When Dr. Riddle asked me to take the lead on putting together the inaugural group of speakers for the Marilyn K. Cory Speakers Se­ries for the 2013-2014 year, I was thrilled.  Then freaked out. Then back to thrilled. I asked for input from faculty members and students. I buttonholed people in the hallways and asked them again. Lindsey Vesperry (a graduate student in the department) and I sent roughly 958 emails to potential speakers, to authors’ agents, and to each other trying to figure out what might work.

Well, we figured something out, and I’m really excited to tell you about it. This year’s series is organized around Graphic Narratives and Comic Books, and we’re bringing in speakers from all over the place to talk about them.

McCloud's self-portrait done in classic comic book style

McCloud’s self-portrait done in classic comic book style

First up is Scott McCloud, an important pioneer in both creating and theorizing comics. His early comics, like Zot!, brought together different graphic traditions—American superhero comics and Japanese manga. He’s worked in mainstream comics (writing scripts for various Superman comics), and he’s invented new forms (like the “24-Hour Comic” and “Five Card Nancy”). His theoretical works, beginning with Understanding Comics (1993) and continuing through Reinventing Comics (2000) and Making Comics (2006), have become central texts in the field. As he puts it on his website, “Depending on who you ask, I’m either comics’ leading theorist or a deranged lunatic.” On Monday, October 7, at 7:30pm in AJ 175, you can find out why.

Christina L. Blanch poses in a superhero inspired portrait.

Christina L. Blanch poses in a superhero inspired portrait.

Our second speaker in the series is Christina Blanch, a doctoral student right here at Ball State. She developed and taught one of BSU’s first MOOCs, “Gender Through Comic Books,” a course that enrolled over 7,000 students last spring and fostered conversations among students and comics creators on subjects like “Gendered Spaces and Consuming Comics” and “Who Is Producing Comic Book Culture?”  In an interview in Wired, she explained, “I have been a comic book fan since my mom and dad let me read Prince Valiant when I was a little girl.” And Blanch doesn’t just think about comic books.  She writes them too. Check out “The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood” online. Come hear her speak on Monday, November 4 at 7:30 in Letterman 125.

In the spring, we’ll have two more speakers on campus, Rachel Williams and Ramzi Fawaz. Rachel Williams, an associate professor of art at the University of Iowa, will be visiting in January. She’ll give a talk about autobiographical comics and run a hands-on workshop on flash graphic memoir. Ramzi Fawaz, an assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, will be on campus in April. He’s completing a book titled The New Mutants: Comic Book Superheroes and Popular Fantasy in Postwar America, which will be published by New York University Press.

We’ll be posting more information about our speakers and related events here on the blog as well as on our snazzy new flatscreen displays on the 2nd floor of RB and on flyers around campus. Please mark your calendars and plan on joining us this year!