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Tired of reading Marx and Freud? Getting hand cramps from drawing benzene rings? This semester, nine students in a Group Independent Study Project on graphic novels are reading "Calvin and Hobbes" for class instead — and drawing their own multimedia masterpieces.

Emma Buck '11 first had the idea for the GISP, "Exposing the Invisible Art: Creating Graphic Novels," after taking AMCV 1611V: "Color Me Cool: A Survey of Contemporary Graphic Novels." Buck said she was excited by how much possibility there was in the interplay between text and images and wanted to study the art of graphic novels in greater depth — as did eight other students, who are all taking the course S/NC.

Buck got together a group of interested students in a variety of disciplines, including literary arts and computational biology, to create a GISP that forces participants to look beyond their individual strengths.

Creating graphic novels is a highly collaborative art, said course adviser Rick Benjamin. Benjamin, a visiting lecturer in literary arts, is a trained poet who incorporates other types of art into his work. The creation of a professional graphic novel requires four or five different types of specialists, he said.

"There are some people who will just do line drawings and others that will just do coloring or lettering."

Likewise, all of the course's projects are collaborative — but every student works on every aspect of creating comics.

"You try a lot of things that you normally wouldn't," said Nikolos Gonzales '12, a student in the GISP. Even skilled artists experiment with alternative media such as photography, he said. "It allowed for growth even in really good artists," he said.

The course structure is based on the book "Making Comics" by Scott McCloud, Buck said. Each week, students lead a discussion about a different chapter of McCloud's book, with topics including text, paneling and images. After the discussion, students work on projects related to the material they covered in the book, she said. To accompany the chapter on text, for example, students worked on creating two comics telling the same story — one using text and the other using only images, Buck said.

In addition to McCloud's book, the class is studying a variety of comics, from "Blankets," by Craig Thompson, to Frank Miller's "Sin City," Gonzales said.

For the final project, which is the course's only formal assessment, students will begin to create their own graphic novels in small groups, Benjamin said. "It's not possible to create a complete graphic novel in a semester," he said, but by the end of the semester students will be able to present a graphic novel in progress.


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