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Comic focus

International conference to put Canadian comic research on the map


By Janet Harron

Comics and graphic novels aren’t just pop culture anymore.

From Oct. 13-15, Memorial’s Department of English will host Mixing Visual Media in Comics, an international conference specifically focused on the different images used in comics that, in addition to drawings, can include maps, graphs, charts and photographs. The conference is open to the public.

Comic studies

Comics studies is an academic field that focuses on comics, graphic novels and sequential art. Dr. Nancy Pedri is a word and image specialist and is co-organizer of the conference along with her graduate students Aidan Diamond and Lauranne Poharec.

“I have determined that there is a lack in scholarship about the kind of images used in comics and a lot can be said about the different types of images that find their way into these comics,” said Dr. Pedri, who has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Connection grant to further her work.

“Part of the motivation behind this conference is to put Canadian comic research on the map and to house it at Memorial.”

Canadian comic research

Memorial has one of the strongest comics programs of any Canadian university, regularly offering two undergraduate comics courses — Introduction to Comics and Graphic Memoir — and a graduate course in graphic storytelling. A course in graphic medicine (comic books dealing with psychological or physical illness) is planned for next year.

“It’s the fastest growing thing,” said Dr. Pedri. “Normally they are used to aid people and family members who are going through the experience of illness.“

Her own favourite comic is Asterios Polyp, whose protagonist is an architecture professor embarking on a journey of self-exploration.

Local events

In addition to the academic presentations, which feature speakers from Canada, the U.S., Belgium, the U.K., France and Cyprus, there will be three events featuring comic artists at venues across downtown St. John’s. These include local artists Wallace Ryan and Paul Tucker and Toronto-based artist Hoe Che Anderson.

Comic art from local high school students will be displayed at a comics reading event at the Rocket Room on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. and in the English department hallway beginning in the winter semester.

Local bookstores Downtown Comics and Broken Books are also participating in the conference. Everyone is welcome to attend all events. Details can be found on the Mixing Visual Media in Comics Facebook page.

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