and journalists who I have read and admire and all of those people took me and my project seriously. Moreover, while I get the feeling conferences like this can sometimes be hermetically sealed in the academy without actually considering the fact that there are artists working in the medium, the highlight of ICAF, at least for me, was the talks given by cartoonists invited by the conference, who get the opportunity to share their process and their thinking about the way they make their art.

Coming from an institution that supports me and my research but doesn’t have anyone who works on or any campus resources about comics, being able to meet those people was extraordinarily important for me. After going to ICAF, it felt like I was part of a larger conversation, not just one grad student trying to work on a thing all by himself. In a field like this one, which is very small and which is working on building its own structures and institutions, that’s extremely important.

Part of that community is the new Comic Studies Society and its Grad Student Caucus (that is, us). There are some big things planned– both in the conference and outside it– and we can’t wait to tell you about them. In the meantime, we’re hoping you’ll join us and help us grow.

I can’t, in other words, recommend going to ICAF enough. The CFP for the conference, being held next year at the University of South Carolina, is here. The deadline for the submitting abstracts for 20 minute talks has just been extended to Monday, November 9th. In particular, the organizers are looking for papers on Comics and the American South, Digital and Online Comics, and Superheroes, although proposals on other subjects are welcome. For those of you who are working on substantial research projects on comics, there’s the John A. Lent scholarship in comics studies, which is an extraordinary opportunity to present your work to the whole of the conference body. Even if you don’t want to submit any work, think about coming to Columbia for the conference anyway. The invited guests include Howard Cruse (who I heard give an extraordinary talk at the Queers and Comics conference at CUNY last May), Keith Knight, Cece Bell, Dominique Goblet, Roy Thomas, Sanford Greene, with a keynote given by Michael Chaney. I can’t wait.

Josh Kopin

Introductions: Alison Sagara

Sagara ImageHello all! My name is Alison Sagara and I am the Secretary-Treasurer of the CSS Graduate Student Caucus.  I began working on comics as an undergrad at  Ohio State after I took a graphic novel course and  read Watchmen for the first time. After writing  about Watchmen’s uses of simultaneity and complex  narrative structures in my undergraduate thesis, I  decided to attend grad school to continue studying comics. After reading some of Joe Sacco’s nonfiction comics, I became interested in the genre and eventually began to amass a collection of comics memoirs. Favorites include David B’s Epileptic, Lucy Knisley’s Relish, Nicole Georges’ Calling Dr. Laura. Through my work in grad school, I’ve become interested in the intersections of comics studies and narrative medicine—amazingly, there’s a rich intersection of these genres.

My current project focuses on a memoir called Psychiatric Tales, created by British comics artist Darryl Cunningham. In this paper I examine the importance of genre and audience in narratives like Cunningham’s and also propose a sub-genre that includes graphic pathographies like Psychiatric Tales, Ellen Forney’s Marbles, and Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s Cancer Vixen. In the past I’ve written about the evolution of HIV/AIDS narratives and the way Frederik Peeters represents his experience with the epidemic in his memoir, Blue Pills. 

As the GSC’s Secretary-Treasurer, I maintain the group’s Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/cssgradstudentcaucus?fref=ts) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/CSS_GSC). Be sure to check us out!

Comics and Columbus

Bone

About a year ago I was watching Simon Hanselmann, Patrick Kyle, and Michael DeForge read their comics at Kafe Kerouac in Columbus, Ohio. Kerouac is a few blocks from Ohio State’s main campus, and it was game night for the Buckeyes. A stream of drunk and rowdy fans passed by the window. Inside, a knot of comics fans listened to DeForge read a short story about the new dogs (a sort of sci-fi subculture of post-dog dogs). Some dude had driven from—I think—North Carolina to meet DeForge. A lot of other people were very excited to see Hanselmann. I remember thinking, “Yes, Columbus is now a real comics town,” like Chicago, or New York, or White River Junction.

This is exciting for Columbus. Comics-related things happen here nearly every week, and there are a variety of different hubs for the scene, starting with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The Billy Ireland is the best library for comic strips and editorial art in the world, and among the very best for almost any form of comics—a kind of Aladdin’s Cave of rare and awesome things. The Billy Ireland offers the comics scholar an opportunity to do original research on stuff that just isn’t anywhere else. I’m writing a chapter of my dissertation on popular music and modern art in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, and I wanted to read some of the early daily strips. It’s a relatively straightforward matter to sit down with hundreds of clippings from 1913 and 1914, which to my knowledge aren’t reprinted anywhere. For the visiting scholar, the Billy Ireland makes accessing its outstanding collections really straightforward (see http://cartoons.osu.edu/collections/visit-the-reading-room/).

Another obvious benefit to working in—and a good reason to visit—Columbus is the constant cycle of comics events. There’s already a great annual small press convention here, SPACE, and come October there will also be Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC), a comics art festival with a guest list that could serve as a primer for what’s excellent in comics. Also in October, SÕL-CON: The Black and Brown Comix Expo will provide a hybrid comics con and academic conference, with Jaime Hernandez as the featured artist. The academic portion of the Cartoon Arts Festival, held every four years at OSU, and ICAF, which came to OSU in 2014, have meant that I’ve recently had the opportunity to hear a wide range of scholars present their work. The saturation in comics scholarship that these conferences gave me a chance to spot trends in the discipline in a way that might otherwise not be obvious. Colin Beineke and I are currently planning a special issue of ImageText focusing on the connections between fine art and comics, and the currency of this as a topic emerged from a panel we were on together at ICAF. When we later saw Scott Bukatman at the same conference using Rosalind Krauss’s work on Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell” to discuss Hellboy, we realized that we were—inadvertently—participating in a trend, and decided to Kthink through what opportunities that trend might present. Anyone who attended the conference could have made this linkage—Colin did, and he’s not based at OSU—but being in Columbus affords access to a constant stream of new comics scholarship that would be inaccessible to an out-of-towner on a grad school travel stipend.

The benefits of sustained study at a university with a strong interest in comics are, however, not just the big events and obvious resources, but the people. My department, English, has two professors (Jared Gardner and Frederick Luis Aldama) who’ve written extensively on comics, and several others who have occasionally done research or taught classes on comics. Jared is my advisor, and so it’s difficult to write about his role objectively; he’s done too much for me. But at the very least I can say that he has helped push my work towards the more interesting questions in comics studies, while also helping me negotiate the important reality that very few academics get hired to work on comics alone. Jared, who has had several different specialties over the years (race and early United States literature, magazine culture, classical Hollywood film), always reminds me how to speak beyond comics studies.

Because Columbus is a comics town, not just the home of a comics-friendly university, people studying and working outside of the university are also resources for the comics scholar and teacher. I was able to bring Laurenn McCubbin, who has written, drawn, designed, and marketed comics, and who teaches 4D art at the Columbus College of Art and Design, into my comics-focused second-level literature class to talk about her work on the labor politics of sex work. My students’ minds were appropriately blown. The many opportunities to teach comics at OSU have opened me to a larger number of potential connections, and also sharpened my analytical skills. You can’t convince a 19-year-old with critical jargon.

Perhaps the most intangible but important aspect of working on comics in Columbus is the sense that what I do is a thing. As a grad student I suffer from imposter syndrome and related forms of self-doubt almost constantly. The inability to explain my work properly can leave me feeling anxious for days, and I’m sure this would be the case wherever I worked. Yet, while I remain free to doubt the value of my contribution to comics scholarship, I never have cause to doubt the validity of the subject itself. The people, events, and institutions that make Columbus a comics town are always there to help me reframe and rethink my developing ideas, and to offer the irreplaceable support of working within a thriving community of people who are smart and passionate about comics.

Ben Novotny Owen

Back to Top