12.21.2010

The 12 Days of Comics: 2010 - Day 9


“Hypotheses” by Virginia Heinen (Time Enough for Lunch Comics, Self-Published)
Demographic: Cutting-Edge, Experimental, Biological-Slant, Slice-of-Life Comics
Selected by: Ryan Claytor
Subsequent Interview by: Justin Giampaoli

Ryan: I am WAY excited about highlighting a selection from one of my stand out students, Virginia Heinen. Don’t get me wrong, I was blessed with more than my fair share of motivated students this year and I don’t mean to play favorites, but Virginia repeatedly came to class with ambitious and avant-garde scripts, continually re-worked her dialogue and pacing throughout her illustration process (even after our script critiques were finished), and that motivation did not wane even through the difficult part of the semester when final projects abound and it would have been easy to cut a corner or two in order to finish her final book. Because of all this, she produced one of the most accomplished and professional projects from any of my comics classes, in this or previous years. Assuming Virginia continues creating comics, I’ll be proud to say she was once my pupil.

Virginia is a science major with an interest in art, but to see her accomplished illustrations you’d think she was an art major with an interest in science. She has a great understanding of how to render biological forms, whether those forms are human or otherwise, and her interest in science and music delivers a fresh voice to the comics medium. Assuming you are willing to lay down a paltry $4, you’ll be rewarded with Virginia’s take on all four of our short-story comics assignments completed over the past four months, her meticulous eye for packaging details, an unexpected formatting experiment, and the first publication from a name you’ll soon come to know. You can order yours by emailing Virginia at heinenvi[at]msu[dot]edu

Justin: Sweet! I’ve had really good experiences with the work of some of your past students, such as Austin Hendry and Matt Dye, to name just a couple. Perhaps it’s self-promotional, but I hope you’ve been encouraging your students to send me their work for review purposes. From your description, Virginia’s craft and presentation ability seem strong, but for me, story trumps everything. Tell me this isn’t just an exercise in experimental packaging and formatting so that I don’t have to invoke the veto on you, Claytor! I have no feel for the plot or any narrative structure solely from your proud prose. What’s the hook? What’s the elevator pitch?

Ryan: Ha-ha! Well said. Sometimes I get a little wrapped up in the quality of presentation, but I was honestly trying to leave content as a bit of a teaser. It sounds like maybe that came across as more vague than teasing, so I’ll try to outline her book quickly. In my class, we have four short projects throughout my semester-length introductory comics course. The first is an “Artist Statement” comics project. I really want my students to start thinking about their own work, be that in comics, painting, ceramics, or underwater basket weaving, and start to consider themes that unify their work and reasons why they create their art. Unfortunately, this whole artist statement practice is usually neglected until grad school, which is a crying shame. My students have all been smart enough to begin tackling these questions about their own work. I’m not saying it’s an easy first project, but I think it gets them in a proper, contemplative frame-of-mind for crafting intelligent comics. Virginia’s artist statement talks about her first love, science, and how she doesn’t consider herself an artist, which, ironically, is mentioned in this gorgeous, letterbox, painstakingly-rendered panel filled with double-helixes, animals she’s studied, and self-portraits. As I mentioned before, it really feels like a new, yet accomplished, voice in comics. Our second project is a wordless comic, attempting to forward narrative through images alone. This is her experimental wordless comic that I don’t want to say much about, except for the fact that it’s really well done, it works with the theme of music, and one of the more ambitious assignments from this past semester. The third project is an autobiographical short story, where she talked about hunting for frog samples out in the swamps. Their final project is wide open in terms of theme. After taking notes all semester, creating short stories and critically discussing canonical readings and one another’s assignments, I let them script whatever topic most interests them without any restrictions except for page count. Sometimes, even after a whole semester, they’ll get a little overzealous with their scripts, and I have to rein them in a bit. There is, after all, only so much time to work. So, how’s that for an elongated elevator-ride pitch?

Justin: And you say you don’t like to write, ha! Seriously, that gives me a much better feel for the uniqueness of the project; the double-helix bit sounds very intriguing. I’m sold!

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