Comics expert to visit UCA as artist in residence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, September 10, 2012

CONTACT: Dr. Nelle Bedner ( or (501) 450-5601)

Dr. Matthew J. Smith, comics expert and graphic novel specialist, is coming to the University of Central Arkansas to visit UCA classes with presentations about comics, as well as to make a public presentation on the same subject.

On Monday, September 17, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the College of Business Auditorium, Room 107, Dr. Smith will present “Beyond BIFF! BAM! POW! Reclaiming Comics as the Ninth Art.” The event is free and open to the public. The point of this presentation is to show that there is much more to comics than just Archie and Batman and that comics are worthy of academic study.

Dr. Smith will visit classes in the Department of Communication to discuss the professional world of comics beginning Monday morning. He will be accompanied by Public Relations student Stephen Cunningham who traveled to San Diego with ten other students from around the world to attend Comic-Con International 2012 as part of a field study created by Dr. Smith. The field study is available to students interested in comics and ethnography through Wittenberg University. They will share their experiences from the convention and study of the intersection of fan-culture and marketing.

People have been communicating ideas through the use of comics since cave dwellers scrawled their sequential narratives on stone walls. However, it wasn’t until the invention of the printing press and the innovations of mass culture that followed, that the use of juxtaposed imagery to express the human condition reached wider audiences. Sold largely though comic specialty shops, todays monthly comic book marketplace is dominated by the superhero genre, though the spectrum of genres in comics is vast. The growing interest in imported Japanese comics, or manga, and that of mainstream press and Hollywood filmmakers, continues to draw attention to the potential and possibilities that have always been in graphic storytelling.

Dr. Smith specializes in teaching graphic storytelling and has taught a popular course on graphic novels for the past six years. He has taught a specialized course on the works of Alan Moore and is the creator of the Comic-Con field study program. Dr. Smith is a Professor of Communication and Director of Cinema Studies at Wittenberg University, a liberal arts institution in Springfield, Ohio.

Dr. Smith is co-author of five books. These include The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture (Continuum, 2009), a textbook for the comics studies classroom, and Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods (Routledge, 2012), nominated for a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Educational/Academic Work. Another collaborative volume, Icons of the American Comic Book, is currently in press.

Dr. Smith’s program is being sponsored by the Department of Communication as part of the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication Artist-in-Residence program. He was invited by Dr. Nelle Bedner, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Central Arkansas.

More information about Dr. Smith’s visit is available through Dr. Nelle Bedner ( or (501) 450-5601) or online at the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication Artist-in-Residence website at