North Texas Daily

Professor brings comic books to classroom

Professor brings comic books to classroom

March 20
23:10 2013

Trent Johnson

Senior Staff Writer


Settled in an office brimming with crumpled comic books, superhero posters and the occasional piece of memorabilia, communications professor Shaun Treat pieces together his upcoming Comic Studies Conference.

The convention will take place at 3 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday in room 110 of the Environmental Science Building. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

Treat is working with Keith Brown, Center for the Study of Interdisciplinary program manager, and hopes to use the convention to dispel common perceptions that comic books are only meant for children, and prove that these literary devices can be applied to life situations.

“I use comic books in the classroom because it’s a different way of introducing ideas,” Treat said. “When I can teach a subject using characters with tights and a cape, well that’s just fun.”

The conference will also highlight the works and methods used across Denton involving education and comic books, Brown said.

“People from all sorts of departments use comic books for studies,” Brown said. “We have people in anthropology, Jewish studies, communication studies, philosophy, English and even library studies. The use of comics is pretty widespread.”

Panels and speakers will discuss topics such as what graphic novels are, Japanese comics or “manga,” the differences between mainstream and alternative comics, and the reason for studying superheroes.

After the first conference in 2011, the duo was surprised by the turnout, with more than 100 people in attendance, Treat said.

This year even more attendees are expected, as student interest has grown because of the changing conception around using comic books as an educational tool.

“I don’t even have to justify using comic books to students. They get it,” Treat said. “Shakespeare at his time was the comic book of the day. Now we study it because of the impact it had on popular culture.”

Treat doesn’t only plan to introduce comics as a classroom utility.

The convention also has panels aimed at introducing students to the possibility of entering the comic book business. UNT alum and creator of web comic “Something Positive,” R.K. Milholland, will be conducting a panel.

“The dude created his own job,” Treat said. “So hopefully he’ll inspire students to go out there and create their own job. Be a part of the creative class. Don’t go work for someone else.”

Brown and Treat want the event to become an annual convention, Brown said.

If that becomes the case, the partners aim to take an even bigger step and create a “comic studies” minor for UNT students.

As superhero movies and comic books become more integrated in mainstream culture, it may ignite interest among fans, business sophomore Dustin Dronet said.

“The idea of more professors using comics is a great idea,” Dronet said. “I hope I end up in some of those classes.”

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