Is creative concentration contagious?
What will we find out this semester?
Making Comics Art 448 Fall 2014
Monday and Wednesday, 1:20 pm to 3:50 pm
Watercolor Room, Humanities, 6th Floor
This course is an introduction to making comics as a both a subject and means of academic study. How do writing and pictures combine and interact to make something new? We call this ‘something’ by various names; sequential art, graphic novel, essay, or autobiography, illustrated text, cartoons or just plain old ‘comics.’
For this class we’ll use that plain old misunderstood word: comics. Misunderstood because it seems to carry with it the meaning of a close-cousin word: “comic” as in funny, amusing, not serious. But the word ‘cartoon’ may bring us a little closer to what I mean here. ‘Cartoon’ is related to the Italian word, ‘cartone’, which, in the middle ages, was used to describe a kind of strong line drawing made on sturdy paper then meant to be transferred onto a wall during the process of making a fresco. In the beginning, the meaning of ‘cartoon’ was a clear line drawing.
Through weekly exercises, you will learn some of the basic elements of making comics; combining writing and line drawings to create a variety of stories.
Although comics can be funny, they can also be used to tell the most serious stories we know. In 1991 the idea of what comics could hold exploded when Art Spiegelman published “Maus”, which used the comics form to tell the story of his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew in the camps during the Holocaust. (If you haven’t read “Maus” yet, you need to.) After 1992, when Speigelman won the Pulitzer Prize for “Maus” this thing we call ‘comics’ began to find acceptance as a powerful means to tell the most serious of stories. In “Footnotes in Gaza” Joe Sacco, an award-winning investigative journalist, used comics to depict his interviews with survivors of two previously undocumented massacres of Palestinians in 1956. Phoebe Glockner used comics to graphically depict the darkness of child sexual abuse in “A Child’s Life” and “Diary of a Teenage Girl”. In “Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow” Anders Nilson used comics to document the experience of losing his girlfriend to an aggressive form of cancer. And in “Persepolis”, Marjane Satrapi used comics to depict her experiences as a girl in Iran during the Islamic revolution.
I’ve come to think of a comic as being something like a song. It can really be about anything. We can address all sorts of things in a song —- love gone wrong, truck-driving daddies, smoking, racism, boots, birthdays, cheating, space travel, big butts, revenge, war, a turkey in the straw, regret, grandma’s hands, purple haze or mountains majesty —- in this same way we can make a comic about anything. In this class every kind of story is welcome. No matter the subject, it is welcome to find its own way into comic form.
The main goal of the course is to help you to expand your abilities and develop as as both writers and picture-makers. The workload here is demanding because learning to make comics demands a kind of immersion in drawing, writing and the continual practice of observing the world around you and inside of you. You will need to work steadily all semester, even when you feel uninspired. You’ll be asked to try a variety ways of making pictures and stories. And toward the end of the semester you’ll work on a final project that will take the form of a ‘zine; an original handmade book of at least 24 pages comprised of both visual and written elements.