Thursday, April 25, 2013

Five Talks Six Days!

Embarking today on a week long road trip with five talks about comics and my work in a period of six days! 

Starting out in Toronto, at HASTAC's 2013 conference friday morning and then off to San Francisco for conference presentations Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at the American Education Research Association's (AERA) annual gathering. The sunday session consists of a group of other comics folks I put together including doctoral student and comics maker Jarod Roselló, professor Yen Yen Woo of the dim sum warriors comics/app, professor Stergios Botzakis whose reviews of comics and graphic novels are indispensable and fellow doc student Christy Blanch - who is currently offering the gender through comics super MOOC.

The final talk of the trip will be with Stanford's Graphic Narrative project next wednesday - looking forward to meeting all the folks behind this!

A little preview of my talk can be found in this image-text pdf I made of a past presentation.

If you want to get up to speed on the most recent work and some of what I'll be sharing at the talks, see the opening sequence to Ch3 here, the next installment here, and the most recent installment here. Ch2 in full is here, and you can piece Ch1 together, from the opening sequence, to the extended sequence on schooling here.

During the recent MoCCAfest, I was interviewed in this video.

Sketchnote master Mike Rohde featured a concept map of my thoughts on comics on his sketchnote army blog here.

Should be a fun week to share ideas, work through thoughts, meet a lot of good people, and be ready to get back to drawing in earnest when I get back! - Nick 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ch3: Sequential Art by any other name...

At last, two long overdue pages! Very pleased with what emerged and worth all the time they took. 

The first page addresses what to call this thing? I have this conversation all the time: "I'm doing my dissertation in comics form." Confused response, "Oh, you mean graphic novels?" "Yes, that."

It seemed like at some point I had to address that question in the dissertation as I started to discuss the specifics of the medium I'm working in itself. Initially, I'd thought about a page or two outlining the lineage of visual storytelling and making some sort of map around it - akin to what I did years ago to map the history of games in the Possibilities comic (See below). Ultimately I decided Scott McCloud had addressed so well this already, as had Lancelot Hogben in his 1949 book "From Cave Paintings to Comic Strips." Instead, I opted to play with visual and verbal metaphors (more similar to the Rabbit page also from Possibilities) and explore the fact that the name is less important than what it does. And that speaks more to the point of this chapter - an exploration of how visual and verbal modes work differently and how they can work together...

The second page, begins to lay out my thinking on how comics work (reworking and expanding on my piece the shape of our thoughts). Specifically, I'm starting with McCloud's definition and the sequential aspect of comics, before I move on and address their simultaneous properties on the following page. A lot of this rethinking and wrestling with McCloud's and others' notions on the sequential nature of comics has come in a big way from thinking with my students. If you compare this to the similar page in the shape of our thoughts earlier piece, you'll see an evolution in my perspective on this. What I felt is most important about the sequential comes down to McCloud's notion that time=space and the reader's participatory role in stitching the fragments together. My initial design thoughts had to do with a sequence of events - ala Mousetrap or Rube Goldberg event - but I felt the relied too much on seeing the simultaneity of the page, which I didn't want to get to yet. And then, the idea of the seasons struck me - and their very clear sequential nature - and seemed like the perfect way to demonstrate this idea naturally. This then led me to make the connection to ancient calendars - as a means of recording the passage of time in space. These earliest notations - not all that unlike comic books - were so necessary to early peoples to time crops to celebrate the coming of longer days to come and more. The behind the scene notation mark near the upper right is a redrawing of a paleolithic lunar calendar, and it's right edge juxtaposes with a sequence of the sun setting on the solstice at Stone Henge - time quite literally written in space. I had a lot of synchronicity making this - my mom happened to send me pictures of maple icicles on the tree in front of our house, and I was already working icicles into the sequence. In telling stories to represent the seasons changing, I got the chance to work my dog in again! as we observe Orion and I'm particularly excited about the intersection of fall and spring as represented in the maple leaves sprouting and falling from the tree limb. There are a lot more stories unfolding and metamorphosizing throughout the winding path - but I'll keep quiet and invite you to explore... - Nick 
(As always, these are low-res versions of my pages - in the case of the sequence page, that may make the detail more than a little difficult to see... Sorry about that. When it gets to print - all will be sharp!)
From Possibilities 2006, pages on the history of games. What I didn't do here.
My page on the sequential nature of comics from "The Shape of Our Thoughts" for comparison.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Beat Review! and arts journalism

Two weekends ago, I was pleased to participate in the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art's annual festival. I had a great time meeting new people, talking about my work, and checking out other works when time permitted to sneak away from my table. It was a well run event all around and a healthy expression of the wide range of works coming out of the comics community.

This past weekend, I was fortunate to be included in The Beat's article on 10 notable debuts from the festival! Writer Hannah Means-Shannon navigated the crowds and the mass of work on display to provide an in depth and insightful look at all the works she featured. For me, this event is a step outside of the academic context I'm usually presenting in, and I doubly appreciate having the work acknowledged alongside other comics makers. Means-Shannon wrote of my work:
"will leave you with haunting imagery in a psychological space following the existence of “flatlanders”. Steeped in mythological reference, from winged sandals to a planet surface constructed of minotaurian mazes, his artistic style veers between the boundaries of a painterly style and the pen and ink accents of 19th century engravings. It’s a heady experiment, and even in transit, it’s clear that Sousanis is ambitious about what comics can accomplish in the 21st century."
See the Beat's full piece here, with images and details on all the other artists featured.

This review also made me reflect on my own experience as an arts journalist in Detroit for, a publication I co-founded with my brother John and ran from 2002-2008. During that time I wrote around three reviews of shows every week, along with interviews, editorials and more about Detroit's thriving arts community. (The site is currently mothballed, but if interested you can get a view of some of that history in my final editorial before heading to NYC here.) What I came to realize is that for so many of the artists I wrote about, this was the first thing ever written on them, and given the state of arts journalism, often the only serious consideration of their work in public. This perspective has given me a great appreciation for the role journalists play in supporting the community by bringing such efforts to light and in providing a much-needed record. As is apparent by the space given to arts journalism in our daily papers - it's an underrecognized profession - but I believe of vital importance for the health of the community it serves. So support your local arts writer - and a great thank you to Hannah and the Beat!

Pictured, thumbnail sketches for new pages in the works. I just finished one and the other is nearly there - so will be posting the finished pages any day now... - Nick

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Image-Text Talk: Comics as a Tool for Inquiry

So last May, I presented at the SequentialSmart conference centered around comics and education at Juniata College in southern Pennsylvania. The organizers asked to include that talk in their publication, and so i created an image-text version from the images i shared and a recreation of what I said. That's now in digital print in Juniata Voices and a good chance to get a sense of my thinking in comics and where I'm going with the dissertation. Check out the image-text PDF of "Comics as a Tool for Inquiry" at this link.

This presentation builds on earlier talks, including one at HASTAC's conference for which I also made an image-text version - and you can find that earlier version here and see how my thinking on these things has evolved. On that note, I've been doing numerous conference and public talks (in addition to teaching) the last couple years, and having to condense my thinking to a 12-minute window has forced me to really distill and find clarity of my ideas. That in turn has helped shaped where I go in the dissertation. And as I finish new pages, they in turn have fed further talks. It's been a healthy feedback loop and I'm grateful to have has this public interaction to fuel my thought process.

Below, I've included a recent quick overview of some thoughts on comics' capacities that I prepared for the classes I teach, which includes a few further wrinkles to consider. And again, please find the pdf of "comics as a tool for inquiry" here. More pages in the works, specifically building on a lot of things hinted at in the talks, soon, soon. - Nick

P.S. Today (4/10/13) I'm participating in a Cisco Webinar talking a bit of comics theory to setup a presentation on a case study using comics in the workplace. Apparently, anyone can register and listen in on this for free. I'm right at the beginning - it starts at 1pm EST. Link here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

MoCCAfest 2013!

This weekend, April 6 and 7, I'm pleased to participate at the Society of Illustrators/Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts annual festival at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington between 25th and 26th. The event features 100s of local, national, and international cartoonists and comics authors, publishers like First Second, Pantheon, Drawn & Quarterly, and more, as well as panel discussions and book signings.

I'll have on hand copies on hand of my dissertation in progress, excerpts as a giveaway, and my collection of pre-dissertation work as well. Come by to say hello and talk comics and things education. (I'm at Table B45.) Also, i'll be sharing my table with Yen Yen Woo & Colin Goh - the creative force behind the super cool DimSum Warriors comic/app. Comics writer and critic Adam McGovern will also be holding down the fort as well - with some newly penned works to share from Magic Bullet.

MoCCAfest runs Saturday and Sunday 11am to 6pm - come on out!! - Nick

P.S. If you're new to my work and want a quick primer:
Click the "dissertation" label to get excerpts from the dissertation including the complete chapter 2,
For talks and interviews, click the "interview" label, which includes the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Russia's Theory&Practice, and a podcast with the UofAlaska Fairbanks.
Or just click around as you please. - N