Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Hello Everyone,

Today is the First Anniversary of this Dissertation blog. The good news is—I graduated.  A pdf of my dissertation can be found here:

As of today this blog has been viewed 5,429 times from people on all continents except for Antarctica (come on down there!).  People have viewed this blog from over 70 countries including France, Germany, Latvia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, South Africa, China, Australia, most of the Middle East, and almost every country from Central and South America.

To commemorate the occasion I am posting the first in a series of interviews I conducted with comic creators, publishers, and editors. This first post is my interview with Kim Thompson. Kim was my editor for many years at Fantagraphics. Sadly, Kim passed away earlier this year not long after this interview (I believe it may have been his last).

Look for more interviews soon!

All best wishes,


The Kim Thompson (1956-2013) Interview

Brian M. Kane: What are the strengths of the graphic narrative format for education?

Kim Thompson: The fact that they combine the verbal and visual medium very intimately. Some information is best imparted through words and some through pictures, and the flexibility of being able to alternate between the two, or combine them, is just very helpful.

BMK:  What are the weaknesses of the graphic narrative format for education?

KT:      It depends on what you compare it to. If you compare it to a documentary film you don’t have the visceral, lived in sense of the real being photographed. Obviously, text-only allows you to go deeper into the subject matter in some ways. Every medium has its own strengths and its own weaknesses.

BMK:  What would you recommend to academicians intending on creating their own educational graphic narratives?

KT:      Doing graphic narratives is a hell of a lot of work, so you have to be pretty serious about it. The implication would be that, since few academicians are trained graphic artists, you’re talking about academicians creating the basic text and then hiring illustrators. So anyone hiring illustrators would have to have a pretty deep and broad familiarity with the medium. If this were something that would become a major trend there would probably be agents or packagers who could provide illustrators.

BMK:  What do you think about the possibility of having an academician co-author an educational graphic narrative with a comic book/graphic narrative industry professional?

KT:   I think it has possibilities. Every collaboration has possibilities. Clearly the sensibilities of an academic are going to be quite different from the sensibilities of the cartoonist, or illustrator, or draftsman, so that may make for some interesting tension. Academicians have a reputation for being a bit dry, so it might be interesting to see a cartoonist or illustrator adapt something more serious.

The art of comic book writing is certainly a craft and quite likely not something that academicians are going to go to naturally. I suspect that in many cases they will have to go to some type of collaboration. The fact is, even outside of the question of academics, when you talk to cartoonists they are going to tell you they’ll be collaborating with a writer who has no experience in comics per se, a prose writer, and inevitably there are problems because the writer doesn’t understand the mechanics of it. The simplest and most obvious case being instances were writers will write and say: “In this panel this happens, and this happens, and this happens, and this happens,” not realizing that in a graphic narrative you have to break it down; you can’t have four things happening at once. That is a trap that I think academics would fall in too. So there would have to be one more element in the combination, which is a comic book writer who could take the material from the academic and transfer it into something for the cartoonist or illustrator. Of course there are a number of cartoonists and illustrators who are excellent writers on their own, so it’s still possible to have just a two-person operation with just an academic and a cartoonist who can adapt the material. Certainly, someone like Joe Sacco who does his own writing would be able to do it.

I think the use of comics for journalistic or historical purposes, specifically with Joe Sacco, has been a great benefit to the medium and, for that matter, to journalism and history. I have the problem of the non-academic towards academics being somewhat dry and tedious, and wrapped up in their own little world, but on the other hand that means that the addition of someone from the outside, specifically a cartoonist might help to shake that up a little bit, so I’m all for it.

BMK:  Thank you, Kim!

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