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5 June 2011

Dundee launches UK's first comics degree

The University of Dundee is building on strong local traditions and expertise to launch the UK's first degree programme in Comic Studies.

Dundee can lay claim to being the spiritual home of the British comics industry as the output of Dundee-based publishers DC Thomson & Co Ltd includes iconic titles such as the Beano, Dandy, Commando, Starblazer and Bunty. This means legendary characters such as Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, the Bash Street Kids, Oor Wullie, and the Broons were born in the city.

As such, the English department at Dundee is perfectly placed to offer the new postgraduate Masters in Comic Studies degree, which is being led by Dr Chris Murray, one of the UKs foremost authorities on the subject. He has researched comics and graphic novels extensively, and is editor of the journal Studies in Comics.

Far from being the preserve of children, comics and graphic novels are increasingly sophisticated texts which comment on culture, politics and values, and cross over into areas such as television, film, computer games and the internet. Comics scholarship is an expanding field, reflecting the increasing stature of comics as an important facet of contemporary art, literature and popular culture.

The MLitt in Comic Studies programme, delivered on a one-year full time or two-year part time basis, is expected to appeal to local, national and international graduates with an interest in pursuing academic careers, or working in the media, the creative industries or publishing.

From September, graduates will have the opportunity to gain an understanding of the comics medium and the comics industry, and their relation to different genres, cultures, and media.

Dr Murray said students will be required to think critically about these ideas, and develop an understanding of comics in the context of theory, politics and history.

'This is a very exciting time for comics scholarship, and I am delighted to be able to offer this postgraduate course on comics,' he said. 'This is a unique opportunity to give this important medium the attention it deserves, and to allow those with an interest in comics to study it in detail.

'I hope that this course will help forge the next generation of comics scholars, and may even help some students with creative ambitions to find their way into the highly competitive comics industry.'

One of the modules on offer will look at autobiographical comics, one of the fastest growing and critically acclaimed fields of comics production in the last 20 years, whilst another will look at the relationship between various international comics cultures, from Scottish publications, and the wider British context, to French, Russian, American, Japanese and Chinese comics.

An undergraduate module focusing on contemporary British comic writers and graphic novelists is already taught at Dundee, and the Masters programme will allow graduates with an interest in the comics to pursue this at postgraduate level. Those who want to progress further may even study for a PhD in comics once the MLItt is completed.

Those with an interest in the creative side of comics, either as a writer, artist, or both, will find the course very useful in terms of expanding their knowledge of the history of comics, and the artistic and literary potential of the medium. There will also be the opportunity to enhance practical skills related to the creation of comics.

The creative elements of the course will be delivered by Phillip Vaughan, a lecturer in Graphic Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, part of the University. Mr Vaughan has a great deal of experience in animation, computer game design and comic art.

Dr Murray continued, 'As well as studying different genres, styles and uses of comics, there will be a focus on writing for comics, with classes and workshops on scriptwriting skills as well as on artwork and the creative process'

'A range of activities of interest to students, such as conferences, talks and workshops featuring some of the most influential figures from the comics industry, and worldwide experts on comics and graphic novels will support the academic work. These will be of great interest to students and will allow them to make contact with influential figures from within the industry.

'Employability is an important consideration for any postgraduate programme, and it lies at the heart of what we aim to do with this course. There will be practical advice on publishing and developing a career as a comics scholar, writer or artist, and we hope to arrange work placements for students

'Comics and graphic novels are becoming an increasingly important form of literature, art and field of study, and it is our intention that our graduates are at the forefront either as researchers, writers, artists or filling other roles within the industry.'

Dr Murray also organises an annual comics conference in Dundee. The Dundee Comics Day has featured such celebrated figures as Warren Ellis, Alan Davis, Pat Mills, Rian Hughes, Hunt Emerson, Dez Skinn, and manga artists ILya, Emma Viceli and Nana Li in the past.

The 2011 Comics Day, part of the Dundee Literary Festival, will be held on October 30th, and features a stellar line up of writers and artists, including Frank Quitely, John Wagner, Cam Kennedy, and Colin McNeil.

More information about the MLitt programme is available by visiting the Comics studies webpage or emailing Dr Chris Murray on c.murray@dundee.ac.uk.


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