Comic book scholars teach research and philosophy at annual conference

Comic book scholars teach research and philosophy at annual conference

Comic book scholars teach research and philosophy at annual conference
March 03
09:30 2014

Steven James // Staff Writer

Nearly 100 comic book and graphic novel lovers, including scholars, researchers, professors, students and children, experienced UNT’s day-long Comic Studies Conference on Saturday.

“I really hope the people who came learned more about what comics can do,” conference director and communication studies professor Shaun Treat said. “Comics can bring in lots of interests and lots of careers can be made if people make the right decisions.”

Some notable guests at the conference included Kate Leth, creator of the web comic “Kate or Die!” and writer for “Adventure Time” comic books, and Sonny Strait, comic book artist and notable voice actor of characters in English versions of Japanese anime series, including Krillin from “Dragon Ball Z” and Maes Hughes in “Fullmetal Alchemist.”

Many professors and scholars throughout the U.S. teach themes in comic books that can found in reality and more traditional literature. These researchers believe that teachers often overlook comic books and graphic novels, viewing them as something that distracts young people from reading traditional literature, such as Shakespeare. Presentations at the conference challenged common dismissal of comic books and showcased themes about sexism, racism, immigration and culture seen in comics and graphic novels.

Communication studies senior Rudy Reynoso presented about the deeper layers of characters he read about in works for his “Mythic Rhetoric of the American Superhero” class.

Reynoso said he resonated with titles such as “The Dark Knight Returns” and “All-Star Superman.” Another comic was “V for Vendetta,” where the protagonist dresses in a mask and schemes to overthrow a police state government.

“People are actually taking the Guy Fawkes mask and making a statement in places with oppressive government,” he said. “It really taps into the idea of ‘if you should be an individual’ or ‘if you should be a society.’”

There were also some scholars and professors who gave presentations about their research in comic books and graphic novels.

“I find a great deal to work with in ‘Star Wars,’” said Keith Brown, manager for the center for the study of interdisciplinary. “We can only imagine the extraordinary by how much we are willing to play with the ordinary.”

Brown even compared the philosophies seen in “Star Wars” to the works and ideas of Aristotle and Plato.

“When you start questioning your origins, you start to find some very interesting things,” he said.

Treat said next year, he and his colleagues plan on bringing in more themes of ethnic identities, hopefully with the help of certain departments that include women’s studies and Jewish studies.

“Overall, it went great,” Treat said. 

Feature photo: UNT’s Comic Studies Conference is a place where comic book and graphic novel lovers can come to learn about how themes and characters seen in comic books and graphic novels represent aspects of real life such as immigration and racism. Photo by Steven James / Staff Writer 

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