A hub for cartooning has been forming in a place that you might not expect: Columbus, Ohio. It’s already home to the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) festival and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, and now, Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) has announced big news: starting in fall 2017, students can major in Comics & Narrative Practice at CCAD.
In the new major, students will work with comics professionals to learn how to write, illustrate, and publish their own sequential art. “Columbus is in a unique positon to become a major center of comics study in the country,” says Stewart McKissick, Chair of CCAD’s Comics & Narrative Practice and Illustration majors.
CCAD, one of the oldest private art colleges in the United States, already has a strong tradition of illustration, which makes the comics program a natural fit. In the program, students will create original comics and graphic novels and learn how to shape narrative elements and invent signature styles, stories, and characters. They’ll also meet with top industry practitioners and gain practical experience with story pitches, prepress, budgeting, and marketing.
“We’re going to have robust business content as well so the students who come out of this program will have a good understanding of the comics industry today and the skills and strategies they need to participate in it,” McKissick says.
Interest in comics has been growing for years at CCAD. “Our students have increasingly been making them on their own and asking for more comics in the classroom,” says McKissick.
For the past two years, in fact, students in CCAD’s Illustration program have partnered with professional comics writers including Kelly Sue DeConnick (known for writing Captain Marvel), Grace Ellis (Lumberjanes), and Eisner Award winner Matt Fraction to produce a comics anthology called Spitball. That publication showcases student illustrations featuring all sorts of different topics and highlights the idea that comics today can be about anything.
Spitball has resulted in a major project for CCAD student Shae Beagle, who is working with Lumberjanes’ Ellis on Moonstruck, a new comic book that Image Comics will launch this summer.
Beagle, who will graduate from CCAD in May with a BFA in Illustration, first met Ellis when they were paired together for Spitball. “The experience has been amazing,” says Beagle. “From the first little mini-comic we did in Spitball, Grace and I worked together really well. We had really similar senses of humor and ways of thinking.”
Laurenn McCubbin, Assistant Professor in CCAD’s Comics & Narrative Practice major, says Beagle’s success is impressive, but not surprising. “It’s a pretty remarkable thing that Shae is still in school and getting published,” said McCubbin, who is also the editor on Moonstruck. “I’ve known Shae since they were a first-year student; I’ve had them every single year, and I’ve always known that they were incredibly talented. I was really happy that their time at CCAD was able to give them this kind of opportunity.”
McKissick adds: “This great success that Shae Beagle, an Illustration student making comics, is having is an example of exactly why CCAD is launching this program.”
Beagle is not the only person with CCAD connections working on the book: Moonstruck’s colorist, Caitlin Quirk, is a 2016 CCAD Illustration grad. And a number of other recent CCAD grads are also finding success in the comics world, including 2016 CCAD Illustration grad Alissa Sallah, who is the editor and colorist on an upcoming romance comic Sleepless (also from Image Comics).
CCAD anticipates that graduates of the program will find work in a broad range of artist practices, including as independent artists, writers, publishers, comics illustrators, colorists, letterers, storyboard artists, and character developers for comics, animation, gaming, and toys.
To be a part of the pioneering class of Columbus College of Art & Design’s groundbreaking program devoted to telling stories with words and images, visit the school’s web site CCAD.edu.