Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Henderson comics professor to speak at art guild

Published March 13, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
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Matt Johnson/Contributing Photographer
Randy Duncan, professor of communication at Henderson State University, pulls out a book on the Archie comic series in the Greene Room of the Huie Library at Henderson. Duncan, who teaches courses on comics and graphic novels, will speak at the Caddo River Art Guild’s monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Arkadelphia Arts Center. The public is invited.
ARKADELPHIA — The visual arts have taken many forms traditionally — painting and sculpture at first, then printmaking and photography, among others. Now comes another form or two — comics and graphic novels.
Randy Duncan, professor of communication at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, will discuss these art forms during a meeting of the Caddo River Art Guild at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Arkadelphia Arts Center, 625 Main St. The public is invited.
Duncan, who teaches Comics as Communication and Graphic Novel Seminar, will speak on Graphic Novels for Grown-ups: A Will Eisner Week Celebration of the Art Form.
Duncan said Will Eisner Week is held annually in March to celebrate comics and graphic novels.
Eisner created the crime-fighting superhero of the comics The Spirit, which first appeared in 1940, and later, his first graphic novel, A Contract With God, in 1978.
Duncan said he will give those in the audience Thursday a brief history of the development of the graphic novel and discuss the recent abundance of high-quality graphic novels for all interests and ages.
“Graphic novels and comic books are not the same anymore,” Duncan said as he sat in the Greene Room of the HSU Huie Library, which contains a vast array of books on both subjects. “They occupy different cultural spaces.”
Farrell Ford, president of the Caddo River Art Guild and executive director of the Clark County Arts and Humanities Council, which supports the Arkadelphia Arts Center, listened as Duncan talked about the two art forms.
“I am 83 and read comic books as a child,” she said with a laugh. “I remember going to town every Saturday with 10 cents to buy a comic book. I had a stack this high (pointing to the top of a small table). Then mother made me get rid of them.
“I liked Nyoka of the jungle,” she said, smiling. “I lived on the edge of the woods and tried to swing with a grapevine many times.”
Duncan said comic books were especially popular during the “Golden Age of Comics,” from the 1930s to the early 1950s, with such superheroes as Captain Marvel and Superman.
“Then in the 1980s, the graphic novel came into its own,” he said. “It became a separate medium.
“It’s still an art form that tells a story. It has a separate market that is different from comic books. It has a different audience and is published by mainstream publishers and can be found in major bookstores. People who read them regularly oftentimes wouldn’t be caught dead reading a comic book.”
Duncan said the first graphic novel that really became popular with the public was Art Spiegelman’s Maus in 1986.
“Maus was about his relationship with his father, who was a Holocaust survivor,” Duncan said, adding that the book was published twice, “once in the mid-1980s and again in the ’90s.
“In 1992, it received a special Pulitzer Prize,” he said. “A lot of book clubs read this graphic novel. It’s also taught in a lot of literature classes in colleges.”
Duncan mentioned several other graphic novels that have become popular — Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, which was adapted as a Broadway play and won several Tony awards, including Best Musical; Persepolis, by Marijane Satrapi, which was adapted as an animated movie; and March, by Congressman John Lewis, also a civil rights leader, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, which was the recipient of many book awards.
Duncan said participation in his classes in comic studies is growing.
“Last year, we were able to develop a comics-studies minor at Henderson,” he said. “We will have our first graduate with a minor in comics studies in May.
“This year, I have about 25 people in the introduction to comics course and 18 people in the nonfiction comics course. I have five students who are working independently on comics-studies projects and one who is producing a graphic novel. I also have one student who is creating a blog and others who are working on analytical projects.”
Now 58, Duncan said he read comics as a kid growing up in New Orleans.
“I started reading comics when I was about 8. Comics came along at just the right time. They grew up as I grew up. It became more challenging to read them in my 20s, but by the 1980s, comics became more for adults,” he said.
“They have always had a story to tell. Today, comics such Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen explore the darker side of the superheroes. It’s not just about adventure anymore,” Duncan said.
“It’s hard to find the floppy comic books at the newsstands anymore,” he said with a smile. “It’s become a pretty narrow audience.
“However, you still can find Archie in the checkout line at the grocery store. He’ll never go out of style.”
Duncan has a Master of Arts degree and a doctorate in rhetoric from Louisiana State University. He began his career at Henderson in 1987.
He is co-author, with Matthew J. Smith, of The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture (Continuum 2009) and co-editor, with Smith, of the Eisner-nominated Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods (Routledge 2011) and Icons of the American Comic Book (Greenwood Press 2013). Duncan is co-author, with Michael Ray Taylor and David Stoddard, of Creating Comics as Journalism, Memoir and Nonfiction (Routledge 2015).
Duncan is also co-founder, with Peter Coogan, of the Comics Arts Conference. In 2009, Duncan received the Inge Award for Outstanding Comics Scholarship, and in 2012, he received the Inkpot Award for Achievement in Comics Arts.
Duncan has lined up three guest speakers to come to Henderson during April in what he is calling the Cavalcade of Cartoonists 2016. They are as follows:
• April 14 — Andy Warner of San Francisco will visit the HSU campus. He will speak on Graphic Journalism: The Comics
Reportage of Andy Warner at 12:30 p.m. in a location yet to be determined. He is the co-founder and co-editor of Irene.
• April 15 — Sonny Liew will visit with comics-studies-minor students and give feedback on student work. He lives in Singapore and is a comic artist and illustrator whose works include titles for DC Comics, DC Vertigo, Marvel and Disney.
• April 21 — Scott McCloud will visit with students and give feedback on student work. He is the author of the textbook Understanding Comics and is the creator of the comics series, Zot! His latest published work is The Google Chrome Comic.
For more information, contact Duncan at (870) 230-5042 or duncanr@hsu.edu.

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