MSU Comics Forum Set for February 21-22

Three people standing over an organized table of comics

This year’s Michigan State University Comics Forum, scheduled for February 21 and 22, will feature two keynote speakers, an artist alley, academic panel discussions, comic art exhibition, and private tours of the world’s largest public collection of comic books. 

The MSU Comics Forum, an annual event for scholars, creators, and fans of the comics medium, started in 2008, with Ryan Claytor, comics artist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, serving as Director of the Comics Forum since 2010. 

Since its beginning 12 years ago, the MSU Comics Forum has grown incrementally. 

“We have gradually moved into larger venues along the way,” Claytor said. “The first forum was only one keynote speaker, three artists, and lasted for an afternoon.” 

Colorful poster with a wizard in the center
The 2020 Comics Forum poster created by keynote speaker Emil Ferris

Now, the forum features two keynote speakers, an artist alley with dozens of artists, two days of academic panel discussions featuring scholars from around the world, an exhibition of comic art from the MSU Libraries Special Collections, and a limited engagement tour of the MSU Libraries comic art collection, and more.  

This year’s keynote speakers are Emil Ferris and Nick Sousanis

Emil Ferris, the illustrator of the 2020 Comics Forum poster, is an American writer, cartoonist, and designer. She debuted into publishing with her 2017 graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, which is a coming-of-age story of Karen Reyes growing up in 1960s Chicago. It is written and drawn in the form of the character’s notebook. The novel was heralded as a “masterpiece” by Forbes and The AV Club, among others, and has won numerous awards, including the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel, Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist, and Gran Guinigi Award for Best Graphic Novel.

Nick Sousanis is an Eisner-winning comics author and an Assistant Professor of Humanities & Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University, where he is starting a Comics Studies program. He received his doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he wrote and drew his dissertation entirely in comic book form. Titled, Unflattening, his dissertation argued for the importance of visual thinking in teaching and learning and was published by Harvard University Press in 2015. To date, it has been translated into French, Korean, Portuguese, Serbian, Polish, Italian, and Chinese. Unflattening was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Scholarly/Academic work and received the 2015 Lynd Ward Prize for Best Graphic Novel of the Year and the 2016 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award).

Ferris will speak on Friday, February 21, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the MSU Main Library Green Room, which is on the 4th floor West. Sousanis will speak on Saturday, February 22, from 1 to 2:15 p.m. in the MSU Main Library Digital Scholarship Lab Flex pace on the 2nd Floor West.

Comic books stacked next to each other on a shelf
Some of the comic books located in the MSU Libraries Special Collections, which houses the largest public collection of comic books in the world.  

Claytor says he hopes attendees at this year’s Comics Forum will understand the depth and breadth of the comics medium. 

“That is what we want first and foremost,” he said. “We also would like to let people know about the rich comics ecosystem that has been developed here at MSU. Along with the Comic Art and Graphic Novel Minor and the podcast, we have a number of faculty in several disciplines interested in comics studies, and, of course, the largest public collection of comic books in the world.”

MSU offers a Comic Art and Graphic Novel Minor and hosts the MSU Comic Art and Graphic Novel Podcast. The university also is home to the largest public collection of comic books in the world, which is housed in the MSU Libraries Special Collections

All events associated with the Comics Forum are free and open to the public. For more information, see the MSU Comics Forum website