Monthly Archives: November 2009

Introducing The Bissette Art Instructionals

Want to learn how to turn this…

into this?

Visit the Bissette Art Instructionals, where you can learn tricks of the trade and watch drawing demos by this CCS faculty extraordinaire.

– Robyn Chapman

A Course in Cartooning, Across the Sea

This report just in from CCS student Kevin Kilgore.  Kevin is spending his senior year in Seoul, South Korea (learn more here).  As part of his low-residency program, Kevin is researching cartooning in his region.  Below he describes the cartooning major at Sangmyung University.

CHEONAN, South Korea – Looking down at what appears to be a corpse wrapped up on a cot, I’m distracted by my tour guide. He has just interrupted two guys, who seem to be goofing around on the Internet. After some blushing and muffled laughs, we are shown a short animated film. The corpse snored. The two guys and the corpse, are students in the Division of Cartoon & Digital Contents at Sangmyung University.

Sangmyung University was founded, in Seoul, in 1937 as a women’s university. In 1985, the Cheonan campus was opened. The 1990s was a time of change for SMU, it opened its doors to male students and began its cartoon and animation program. Located about an hour-and-a-half outside of Seoul, SMU’s Division of Cartoon & Digital Contents has over 300 students studying in three bachelor degree plans: Cartoon, Animation, and Digital Contents. According to the school’s Web site:


“A major in Cartoon teaches all the processes involved in cartoon production including: planning, story, continuity, and editing of Images and storyboards. This program aims to be innovative by creating new digital Images for the future. Students are encouraged to work independently and produce a cartoon from beginning to end. A major in Cartoon will produce professionals who will open up new areas in animation for the 21st century. Students will have the opportunity to produce theories, improve research skills and have practical training.”








During my tour of the cartoon department’s facilities Ki Hwan Son, Vice Managing Director of the Industry Academic Cooperation Foundation, spoke to me about SMU’s curriculum and post-graduate life. In the mid 90s, when SMU began offering cartooning degrees only one-in-20 applicants were accepted, however that number is down to one-in-seven, Ki said.

After graduation, most students look to the computer game industry for employment as character designers and industrial artists. That is where the money is at, added Ki.

Ki is not only a faculty member, but also a cartoonist, painter and president of the executive committee for the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival. SICAF is one of the largest cartoon events in Korea.

Continuing around the facility, one thing stuck out. Sleeping students. In every classroom we passed there were at least one or two fledgling cartoonists sacked out, head down on a desk. And, it was not uncommon to see cots in the classrooms. The production lab had a cot right in front of the industrial paper cutter for fits narcolepsy during crunch time.

Why all of the sleeping? Boring classes? I think not. The sheer volume of work these kids were turning out was amazing.

Gwak Seung Hoon drew 140 pages for his senior thesis PRIVATE. Kim Min Kyung knocked out an impressive 170 pages for her final project titled The Real World & Fantasy World. Not to be outdone, Jang Hye Won’s all-color The Man Who is Everything and Nothing weighed in at 200 pages.

To showcase their work the students put together a 56-page, color pamphlet with two pages dedicated to each person’s thesis and contact information.

In the department’s main office you can flip through the student’s final projects, which were published with the same quality and attention to detail as comics you would find from big publishers in a comic shop.

Although SMU became a coed school in the mid 90s, female students are still in full force in the DC&DC. Out of the 23 seniors in the cartoon department’s 2009 graduating class, 19 were female.

As an avid student of comics, I was very impressed by the array of talent displayed by both the faculty and student body at SMU’s DC&DC. Although a lot of the work was focused on the mainstream comics market and the computer game industry, the foundation the students receive more than prepare them for any genre of comics they chose to take on.

– Kevin Kilgore

Big and Little

John Stadler recently visited CCS and walked us through one of his most popular books, Big and Little.  This book, and several others, are available in the Schulz Library’s Children’s Books section.

I originally wrote about Big and Little on the CCS Visiting Artist Blog.  I got such a kick out of the book, I wanted to post here as well.


During his visit John Stadler entertained us with anecdotes from his long career in the children’s book field. He also demonstrated a unique process he uses to generate stories. In this approach, he creates two plot lines: Plot A and Plot B. As we turn the page, these plots progress and finally meet at the story’s conclusion. Anticipation is built, and the conclusion is both surprising and rewarding. Stadler’s book Big and Little is the perfect example of this concept in motion. By using the device of a fold-out page, Plot A and Plot B are kept in separate worlds.

Plot A.

Plot B.

Plot A.

Plot B.

Big and Little is a very smart children’s book that uses a simple device to play with the reader’s expectations. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that this 31-year old was surprised and tickled by Stadler’s twist ending.

– Robyn Chapman

New Books!

In September of 2009, the Center for Cartoon Studies participated in Glory Days, the local railroad festival. The entire town came out to celebrate, be it with bagels, chowder, discount tires, or comics.

The Schulz Library held a book sale and the Center for Cartoon Studies held a mini-convention where students and local cartoonists sold their comics. Professor and cartoonist, Steve Bissette, graced the floors with his presence and new Vermont Monster Guide. Many townspeople of White River Junction wandered in, entranced by our robot statue, Dixie, and the promise of comics. While many thought comics were only for children they soon found that our comics run the gamut from polar bears to caterpillars, herpes to menstruation, glasses to cryptids.

First year student, Lena Chandhok, examines the books for a possible purchase. Funds from the books sale then went towards student recommendations (and wishes) for the Schulz Library. Given the generosity of publishers, writers, cartoonists and local libraries we usually have whatever book the students want, however, we recently recieved the student recommended books bought with our Book Sale funds!

Before I could even finish cataloging our new books, second year student Casey Bohn dug into Fletcher Hanks’ You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation (edited by Paul Karasik). Our other new books include: Arguing Comics (with essays by e.e. cummings and Umberto Eco in defense of comics!), Kramer’s Ergot #6, Sandman #8-10, Scott Pilgrim#2 and #5. They will prove to be useful to our current students and future classes. Check your local library to see if they have copies of these wonderful graphic novels and books!

-Jen Vaughn

Recommended: Nine Recently Read Books

In No Particular Order…


1. Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory

This Xeric award-winning book by Erroyn Franklin documents the dissolution of her marriage and the ensuing emotional vortex that results.  The illustrations on each page are white paper cut-outs and their intricately sliced shapes, all empty inside, look as if they are in danger of being swallowed up by the black page. The technique is brilliantly suited to the subject matter.




2. Monsters

This is a semi-autobiographic tale of one cartoonist’s struggle with herpes. Jason Lutes’s blurb on the back of the book says it best, “ Ken Dahl’s is one of the great unsung talents in American comics.”




3. The Vulgarians

I confess with not being too intimate with Robert Osborn’s work. Published in 1960, The Vulgarians is an angry love letter to his country. It’s a tirade to be sure but its a funny, insightful and dead on. The way the images and text work together (a paragraph of hand written text alongside an illustration) reminded me of Maira Kalman’s blog for The New York Times even the though the tone of these two artists couldn’t be more different.




4. Untitled

This a great little zine by one of my Adventures in Cartooning collaborators Alexis Frederick-Frost. It reminds me a little of Virgina Lee Burton’s The Little House, but with a ship instead of a boat. Alexis is a great brush man and this book, with it’s stormy skies and churning waters, really allows him to showcase his talents. Can be ordered for five bucks from One Percent Press.




5. The Sultan’s Procession

I can’t tear myself away from this large art/history book. In 1657, a Sweedish envoy visited Istanbul. Besides keeping a detailed diary of everyday life, Claes Rålamb also aquired 121 small water colors depicting the different “types” in characteristic outfits. Even more impressive are the 20 large paintings depicting an imperial procession.




6 They Called Me Mayer July

Like The Sultan’s Procession, this book also acts as a time machine. The reader is transported to Mayer Kirshenblatt’s childhood in the small Polish town of Apt in the early 1900s. Kirshenblatt didn’t start painting until he was 73 and then the memories started pouring out. This is the type of history book I love— colorful and intimate details of day-to-day life accompanied by heartfelt artwork.




7. George Sprott

Seth is one of the best cartoonists working today and he just keeps getting better and better. Seth possesses the literary gifts of our finest novelists along with unparreled cartooning chops. As a book designer he brings it all together. I was deeply affected by the life and death of George Sprott. Seth shows us that life (even one full of regrets, vanity, and insensitivity) is still a magic act that is over far too soon.




8. The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics

This is a beautifully packaged and produced book chock full of delightful comics. My girls (ages 7 and 9) and I all loved it. I wrote a more comprehensive review of the book here.




9. 3 Story, The Secret History of the Giant Man

From its elegiac coloring to the way interior panels are lined up to produce x-ray effects to its die-cut cover, Matt Kindt has produced a beauty. Ultimately however, it’s the book’s emotional authenticity that takes a b-movie conceit—that a man who grows to be the size of a three story building was used as a US spy during the cold war— and transforms it into something moving.


—James Sturm

Romance Comics (The Basic Formula)

Romance comics appeared on the scene during the last years of comic’s Golden Age (invented Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, no less!)  From 1948-1950 their popularity grew at an unprecedented rate.  The first six months of 1950 was the high water mark – 332 issues were published.  More than a quarter of the comics on the rack were romance comics, and over half of the comic-reading public was female.  Sales dropped sharply later that year, but for brief shining moment, love conquered all.

While I’m no expert, I’ve read my fair share of romance comics.  I’ve found that, in general, there are three basic plot structures that romance comics follow, each having its defining conclusion.

#1: I Learned My Lesson (and Lived Happily Ever After)

This formula seems to be the most popular one, especially in pre-code romance.  The basic idea is that our heroine makes a bad choice that nearly ruins her chance for true love.  But in the end, everything works out.pickup1
The first published example of the plot structure #1, from Young Romance #1.  Here Toni learns about the importance of a good reputation, one of the most common lessons preached in romance comics.


Another example of this concept, form ACG’s Lovelorn.   Here, the lesson is not subtle: “Don’t change him, love him!”

#2 A Wrong is Righted (And They lived Happily Ever After)
In this plot structure, the heroine is not at fault – she is innocent and steadfast.  A villan is introduced (usually another woman, often a friend, roommate or sister) who conspires to destroy her love life.  I’ve found this to be the second most popular formula in romance comics.

This comic is also from Lovelorn.  Despite her crippled legs, Mae truly loves boxing champ Lefty.   Her roommate has designs on Lefty as well, and with a few lies she sabotages Mae’s confidence.

Gloria’s evil nature is exposed, Mae learns to walk, and Lefty proclaims his true feelings.

 #3 I Learned My Lesson (The Unhappy Version)
The final panel of a romance comic almost always portrays a happy couple in a loving embrace – truly unhappy endings are rare.  Here’s an example of one of those rare stories.

 Romance comics often have titles that are far more risqué than the actual story.  Masquerade Marriage (written by Dana Dutch, and drawn by comics master Matt Baker) lives up to its name.  Pat and Jetta learn a hard lesson when (SPOILER!) two no-good boys from the waterfront trick them with a fake marriage!

Check out panel 4: “It wasn’t anything like wedding nights I’ve read about… Bob wasn’t sweet and gentle…H…He was rough… Almost brutal!”  That’s heavy stuff!  
The boys go to jail and the girls try to salvage their tainted reputation.  No kisses in this final panel.

Want to read more?  These romance comics (and many more) are currently on reserve in the Schulz Library.

– Robyn Chapman

Sturm Speaks!

Listen to CCS Director James Sturm (or as I like to call him, “the chief”) share his graphic novel wisdom with NPR listeners.  James was guest on Vermont Edition.   For a program created for a lay audience, the discussion holds up pretty well.Sturm_james_tcm7-18019

– Robyn Chapman