Comics for College Credit?
Yes! Comics Studies is a new academic discipline built around the history, interpretation, and appreciation of comics, cartoons, and graphic novels – and the University of Oregon is leading the way in this field of study with the first undergraduate minor of its kind in the world.
Why Study Comics?
In the 1950s, comics were considered harmful to developing minds. Today, teachers, librarians, and educators agree that comics are a gateway to advance literacy. But comics are much more than effective learning tools.
The simple fact is that comics are one of the most powerful forms of communication ever devised. Whether you are interested in the humanities or the sciences, finance or philosophy, marketing or medicine, you can learn from the ways that the greatest comics creators have told stories, sold characters, and conveyed messages.
A Unique Art Form
The art of comics is unlike any other narrative medium, combining images with words in unique ways. When studying comics, you learn to think outside conventional academic boundaries and to analyze the interaction between visual and textual meaning.
Comics Studies draws upon the established fields of art history, literary studies, and cultural studies, while also tapping into the professional traditions of commercial design and advertising.
Our program is as unusual as the art form to which we are devoted. The ultimate goal is to foster creative thought by encouraging a deeper and more profound understanding of how words and images work together, how they affect us, and how they shape the world in which we live.
A Storied Past
Comics are at least as old as the print medium itself.
In the U.S., comics have been central to our culture since the late 19th century when Richard Outacalt's The Yellow Kid inspired the first comics-related merchandising boom.
With the invention of the comic book in the 1930s and the “underground commix” movement of the 1960s, the canon of American comics expanded to include some of the most widely-known pop-cultural icons in the world. With the rise of the graphic novel in the 1980s, comics became more artistically respectable, winning major literary awards and critical acclaim.
More Powerful than a Locomotive
Today, the influence of comics can be felt in every area of culture and media. The comics industry drives more than $7 billion in the U.S. economy annually. Comics and graphic novels have inspired dozens of television shows and more that 50 movies since 2000. Art galleries and museums exhibit comics art. The form has been used to convey information on almost every conceivable subject. Some of the most admired writings in contemporary fiction – Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Lethem, and Mat Johnson – acknowledge the influence of comics, collaborate with comics arts, or create comics and graphic novels of their own.
What’s more, while comics may have started out in newspapers, they are thriving in the transition to digital culture. There are currently more than 38,000 webcomics, with more strips appearing online every day.
An International Medium
Comics are found all over the world. In Japan, manga (as comics are known) exist on every subject – sports, sex, history, business, and cooking, as well as the genres of action-adventure, crime, science fiction, and horror. Manga is consumed by readers of all ages, and figures for annual industry revenue exceed $4 billion.
In France, comics have long been held in high regard within the institutions of art and culture, and the creative history of bande dessinee is one of the richest in the world. South America also sustains a potently creative comics culture.
The UO undergraduate minor in comics and cartoon studies offers a number of academically rigorous courses that expose students to the wider world of art and communication. Comics Studies courses are offer in:
- Art history
- Arts and administration
- Comparative literature
- East Asian language and literature
- Romance language
Learn From Creators
We bring professional comics creators to campus regularly to give talks, answer questions, and teach classes. Previous guest of the UO comics and cartoon studies minor include Milke Allred, Marc Andreyko, Gabriel Ba, T. Edward Bak, Brian Bendis, Kurt Busiek, Howard Chaykin, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jan Eliot, Matt Fraction, Jung Henin, Megan Kelso, Fabio Moon, Terry Moore, Tommi Musturi, Sarah Oleksyk, Chris Roberson, Greg Rucka, Diana Schutz, and Douglas Wolk, among others.
Join the Comics and Cartoon Studies Minor!
Follow these links to courses that fulfill the Comics and Cartoon Studies Minor and descriptions of past courses.
Click here to see the available Comics Studies courses for 2021-22
Follow these links to learn more about our Comics Studies Faculty.
Join us! Click here to declare the Minor
Requirements for the Minor:
- To qualify for the minor, students must take 24 credits of approved courses:
a. Including mandatory course: ENG 280 Introduction to Comics Studies
- The remaining courses may be selected from the range of comics-related courses offered through Art, Art History, Arts Administration, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Literatures, English, Ethnic Studies, Journalism, and Romance Languages.
a. For details regarding these classes, students should consult the list of course offerings
- All course work must be passed with a grade of mid-C or better.
- Only two courses taken for the Minor may be used to fulfill any other minor or major.
- All upper-division coursework for the Minor must be taken in residency at the University of Oregon.
- No more than 12 credits may be taken in lower-division courses.
- Students must declare the Minor by filling out an online form: or by stopping in the English Department, PLC 118, (541) 346-1500.
Not all of the courses required for the minor are offered every academic year. A list of the available courses (including any special topics courses not listed above) for a given academic year is available at this link and in the English Department Office, 118 PLC. Please use this worksheet to track your progress in the Comics and Cartoon Studies Minor.
Have questions? Please touch base with the English Department office by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (541-346-3911).
RESOURCES AND LINKS
If you are interested in making your own comic, getting involved in the comics industry, or just want to know more about the medium, here's a helpful set of tools and materials to get you started.
ART DUCKO COMICS MAGAZINE
Established in the Fall of 2014, Art Ducko is the University of Oregon’s first comics magazine. The magazine aims to build the comics community on campus by showcasing students’ work. Art Ducko’s mission is to provide a space for UO students to develop both their artistic and creative writing skills, gain experience working on a creative team, and publish their own original comics.
Prof. Saunders Discusses the Marvel Exhibition
This video went live at 5pm on Monday, July 26th 2021 on the Comicon website — an interview with UO English Professor Ben Saunders about the Marvel Exhibition and the current Fantastic Four anniversary.
Journals of Comics Scholarship
- The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship
- The Comics Journal
- European Comic Art
- Image & Narrative
- International Journal of Comic Art
- Journal of the Comics Studies Society
- Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
- Signs: Studies in Graphical Narrative
- Studies in Comics
Conferences & Organizations