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Welcome to Infinite Canvas, an course on web comics from The University of Dundee.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: Welcome to Infinite Canvas, a free online course on web comics from the University of Dundee. We’re part of the comics studies team at the University of Dundee. In this short video, we’ll introduce ourselves and tell you a little bit about what we do here at Dundee. My name is Professor Christopher Murray. I work in the School of Humanities at the University of Dundee, and I’m associate dean for knowledge exchange and partnerships with a remit for public engagement. My earliest memories are of reading comics, so researching and teaching comics is pretty much my dream job. I run the Scottish Centre for Comic Studies, and I’m director of Dundee Comics Creative Space.
I co-edit “Studies in Comics,” a peer reviewed academic journal, and I’m co-organiser of the International Graphic Novel and Comic Conference. I’ve written extensively on comics. My first book, “Champion of the Oppressed” was on superhero comics and propaganda during World War II. I’ve also written about comics and adaptation with an emphasis on horror comics. This includes chapters on comics adaptations of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and comics based on the work of HG Wells and HP Lovecraft. My most recent book was called “The British Superhero” and looked at a range of all but forgotten British superheroes from the 1930s through the present. I’ve also written several pieces on the comics of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore.
An exciting part of my career in recent years has been turning some of this research into creative outputs, comics. It’s been a delight to work with a range of talented artists to bring research to life by turning them into comics. But more about this a bit later. Now we’ll hand over to my colleague, Philip.
PHILIP BRAHAM: Thanks, Chris. Hello, my name is Phil Braham, and I work at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee. I spent 10 years working in the games industry before becoming an academic. I teach comics and animation, and I’m the art director of the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies and also Dundee Comics Creative Space. Both my teaching and research are very industry-focused and draw on a range of contacts in animation, games, and comics built up over the years. Students in these courses have gone on to success with some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Industrial Light and Magic, Marvel, and DC Comics.
I have previously worked on a project looking at how we read comics using eye tracking technology. I am also involved in a project looking at computer games in the creative industries called In-Game. In both the fields of comics and animation, digital technology has become hugely important. But as we shall see throughout this course, technology does not drive creative output. Technology is a tool. Creative ideas about how to tell a story or tackle a problem are the key, and technology is a means to accomplish this.
In this course, we want to see your creative ideas, and we can help you become more familiar with the technology, but the main thing we want you to do is play around with ideas and have fun with webcomics. Now I’ll hand you over to my colleague, Golnar.
GOLNAR NABIZADEH: Thanks, Phil. Hello everyone. My name is Golnar Nabizadeh. I work in the School of Humanities and am a lecturer in comics studies. I am also the public engagement officer for the school as well as communications director for the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies and Dundee Comics Creative Space. My research interests are in graphic justice, critical theory, and trauma and memory studies. I have published on the work of Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrape, Shaun Tan, and Australian online comics among others. I have a monograph entitled “Representation and Memory in Graphic Novels” coming out very soon from Routledge.
I am very interested in comics as a transnational phenomenon and the ways in which comics can tell very personal stories with universal appeal.
PHILIP BRAHAM: Together, we run and deliver the Masters in Comics and Graphic Novels, a unique, one-year postgraduate course that allows students to study comics history and theory and also create comics. The course is taught as one cohort but has two roots, the MLitt for students primarily interested in learning about the history of comics or writing scripts, and the MDes, which is focused more on the creative and technical skills involved in creating comics. Although, in fact, there is a lot of crossover between the two routes, and most students do a mix of both.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: The Scottish Centre for Comics Studies also runs a social enterprise project, Dundee Comics Creative Space, which is co-founded by the Rank Foundation. The Creative Space runs workshops for the public. In these photographs, you can see schoolchildren participating in our workshops. We also run a series of after-school clubs and other activities for the community. Dundee Comics Creative Space also contains a comics studio, Ink Pot, which supports a number of local comics artists. We also publish comics for our imprint, UniVerse Comics. Some of these publications feature work by our students and serve as a stepping stone to work in the comics industry, whereas others are outputs from research projects and public engagement initiatives.
Here are some of the comics we’ve published. “Anthology” is a series that publishes work created by the students on the comics courses. “Masters of Universe” publishes work produced by the masters students. Here we have a comic featuring work by the schoolchildren who come to our after school clubs. There’s also “Alpha,” a comic which was based on my own research in “The British Superhero.” “Reworking Walter Scott” was a comic that we produced for a symposium that featured many Walter Scott scholars, so we created stories about Walter Scott’s work. We’ve worked very closely over the last few years with the Being Human Festival, a national festival celebrating the arts and humanities.
Though them, we’ve produced comics based on Frankenstein, about Mary Shelley’s time in Dundee, also a comic around HG Wells and one on Jonathan Swift.
GOLNAR NABIZADEH: We’ve produced a number of comics in the field of graphic medicine and graphic health care. In this series, we have a number of titles, such as “Disability Hate Crime,” a comic produced for advocating together and designed to raise awareness about hate crimes towards disabled people. Another title in this series is “Batman Danny,” a comic produced by one of our PhD students, Megan Sinclair, about a young man’s experience of cancer. This comic was drawn by Elliot Balson. Another title is “Closure,” which was written by Dr. Laura Findlay and drawn by Zu Dominiak. This comic explores the representation of trauma in comics.
Also in the field of health care, we produced “Fibromyalgia and Us” in 2017, a comic co-created by four people living with fibromyalgia, health professionals, the family of one person with fibromyalgia, and comic artists in Ink Pot. Due to a lack of research and awareness, fibromyalgia is a condition that is not well understood by health professionals and the public. There are several misconceptions that further complicate diagnosis, treatment, and support. This 36 page comic raised awareness of fibromyalgia amongst professionals, families, and communities. Our PhD student, Megan Sinclair, also produced “Close to the Heart.” This comic is illustrated by Monty Nero and Gary Welsh, among other artists also based at Ink Pot studio.
This comic explores Megan’s experience of losing her father to heart disease. It forms part of Megan’s PhD work on using comics as a pedagogical tool in the field of graphic health care. “Let’s Talk About Suicide” was developed with final year students in a module led by Grant King entitled Developing Autonomy in Mental Health Nursing. Students worked in groups to develop comics aimed at raising awareness about suicide and its prevention. We also worked with one of our colleagues in the School of Humanities, Mayra Crowe, and partners in the NHS to produce a comic about organ donation and its role in the community.
“Understanding Evidence,” designed with the Leverhulme Centre for Forensic Science, was a case study on how laypeople can become better acquainted with the use of evidence in legal proceedings. “Chronicle, the Archive and Museum Anthology” was produced in 2017. Another of our PhD students, Hailey Austin, worked closely with Archive Services to produce this comic. Our public information comics strategy was showcased in a science communication project as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the University of Dundee. This comic, entitled “Transformations, the D’Arcy Thompson Comic,” celebrated the work of this Scottish scientist.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: “Superhuman Futures” explored the theme of transhumanism and evolutionary narratives in science fiction and superhero comics and featured artwork by Elliot Balson, Eve Greenwood, and Katrina Laird. It was produced for students taking the level one module, Human Futures, and was used as a teaching aid but also drew on staff research as an example of the practise-based research that we are doing at the School of Humanities in Dundee. And this brings us to webcomics. We have a great interest in how digital production methods have influenced the comics industry but also in how they have democratised comics publishing. Far more people have access to the tools of comics production than ever before.
Dissemination has also changed from the days of the spinner rack and the newsagent. Webcomics can be uploaded and accessed immediately, presenting a challenge to traditional print publishers, but also creating opportunities. The potential of webcomics is huge and may even be largely untapped. This course is designed as an introduction to this world and an opportunity to have a go at creating some short webcomics. Of course, we have renowned comics creator and theorist, Scott McCloud, to thank for the title, Infinite Canvas. McCloud wrote and drew the seminal “Understanding Comics” but coined the phrase, infinite canvas, to describe the potential of webcomics and the big sequel, reinventing comics. We met Scott McCloud at San Diego Comic Con and snapped this photo.
We offer a crisp salute to Scott, and indeed, all the scholars and creators who have contributed and continue to contribute to our understanding of what webcomics are and what they can do.
GOLNAR NABIZADEH: So we are looking forward to getting started on this course and can’t wait to see what you produce.

Welcome to Making and Understanding Web Comics or The Infinite Canvas as we like to call it!

This video is available as a PDF in the DOWNLOADS section below.

Dundee is one of the great powerhouses of comics production, not just in the UK, but internationally.

The publisher DC Thomson is at the heart of the city, with its long running comics, The Beano and The Dandy, and a host of beloved characters, including Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, the Bash Street Kids, and hundreds more.

Many of the top comics creators in Britain have been inspired by Dundee’s comics, including Alan Moore, Bryan Talbot and Frank Quitely, and several comics creators began their careers with the company, such as John Wagner, Pat Mills and Grant Morrison.

Brought to you by the University of Dundee, Dundee is the home of Dundee Comics Creative Space, the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies and the comics and anime festial Dee-Con. You’re in great company!

Chris Murray, Lead Educator

Professor Murray’s research area is comics, although he also works on Film. He is primarily interested in British and American Comics, and writers such as Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. He is currently writing a book on the British Superhero!

Find out more about Chris

Golnar Nabizadeh

Dr Golnar Nabizadeh joined the University of Dundee as Lecturer in Comics Studies in September 2016. Her research focuses on comics and visual studies and particularly on representations of trauma, migration, and memory in these fields.

Golnar received her PhD in English and Cultural Studies from The University of Western Australia, and has a monograph forthcoming with Routledge entitled Representation and Memory in Graphic Novels.

Find out more about Golnar

Phil Vaughan

Phil is a Senior Lecturer, Programme Director and Practitioner with 22+ years experience. Over the course of his professional career, he has worked on productions with the BBC, Sony, DC Comics, Warner Bros, EIDOS, Jim Henson and Bear Grylls.

Phil has been responsible for the implementation, production and teaching of highly specialised 2D & 3D animation and visual effects techniques, and has credits on published work such as Braveheart, Jim Henson’s Farscape, Star Trek, Wallace and Gromit, Teletubbies, Tom & Jerry, Commando and Superman, as well various original IP’s.

Phil has sat as juror for Scottish BAFTA and is the Art Director of Dundee Comics Creative Space.

Find out more about Phil

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