Become a Graphic Novelist – Take ST: Comic Art & Narrative This Spring

In Spring 2018, Plymouth State University will offer a Topics in Writing course titled ST: Comic Art & Narrative (CRN 31480).

81-DZ6RdUdL.jpgThis course, taught by English professor Dr. Elliott Gruner, will teach students how to create stories using sequential art. Sequential art, also known as “graphic narratives”, use sequences of images as a medium for storytelling. These works include comic strips, graphic novels, manga, and storyboards.

Students of all disciplines and artistic skill levels are welcome to take Comic Art and Narrative. The course will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00pm-1:40pm at Plymouth’s Museum of the White Mountains.

In an interview, Dr. Gruner answered The Canon‘s questions about the course:

Q: The course is titled “Comic Art & Narrative”. Will the focus be solely on comics, or will there an overview of other forms of sequential art?

A: That’s a great question! We’ll explore many versions of sequential art. We’ll also follow student interest, so students may focus on one form or another for part of the course.

Q: What required texts will students read for the class? 

A: We’ll be using a wide variety of interesting texts and examples. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and his Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels will be our companions as we survey primary texts from the comic strip through short books like Mooncop and Soft City to more complex texts such as Maus.

Q: What types of sequential art will students be able to create for this course? 

We’ll do most experimenting with page and panel work of all kinds, but we are open to flipbooks and other fun stuff.

Q: Is this course open only to English majors, or is it open to students of all disciplines?

A: The course is open to all students, no prerequisites or restrictions. This is consistent with the appeal and accessibility of the graphic narrative in general.

Q: Can students who are not skilled in art take this course and succeed? How will you overcome the artistic barriers students may have?

Another great question. Do you have to be an “artist” or to be good at drawing figures for this course? No. Though we hope all students will try a bit of everything, we’ll take a production approach to dedicated projects so students can gravitate to what they like best. Beyond drawing, students can explore design, writing, promotion, and other aspects of the process.

Q: What mediums will students be working with when they create their graphics? Should students expect to learn any specific programs or styles of drawing?

A: Students will receive a dedicated introduction to many styles and media, and they can choose to spend time where they wish. We want students to experiment broadly.

Q: How does writing for sequential art differ from writing a traditional narrative? What skills will students have to learn to be successful in their storytelling?

A: Scott McCloud calls the comic a “secret language” unique in both form and pattern. “Writing with pictures” (a chapter title from one of McCloud’s texts) is perhaps the most simple way of putting it. All we know about communication applies, so narrative will definitely be a big part of our thinking. Students will also study rhetoric, style, “grammar” (conventions of the art), production, history, culture, and criticism.

Q: Why is this course being held at the Museum of the White Mountains?

A: We want to enjoy an open studio concept for much of the course, so the space in the MWM is ideal for our work. And students will have the chance for some of their work to appear in a late spring exhibition held at the Museum (and gallery), so we’ll be best positioned to accomplish that work.

Q: So what is the museum “exhibition” all about? What should students expect regarding the exhibition?

Having a “publication” opportunity built right into the course is exciting. Can’t beat that! Students will work on the exhibit “production style,” so everyone won’t have to draw museum-quality work. Our focus for the exhibition work will be the White Mountains and the people who live there. The exhibition is not required, but we would love to have everyone involved. Students who do participate will receive an additional full credit for this work.

A: What made you, as a professor, interested in teaching a course on sequential art and narrative?

Like many of you reading this, I’m fascinated by the comic world. I grew up in the age of the paper comic and graphic novel, from Manga to the current cycle of “comic” adaptations. The form is an old friend and so, too, many of the characters (in all senses of that word). I’ve always wanted to do THIS course, but I never before had the resources and freedom. (Thank you, PSU!)


Interested in crafting a comic or graphic novel? Sign up for Comic Art & Narrative today! See below for official course information:

Course Title: ST: Comic Art & Narrative
CRN: 31480
Date/Time: TR 12:00 pm-1:40 pm
Location: Museum of the White Mountains
Instructor: Dr. Elliott Gruner

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