Review of the History and Art of Comic Books

The History and Art of Comic Books is a course at the City Lit college in London. There are several courses on graphic design, and even one for learning how to create cartoons and comics. This one, however, is not so much hands on, but a romp through several decades of comic book art in four weeks.

"Superman loses it!" -- Picture b James Vaughn’ve had an interest in comics for a long time, as a reader, a teacher and someone with an interest in current affairs and political cartoons.

Recently, though, I’ve become interested in the history and theory of comics as well, so this course seemed ideal.

I am really enjoying it, I think for two reasons. First, the tutor, John Miers, is clearly a comics geek. He seems to live and breathe comics. Not only does he read them, he creates them and (oh be still, green-eyed monster) is even doing a PhD on the subject.

What impresses me is that he has such a vast knowledge of the subject, and the intricacies of the relationships between various aspects of the art and the people who create it, that the lectures are very rich indeed. To say the content exceeds the time available would be an understatement. Last night, for example, 8pm came and went, with John saying, “If I can just show these couple more slides…”.

The second reason for my enjoyment is that there are other people on the course who know far more about the subject than I do, and they often interject with interesting observations and snippets of information. Me? Apart from the odd insight, I’m just enjoying soaking it all up.

The only criticisms I have are as follows. First, at only 4 sessions the course is too short. A six or even 10 week course would have been much more satisfying.

Second, a longer course might have allowed the tutor to arrange interesting visits, such as to the Kubrick archives or the comics curator at the British Library, or a visit to exhibitions such as Bonaparte and the British, which is currently on at the British Museum.

Finally, I think it’s a shame that different parts of the City Lit appear to not talk to each other. John informed us last night that the college runs “Fast Forward” events, some of which concern comics art and related matters. It turns out that I missed one that I’d have loved to have attended – had I known about it. You’d have thought someone would have had the nous to send an email to all the people on the comics course about it. Mind you, they would have probably have been clobbered under the Data Protection laws. Oh well.

But the course itself is excellent. I for one will be asking for a follow-up.