Dr. Noah Arceneaux is a professor in SDSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies and a big fan of comics! Join him for this amazing tour of one of the largest comic book stores in the world, Mile High Comics in Denver.
Written by Grace deVega
SDSU History Major, 2022
This quote is particularly fitting for this final blog exploring my process in designing the digital exhibit “Sound of Comics” for SDSU’s Center for Comics Studies. Of all of the academic endeavors I have undertaken while at SDSU, this one has felt the most like a journey. There have been multiple paths to tread, obstacles to overcome, and constant support and encouragement along the way. And now I have reached the end: You can access “Sound of Comics” here.
In terms of multiple paths, some of the most significant decisions I have made in the final part of this curation have pertained to paring down the content. I cultivated a substantial number of collection pieces — far more than could be included — after scouring the materials in the library and beyond. The process then became a task of figuring out connection points between the pieces and organizing them into a proper exhibit. Often, I created a visual guide to help me write down all of my ideas and begin building relationships between avenues of content.
As evidenced by this brainstorm web, I had several different avenues that I wanted to explore with music alone. I also knew that too many subsections would overwhelm my audience with text and images, so I selected specific pieces and paths to pursue, which helped the claims in the exhibit appear more intentional and direct. For instance, one path that I did not pursue outright was the notion of “Dance” in comics, but I still found ways to incorporate the dance-related ideas into some of the collection’s pieces. Each of the exhibit sections received similar treatment, and the end result was three major categories with several smaller subcategories that reinforced the ideas of their parent topics.
With reference to obstacles, most of the barriers that I faced dealt with translating the exhibit into its digital form. As I expected, there was a significant learning curve when first working with WordPress, which is the platform that I selected (having chosen from Omeka, Google Sites, Adobe, and a few other digital exhibit options). I watched several tutorials and made several unsuccessful attempts to figure out the system at the beginning. However, I eventually learned the tools of the platform, as well as figured out how to manipulate those tools to produce the content and design that I desired. Most of this work came through trial-and-error, which was difficult but ultimately rewarding when I was able to see the finished product of each section. In addition, I decided to format the layout of all of the pages before implementing their text and images which proved useful in building my confidence and knowledge of the platform while also ensuring their uniformity. Perhaps most importantly, I was able to overcome these challenges through the support of Dr. Pamella Lach, the Director of the Digital Humanities Center at SDSU. I met with Dr. Lach several times, and she helped me select WordPress as my digital platform, as well as offered advice on best practices throughout the process. Her support was particularly helpful when discussing accessibility with the website and making certain that the exhibit is compatible with screen readers and all other ADA compliances. I am so grateful for her assistance and insight.
To that final point about support, I have been fortunate throughout this entire process to receive advice and encouragement from a variety of sources. Along with the indispensable support of Dr. Lach, several other scholars have offered their perspective in improving my work and helping me examine sound in comics more thoroughly. Over the last month, I have had the privilege to interview several comics scholars, querying their understanding of sound in comics. I interviewed Dr. Barbara Postema, who studies wordless comics, to discuss comics that tell stories when conventional forms of sound are intentionally limited. Dr. Postema explained the role of images, pictographs, and expression lines in replacing alphabetic symbols when figures communicate. For instance, she referenced the dashed dialogue lines in Hawkeye #19, which she labeled “asemic,” or lacking in semantic content, as a key example of this type of wordless sound conveyance. She mentioned the frustration that audiences experience when encountering communication in this form, and I found such insight extremely helpful when creating the “Disability and Sound” section of the exhibit.
I also had the opportunity to interview Dr. José Alaniz, a comics scholar and professor at University of Washington, Seattle. Our conversation covered a wide array of topics pertaining to sound in comics, and one of my biggest takeaways from Dr. Alaniz was the ability of sound to both reinforce and distort the reality of the comic. We discussed the “mimetic function” of certain sounds, such as including a pre-existing song within a scene because it establishes the setting in time and in its similarity to the world of the audience. At the same time, Dr. Alaniz pointed out that depictions sounds are often “toyed with,” as he called them, to underscore the unfamiliarity of the landscape and exacerbate the divide between the world of the comic and the world of the reader. His perspective proved invaluable when I discussed environments in the “Music” and “Sound Effects” sections of the exhibit.
Lastly, this project would have been “dead air” without the guidance and supervision of Librarian Pamela Jackson and Dr. Elizabeth Pollard. Pam Jackson provided me with some of the first comics that I read for the exhibit, and she, along with the rest of the Library’s Special Collections and University Archives team, have been incredibly helpful, thoughtful, and considerate over the course of my research, especially when I spent hours in their archives poring over comics. Similarly, Dr. Pollard always made herself available to answer questions, provide feedback, read over text that I had written, and connect me with people that could support my efforts. I have grown so much as a student, scholar, and fan of comics under her guidance. Lastly, Dr. Pollard and Librarian Jackson have shown genuine enthusiasm for my work throughout the entire process, which has helped me stay motivated and reassured in the steps I had taken, even when I questioned myself.
So, while this may be the end of my journey into sound in comics, I could not be more proud of the work I have done or more appreciative of the people who helped me get there.
Grace deVega (she/her) is a Fourth Year History and Political Science student at San Diego State University. She previously won the President’s Award at the SDSU Student Research Symposium and 1st Place in her Division at the CSU Research Competition for her research into the impacts of the 1986 Philippines People Power Movement on nonviolent revolutions. She has also played clarinet for the past twelve years, including in the SDSU marching and concert bands, which is where her passion for music and aural studies derives.
It’s October and you know what that means? It’s also INKTOBER! This month-long art challenge was started in 2009 by illustrator, Jake Parker, as a daily challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. Since then, artists and yes, even those of us who claim “but I can’t draw,” have risen to the challenge of illustrating one drawing per day throughout the month of October. Inktober provides the drawing prompts and you? Well, you draw. Use the official Inktober prompts, search social media for numerous alternative lists (tip: search the keywords “inktober prompts” on Instagram), or make your own list. Are you ready to meet the challenge? Get ready for tomorrow!
Below are a few alternative lists that caught the attention of SDSU Library employees:
It’s Black History Month and here are a dozen comics we’re reading that feature black characters and black creators. Dig in and read more comics!
Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021
Creators: Dimitrios Fragiskatos, Joe Illidge, George Carmona the 3rd
A guidebook to Black creators and an index “to find the publishers, stores and conventions that provide kinship, safe spaces, and promote an imaginative variety of experiences through comic books!” ~https://comicbookaccess.org/
After the Rain (2021)
Creators: Nnedi Okorafor, John Jennings, David Brame
“After the Rain is a graphic novel adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story ‘On the Road.’ The drama takes place in a small Nigerian town during a violent and unexpected storm. A Nigerian-American woman named Chioma answers a knock at her door and is horrified to see a boy with a severe head wound standing at her doorstep. He reaches for her, and his touch burns like fire. Something is very wrong. Haunted and hunted, Chioma must embrace her heritage in order to survive.” ~Abrams Books
Ajani Brown Presents: Straight Outta Freemanville (2019)
Creator: Ajani Brown and Erik Reichenbach
A western, steamfunk, historical fantasy set in the post Civil War frontier town of Freemanville, USA. Freemanville was founded by free & newly freed African Americans who moved west to escape the harsh conditions of the Antebellum South. Stagecoach Mary transports a VIP through the badlands to Freemanville, USA. The town is self-sustaining and technologically advanced, but under constant threat by marauders both of this world and not.
The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History (2021)
Creators: David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson
“Founded in Oakland, California, in 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a radical political organization that stood in defiant contrast to the mainstream civil rights movement. This gripping illustrated history explores the impact and significance of the Panthers, from their social, educational, and healthcare programs that were designed to uplift the Black community to their battle against police brutality through citizen patrols and frequent clashes with the FBI, which targeted the Party from its outset.” ~Ten Speed Press
Big Black: Stand At Attica (2020)
Creators: Frank “Big Black” Smith, Jared Reinmuth, Ameziane
“A graphic novel memoir from Frank “Big Black” Smith, a prisoner at Attica State Prison in 1971, whose rebellion against the injustices of the prison system remains one of the bloodiest civil rights confrontations in American history.” ~Boom!
Bitter Root (2018-)
Creators: David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, Sanford Greene
“In the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing, and only the Sangerye Family can save New York-and the world-from the supernatural forces threatening to destroy humanity. But the once-great family of monster hunters has been torn apart by tragedies and conflicting moral codes. The Sangerye Family must heal the wounds of the past and move beyond their differences… or sit back and watch a force of unimaginable evil ravage the human race.” ~Image Comics
Class Act (2020)
Creator: Jerry Craft
“Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying ‘You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.’ His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?” ~Quill Tree Books/Harper Collins
Creators: Khary Randolph, Brandom Thomas, Emilio Lopez
“Spencer Dales was born into a world of magic. His father belongs to the Aegis, a secret society of black magicians ordered by their unseen masters to better the lives of others—those with greater potential—but never themselves. Now it’s time for Spencer to follow in his father’s footsteps, but all he sees is a broken system in need of someone with the wand and the will to change it. But in this fight for a better future, who will stand beside him?” ~Skybound/Image Comics
Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence (2020)
Creator: Joel Christian Gill
“Fights is the visceral and deeply affecting memoir of artist/author Joel Christian Gill, chronicling his youth and coming of age as a Black child in a chaotic landscape of rough city streets and foreboding backwoods. Propelled into a world filled with uncertainty and desperation, young Joel is pushed toward using violence to solve his problems by everything and everyone around him. But fighting doesn’t always yield the best results for a confused and sensitive kid who yearns for a better, more fulfilling life than the one he was born into, as Joel learns in a series of brutal conflicts that eventually lead him to question everything he has learned about what it truly means to fight for one’s life.” ~Oni Press
Creators: Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander
“When a small-town beat cop comes home to bury his murdered father—the revered Philadelphia detective James Sangster Sr.—he begins to unravel a mystery that leads him down a path of horrors that will shake his beliefs to their core. The city that was once the symbol of liberty and freedom has fallen prey to corruption, poverty, unemployment, brutality… and vampires.” ~Image Comics
Creators: Melody Cooper, Devin Grayson, Giovanni Valletta, Bryan Valenza, Dave Johnson, Enid Balám, Cris Bolson, Alitha E. Martinez, Bryan Valenza, Mike McKone
“A young doctor suddenly and mysteriously acquires superpowers…as do several other individuals on the planet. But only her power can answer “why.” A gifted doctor with a vibrant, compassionate personality, Cecelia Cobbina received boundless praise from her peers and her patients. But that was before the incident in Africa. Before she was forced to leave her job at Doctors Without Borders behind… Before she gained the ability to think at superhuman speed. Overwhelmed with the power to answer every question, she must now overcome her own fears and tackle the one code she can’t seem to break: the truth behind the Ignited.” ~Humanoids
Creators: Jack T. Cole and Johnnie Christmas
“Promising young cadet Tilde is framed for crimes against the empire after discovering her mother was the ruthless warlord of the deadly colony Tartarus, a vital player in the galactic war. Now, Tilde’s only way home may be to reclaim her mother’s dark crown.” ~Image Comics
For more information about the Comic Arts Collection at SDSU, see our Library Research Guide.
Comics@SDSU met with artist and professor Ryan Claytor about his new comics project, A Hunter’s Tale. A graduate of SDSU’s School of Art + Design, Ryan has a rich career developing his art and teaching comics. He is currently a professor at Michigan State University where he both developed and taught the first comics studio course in the school’s history. Additionally, he coordinates MSU’s Comic Art and Graphic Novels Minor. Join our librarian and comic arts curator, Pamela Jackson, in conversation with Ryan about his project, his work at MSU and his time at SDSU!
To back this project on Kickstarter project, see:
After a two-year hiatus on in-person events, San Diego Comic-Con International was back last weekend and members of Comics@SDSU were well represented. We presented on three panels! But first, let’s hear from our co-founders about their individual experiences and impressions of the event.
Pamela Jackson’s View
Librarian, Comic Arts Curator, and pandemic diehard Pam here. I thought I would frame my comments in terms of the pandemic and in comparison to my experiences at Comic-Con over the last 15 years. I recently read a poll that said 75% of Americans have nearly gone back to their normal, pre-pandemic lives. As someone in a higher risk household, I guess I’m a solid 25-percenter. My last public event was San Diego Comic Fest in March of 2020. I still work from home. I don’t attend social events or even eat out at restaurants. Comic-Con was me ripping off my pandemic band-aid for the first time in 21 months.
I picked up my badge on Wednesday before the event not knowing what to expect. To my pleasant surprise, I was able to secure a wristband that cleared my vaccination or negative Covid test status, pick up my badge, and grab a goodie bag stocked with free “hanitizer” from a company I regularly patronize (that smelled… interesting, but I was still delighted to see it in my bag) in a mere 17 minutes!
The scene on opening day Friday morning was much different outside with long Covid clearance lines. Those of us already wearing our scarlet wristbands were allowed to enter. “Right this way,” Security said. “Through door F.” I walked into a large indoor staging area with fans standing shoulder-to-shoulder in multiple lines waiting to enter the Exhibit Hall, quickly spun on my heels and hustled right back out of there muttering, “Nope nope nope.” Hard pass. I was not ready for that.
One of the joys of Comic-Con has always been that it’s like a live-action “choose your own adventure” book. There is so much to see and do that if you don’t like what’s in front of you at the moment, go do something else. The ability to set my own boundaries during the pandemic and still have an engaging Con experience that matched my comfort and safety concerns was stellar. I popped up to the spacious hallways by the programming rooms, then moved through the sparsely-populated Sails Pavilion (that was only ever moderately busy when fans paused to eat lunch) and on to the Mezzanine windows that overlook the Exhibit Hall.
I had not intended to walk the Exhibit Hall this year, but Saturday morning was freakishly calm and comfortable. I walked the entire floor twice, safely visiting with friends, creators and dealers. It was the best place in town for attendees to do their Black Friday and Small Business Saturday shopping with row after row of toy dealers, pop culture tchotchkes, and creators sharing their hand-crafted arts. Notably slim this year were publishers and comic book dealers. Though there were a few, this was a bit of bummer to me. I am a librarian afterall – buying way too many books at Comic-Con is what I do! I ran into one of the founders of Comic-Con, Mike Towry, and asked him what year this felt like? He explained that it was a difficult question to answer because while attendance may have been around the same as the late 1990s/early 2000s (estimated at 40-60K this year; it’s normally well over 130,000), the facilities would likely have been smaller so the event back then may have felt more crowded.
Mask wearing was enforced (even for panelists) and mostly honored, which I appreciated. I’ve been asked by many, “Did you feel safe?” Overall, in a vaxxed or tested Delta world, the event felt safe, in part because I could “choose my own adventure.”
The staff, volunteers and security seemed as thrilled as the creators and fans to be at Comic-Con. It was great to be back. It felt like a displaced community finally coming home.
Beth Pollard’s View: “Something to Sing About”
Pam and I have been pandemic buddies since March 2020… logging countless Zoom hours talking about (deviously plotting) how we could convince SDSU that comics bring meaningful social change. As with Pam, my last pre-pandemic public event was March 2020’s Comic Fest. At that event, I sat elbow-to-elbow with maskless strangers at a mock-trial for parenting rights over Grogu (“Baby Yoda”). All of us were willing ourselves — a skilled jedi mind-trick, given the various bouts of coughing by folk in the room — not to think about the pandemic that was slowly spreading our way. Driving home from Comic Fest, my family and I stopped to eat our last meal not prepared at home by me for more than 18 months. Yup! Like Pam, my existence was near-hermetically sealed until relatively recently (I even kept my kids in home/Zoom-school until this Fall)… and I still haven’t been in a grocery store.
But who needs food, when there are comics … and tens of thousands of people you’ve never met, who share your love of the same! I already ripped off the band-aid in early September, when I flew to Portland to present a paper, “Punching Romans, the OG Fascists,” on a Punching Nazis: Fighting Fascism in Comics panel at Rose City Comic Con. That experience gave me some clue of what to expect with Comic-Con Special Edition.
I started attending San Diego Comic-Con around 2005, before the days of the giant studios and the glitzy Hollywood types. I remember when the Twi-Hards (rabid fans of the Twilight series) set the bar for camping outside of Hall H several days before Con started (I should know… by the end I, too, was sleeping under a tent with thousands of people to get into the room for Twilight’s last hurrah). I recall when you could walk-up and buy a badge the day-of… and when you could step out of Ballroom 20 (without a bathroom pass!) to purchase your next-year’s four-day badge with preview night.
Comic-Con Special Edition reminded me of those days. No tents. No pre-dawn lines or, worse-yet, hunting the volunteer holding the “end-of-line” sign along the waterfront. No shoulder-to-shoulder shuffling across the convention floor.
My Comic-Con strategy, in recent years of its incredible (over)crowding, has been to “camp” a room… choosing which room (Hall H, Ballroom 20, Room 6… you name it) would have the most overall payoff. I’d carry a veritable extra-dimensional bag-of-holding with food and drink for four, as well as activity books, legos, and fully-charged devices for the kids (I’ve brought both my kids, now 14 and 10, every year of their life). We’d stay in the same room, from 9AM to 5PM, enjoying what we came to see and being pleasantly surprised by whatever else happened in the room. What I appreciated about this Con was that there was no camping required! One could genuinely plot an adventure that took you from the smallest rooms to the biggest… able to see a panel about CBLDF’s education survey in the morning but still get to a bigger room on the other side of the Sails Pavilion later that afternoon to participate in the Buffy Musical Sing-Along (which, like Rocky Horror Picture Show, has its own set of audience participation rules).
Perhaps Buffy is the best way to wrap up my part of this blog… Little could be more cathartic after 18 months of pandemic isolation and stress than belting out — with hundreds of now-MASKED people one doesn’t know — Buffy’s demand to “Give Me Something to Sing About” and, better yet, Spike’s response: “Life is just this… It’s living. You’ll get along… The pain that you feel, You only can heal… By living.”
Tens of thousands of us showed up at Comic-Con Special Edition to do just that. Heal. And live.
Panel, Panel, Panel!
We were honored to present alongside Betsy Gomez and Jordan Smith from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on Friday. Our panel entitled “CBLDF: Civic Engagement and Comics,” explored how civic engagement has been an integral part of comics since the format’s origin, addressing issues as diverse as women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ+ representation, antiracism, and so much more. We examined how comics have been used to address social and political issues in the past and how contemporary creators and educators are using comics to engage the community. Our librarian, Pamela Jackson, presented about civic learning in both historical and modern comics about voting and democracy, and Elizabeth Pollard shared how she uses comics and civic engagement in the classroom with her students.
As part of the scholarly Comic Arts Conference that takes place annually at Comic-Con, Comics@SDSU presented “Comics and Social Justice at SDSU.” We explored the intersection of our efforts with Comics@SDSU and the power of the medium to bring about social change. Five of us brought different perspectives to the panel: Beth Pollard (the professor) reflected on the goals of our campus Initiative as well as the scholarship and opportunities for student learning and research that the Initiative fosters; Pamela Jackson (the librarian) discussed the role of the SDSU Library’s comic arts collection in supporting the Initiative and engaging researchers with social justice through comics; William Nericcio (the publisher) discussed how SDSU’s comic imprint, Amatl Comix, supports social change; Neil Kendricks (the artist) shared his perspective as both an artist and teacher on the power of comics to foster diversity and social change; and Fawaz Qashat (the student) explained the importance of comics courses and the Initiative to his undergraduate SDSU experience, including his creation of a new student Comics Studies Club.
One of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards judges for 2021, Librarian Pamela Jackson presented alongside a few of her fellow judges on Saturday morning on the panel, “Judging the Eisner Awards 2021: Behind the Scenes.” Judges shared some of the challenges in judging and their favorite works published in 2020.
Comic-Con will be back July 21-24, 2022 and we cannot wait!
Filipino American History Month (FAHM) is celebrated in the United States during the month of October. Comics in the Philippines have been published since the 1920s when Liwayway magazine began running comic strips under the direction of Romualdo Ramos and Tony Velasquez, who is considered by some to be the father of Filipino comics. After World War II – and perhaps inspired by the comic books Americans brought to Southeast Asia – Filipino comics were frequently published as the serialized issues we think of today as “comic books.” In addition to a vibrant komiks (Filipino for comics) community in the Philippines, Filipino and Filipino-American artists frequently dazzle the panel on the pages of American-published comics.
Let’s take a look at some amazing Filipino comic artists! Please note that this list is far from complete and is meant to serve as an introduction to the many contributions to the comics industry made by Filipino artists.
In the 1970s, in part due to the success of Tony DeZuniga with comics readership, DC recruited a cadre of Filipino comic artists, including Alfredo Alcala, Ernie Chan, Steve Gan, Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo, and Gerry Talaoc.