"Comics: Philosophy and Practice" offered a historic gathering of today's greatest comic creators to discuss the creative process of making innovative comics.

Comics and academia are an unstable and potentially volatile mix. I should know since I went through the gauntlet of teaching my own Comics and Graphic Narrative course at San Diego State University for two years. My students loved the opportunity to not only read and discuss major contemporary comics and graphic novels, but they wrote their own original mini-comics and we published their work in a comics anthology titled appropriately enough, Word Balloons, through Blurb.com.





However, I always had the unspoken feeling that other faculty still looked down their noses at comics. To this day, my Comics and Graphic Narrative course is the only university level course on the study of comics, graphic novels and animation in San Diego, home of Comic-Con International.

Fortunately, more pop-culture savvy professors and scholars are taking their love for comics out of the closet of denial and presenting serious studies of this distinctly American art form that originated in the United States and spread everywhere. Several accredited universities have comic studies programs and serious work is being done to better understand and evaluate the ongoing artistic and cultural significance of comics as a visual language with its own peculiar vernacular, rules and traditions.

University of Chicago scholar Hilary Chute was smart enough and lucky to find the means and support to organize last May’s conference, “Comics: Philosophy and Practice” at the the university’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts showcasing 17 highly influential comic creators.


The roll call of major artists included the likes of R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, Daniel Clowes, and Joe Sacco, among others. This gathering of legendary voices in alternative comics was a historic, once-in-a-lifetime moment where these comic-book giants were all under one roof to share their insights into the creative process of making innovative comics illuminating their original visions.

Fortunately, the conference filmed the panels and you can watch them in their entirety through the following links:







Chute has achieved something truly remarkable with this comics conference that brought artists and scholars and an appreciative audience together to share their mutual passion for comics and participate in an engaging dialogue about the medium. A special issue of Critical Inquiry covering the comics conference is forthcoming in 2013.

- Neil Kendricks

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