West Liberty University begins a graphic narrative major in English this fall that feeds off this comic frenzy, in an academic way.
“Our new major is intended as an interdisciplinary program focused on the study and creation of graphic novels and comics,” said Wally Hastings, professor of English and chairman of the department of Humanities, who is steering the program. “It will prepare students for graduate work or employment as writers, editors, critics or other roles in the publishing and comic book industry.”
The program was developed by the English department, led by then dean of liberal arts now provost, Dr. Brian Crawford. The English professors consulted with the WLU’s College of Art and Communications Dean William Baronak and Associate Professor of Art Brian Fencl to develop the art component. A parallel program for art majors also is in the works.
Currently, the English degree requires three studio art courses, all of which are regularly offered by the art department and two more art courses.
“We are expecting to see lots of interest from our students since many of our art students already plan to work in publishing and are studying graphic design and comic book illustration,” said Baronak.
Several interested students are ready to delve into the comics right now but the English and art professors expect the new major to grow significantly as the year academic year begins.
“We are the first English department to offer this major that we know of, in the world,” said Jeremy Larance, assistant professor of English and a big fan of the graphic narrative.
Graphic novels have been around for centuries and include drama, adventure, politics, romance and comedy. These stories include superheros, as well as many average characters, all drawn with a certain style of dramatic graphics to catch the eye.
“The narrative is just as important as the graphics and this is where the English department and academics can step in and use this style novel to study literature,” Hastings said.