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A Dissertation About Comics That Is a Comic: Great Interview with Nick Sousanis

Many of us at #HASTAC2012 were captivated by Nick Sousanis, a comics artist and social activist who is writing Columbia University's first ever dissertation about comics as a comic.  I was so intrigued by his beautiful, brilliant, poetic, incisive, theoretical, imaginative work that I even asked if he'd be interested in partnering on a graphic version of Now You See It, aimed at high school and college students as well as at those who just love comics.  


This is a stretch for me.   My brain doesn't do comics, never has . . . but maybe some day it will.   I used to marvel at my Dad, my brother, and my sister who would fight for the comics page.   When my partner Ken shows me a hilarious New Yorker cartoon, I spend maybe ten minutes trying to fathom it and half the time hand it back, puzzled.   It's a form I admire so much but it eludes me . . .until I met Nick.   He is so great and patient at explaining the interplay and especially (this is what trips me up!) all that is happening in the white space between the image and the text.   He has really perceptive ideas about that white space, its tension and its fullness.  


And I know that working with him, frame by frame, I will learn a new way of seeing and (duh!) that's what Now You See It is about, paradigm shifts we can all engineer in our own lives, with the right tools, partners, and methods, in order to see what we cannot currently see because of our own attention blindness (preconceptions, culture, habits, talents, skills, expertise, and past learning--what we haven't mastered yet in some cases and, in other cases, what we have mastered so well that we are no longer paying attention to limits and exceptions).   I'm honored and delighted that Nick thinks he might have something to learn from our interaction too, something that will make him an even better graphic artist/comic artist.


Here's the interview.   It's fabulous.   ENJOY!  "A Comics Dissertation,",


And here's just a small sample from "A Comics Dissertation:  An Interview with Nick Sousanis":  


Where does your inspiration to create visual narrative come from?

Yow. I don't know. It's different each time. Or maybe you mean more generally in the medium. To that, I'd say, in some sense I find that my thoughts when I’m out running achieve a certain sort of clarity that when I sit down to compose on a lined sheet of paper or keyboard never quite takes shape. Even my straight text writing, emerges from organizing thoughts spatially on a sheet of paper. So partly, I just think that's how we think, or at least I do. But also, I like to draw - both the realization of specific images and the action of thinking visually - so comics is a way to pull together that interest alongside words, and I also like to write. Together though, I often find I can say more than I can with text alone, and often say it with less. Comics force you to leave out a lot and preserve empty spaces; for me at least, it’s like having a built in editor! And a little more specifically, in terms of creating a specific piece, I’m often asked, which comes first words or pictures? To which I say, yes. Not to be cute (ok, maybe a little), but it's really a dance between the two. An image suggests text; a line I've written suggests an accompanying image. Sometimes I feel like playing with pictures and words within the constraints of the page, the creative process almost takes off on its own, and I just get to watch as things emerge I hadn’t anticipated in the least. It’s a lot of fun and exciting to see where it leads.



Thank you for writing about this! 


... by the way, was just reminded that back in 2009 I made this photo comic wondering why I couldn't submit my PhD dissertation in comic book form...


thanks, Cathy. Ernesto - hope what my school is allowing me to do makes other such things possible in the future. Best, Nick 


Hi Nick; good to see yo here! You might want to join the HASTAC graphic, visual and multi-modal storytelling group... (please?) 





Just did - thanks for the invite, Ernesto. best, Nick


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