Class Review: Making Comics as Visual Literacy

April 4, 2018

“Making comics and getting credit for it? I’m down!”

That’s exactly what came to my mind as soon as Professor Antonio López informed me he was launching the one-credit course “Making Comics As Visual Literacy” (EXP 1011) in the Spring semester of 2017. Besides my monthly submissions for the student-run newspaper The Matthew, I thought this course could really give me the opportunity to experiment further with my comic-making - and it did!

The class only meets for five Fridays, is perfectly suitable for students of all majors, and don't worry - you do not need to be a Michelangelo to take it. In fact, after learning the basics of visual literacy and storytelling, even the most inexperienced artist is able to pull off an incredibly easy-to-read, entertaining, and well-structured final project.

If you take the class, you will be amazed by the simplicity and the potential of comics as a mean of communication. Some of the coursework includes inventing characters using only geometrical shapes, combining drawings with words in order to enhance their meaning, and making small comic strips. All these exercises will guide you towards the creation of an 8-16 page mini-comic as the final project: the most personal, stimulating, and hands-on academic project you will ever work on.

I believe this experience of comic-making taught me a lot, not only on an academic level, but also on a personal level. First, the skills of a comic artist are applicable to studying, writing, and even video-making. While studying or writing, the ability to grasp, and then simplify, the essence of long and complicated concepts is essential to understanding, internalizing, and reusing them in a way that can be personal and creative, but still valid on an academic level. Moreover, being able to think about notions and ideas in a visual manner is important in video-making, another art form where concepts are expressed mainly through moving images.

On a personal level, I think comics are a great way to organize, analyze, and visualize all the things that are going on inside your mind. Making comics can be a way to reflect on what you are going through in a specific period of your life, and when the artwork is finished, you feel emptied out and liberated at the same time. Emptied of your thoughts because they are no longer inside your head, and liberated from them because they have finally been vented on paper.

Comics are a powerful weapon to fight anxiety and banish negative thoughts from your mind. It really forces you to be in the present moment and engage mentally and physically with your work, and your work only. If you are good enough to channel that negativity into creativity, you will not only create a work of art that represents you, but also those who are able to relate to it.

“Making Comics As Visual Literacy” is a unique opportunity to explore the often overlooked potential of the comics medium. You get to create, write, and draw your unique story, with the expert guidance of Professor López, head of the Communications Department and well-known comics enthusiast.

Also, if you love comics as much I do and wish to expand your knowledge of the field, I recommend you also take the standard three-credit course “Comic Books, Graphic Novels and Visual Storytelling” (CMS 318) also taught by Professor López. As a 300-level Communications and Media Studies course, it is obviously more academic and deals with the social, historical, and theoretical part of comic books.  However, as an assignment, you are going to read some critically acclaimed graphic novels such as “Maus” and “Persepolis” and even draw a comic review about them.

What better way to learn about comics than by drawing them?

Alessandra Longo
Communications major, Psychology minor
JCU Class of 2018§
Hometown: Latina, Italy

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