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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Academics & Research

Fine art, creative writing students show works created during inaugural course

The opening frame of "Snow Angel," the product of one of the partnerships between UH students and professional artists, will be on display Wednesday evening. | Courtesy of Mat Johnson

When most people think of comics, they think of superheroes and caped crusaders,

However, there is a new type of comic emerging.

The graphic novel has seen a rise in popularity over the past few years, which prompted Mat Johnson, faculty member in UH’s Creative Writing program, to teach a graphic novel workshop in the spring of 2010.

Work created by the students will be on display from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Honors College.

Special presentations by students Ted Closson, Chuck Ivy, Grant MacManus, Brandon White, Jonathan Niles Gill and James Roberts will be made.

“The basic rules of storytelling apply no matter which format you choose to write in,” Johnson said. “But with graphic novels, you let the pictures carry the weight of the story, as well as the words.”

Graphic novels are a sophisticated, short story format of comics that usually pertain to more serious subject matter.

Johnson says that comics or graphic novels are one of the easier ways for aspiring writers to be published because of the nature of the comic industry as a “boom industry.”

Throughout the workshop, Johnson taught the students how to use narrative voice and visual elements to cross over from fiction into graphic novels. The students were given scripts to analyze how the action is broken down into sequential scenes, similar to how movie script storyboards are produced.

After weeks of analysis, the students were asked to craft their own graphic novels.

In today’s highly competitive technical world, most comics are drawn digitally, which, Johnson said, makes correcting mistakes and sending files much easier.

He also points out that nowadays most comics are a collaborative effort, with many artists who specialize in pencil, ink and color sketching from around the world.

Students were able to use the same digital sketchpad techniques to create their own scripts that were then entered into a contest.

Scripts were sent off to professional illustrators, including Dean Haspiel, Joe Infurnari, and Mike Cavallaro, and brought to life as graphic novels.

Because of the success of the course, Johnson says he will continue offering it through the Creative Writing program, either annually or bi-annually. He recommends that any UH writing student who is seriously interested in publication take the course.

Johnson has written the graphic novels Dark Rain, Hellblazer, and Incognegro for DC Comics’ Vertigo label. He has also written the novels Drop and Hunting in Harlem.

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