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Artist urges students to take fresh look at world of comics

September 25, 2014

A visual artist and writer from Salt Lake City urged English/Creative Writing students yesterday to take a fresh look at the world of comics.
Nick Francis Potter, currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Missouri, stressed the importance of imagery during the semester’s first Writers on the Edge lecture.
“Language is important and essentially—I love language—but it has improved properties when combined with images,” he said.
Potter, who has published comics and prose in a number of journals and reviews, became interested in comics at a young age. He discovered that he could easily follow a story line through a series of images better than in text-only books.
“When you’re looking at a series of images, you’re actually reading,” he said. “You read” comic strip panels "left to right, top to bottom the same way you read, and images are repeated in the same way names and pronouns are. I have small boys who understand this. It’s accessible at a lower-level but there’s something extremely intelligent about the way we can tell a story through a series of images. …Just because it’s available to a young child does not mean it’s not a powerful tool for all of us.”
Potter shared examples of how comic formats have been used to explain complicated subject matter, such as a comic-like version of the 9/11 Report and a visual guide to the economy. Images aren’t just easier to understand and process, he said, they’re also proven to help readers retain the information. 
He also pointed to a rise in infographs and other graphic designs that accompany text on websites, billboards, textbooks and other media.
Potter also encouraged the writers in the room to embrace images, even if they aren’t trained artists. He had several examples of remedial sketch work that ultimately turned in to published comics.
“I want you all to make comics, and I want to read them,” he said.

The Writers on the Edge series brings professional writers to campus throughout the school year. Past guests have included Toni Morrison, John Irving and Margaret Atwood. 

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