Comics studies certificate makes debut

A new post-baccalaureate Comics Studies certificate program was recently announced by the university. The program allows students to earn a certificate by taking six comics-themed courses between winter, spring and summer term.

With only one required class, students can choose from the list of available courses in the program that best meet their interests.

“We had this core group of courses that already existed, and I’ve also been working to bring in the comics professionals,” said Dr. Susan Kirtley, director of rhetoric and composition.

Kirtley is also currently teaching the Comics Theory & History course this term, the only required course for the certificate. Next term she will be teaching Visual Rhetoric.

One of the professionals working with the program is Shannon Wheeler, known for his comic Too Much Coffee Man, and his work with both Dark Horse Comics and The Onion, among others.

“I would say the [the certificate] increases your chances of opportunities,” Wheeler said. “It’s still very much that opportunities are ones that you make yourself, but that when you apply you’ll be looked at more seriously.”

Wheeler will be teaching Comics Creation in the spring.

Nicole Georges, illustrator and creator of Invincible Summer, teaches courses in cartooning all over the country and will be teaching a course in the spring called Autobiographical Comics.

“If [students] go through the program, they will be able to create a comic community with their fellow classmates, and they’ll be getting taught by professional cartoonists from the Portland area,” Georges said. “And if they choose to use the tools that they learned in the program, they will be able to apply those to their own cartooning career.”

A number of other professors at Portland State and in the comics industry will be teaching courses.

Brian Michael Bendis, who works with Marvel comics, is currently teaching Writing Comics, which will be available again in spring term.

To qualify for the program, post-baccalaureate students must be enrolled at PSU, be in good academic standing and fill out the online application.

The application for the certificate is currently unavailable but will be open soon. In the meantime, students can find the list of courses being offered on the comic studies program website.

“We’re very lucky because we are in Portland, Oregon, which is one of the best comic cities in the entire country,” Kirtley said.

Kirtley hopes that eventually comics studies will have a minor and major at PSU. In 2012, the University of Oregon launched its own comics studies minor.

PSU has a long relationship with the comic book community. Mike Richardson, the creator of Dark Horse Comics, is a PSU alumni and has donated the entire collection of Dark Horse comics to the Branford Price Millar Library.

The PSU library is currently showcasing an exhibit called “We Love Dark Horse Comics” that will be on display in the first floor elevator lobby until May 1.