Your Dynamic Hosts of The Comics Alternative Podcast
Andy Kunka is Professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter, where he teaches courses in literature, film, and comics. Growing up first in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and later Colfax, North Dakota, Andy became immersed in comics from an early age. His first published work was a letter that appeared in Justice League of America 214 (May 1983), in which he complained that the annual JLA/JSA team-ups were using the same Justice Society members repeatedly. He then had about half a dozen other letters published in comics over the next year or so.
Though he received his PhD from Purdue University with a dissertation on First World War British Literature, he has since focused his scholarly work on comics. He believes that his 14-year-old self would high-five him so hard for figuring out a way to have a job where he gets to write about and talk about comics all of the time.
Derek Royal is a comics scholar and a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas in their School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication. His writings on comic studies, American literature, and film topics have appeared in a variety of journals and book collections. Derek grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he constantly visited 7-ll, Little General, local supermarkets, and other stores with spinner racks — Hey Kids, Comics! — to satisfy his hunger for comic books. His brush with “comics greatness” growing up came with a brief correspondence he once had with Charles Schulz, where he sent Schulz a drawing of a cartoon character he had created — Lummy the Dummy, a visual ripoff of Sad Sack — and Schulz kindly replied back that his efforts were worth pursuing. Although Derek never seriously developed his comic strip, he was nonetheless inspired by Schulz to become a comics fan into adulthood.
Although first enrolled in a multi-disciplinary studies graduate program at UNC-Greensboro, where the idea of pop cultural research appealed to him, Derek went on to receive his MA and PhD in English from Purdue University, which is where he met Andy. Since then, he has focused his teaching and scholarship on traditional literary works as well as comics studies. A sampling of his publications can be found on his website. In recent years he has maintained two different blogs, The Gallery of the Absurd (a repository of weird ads, labels, and signs) and Words Generally Only Spoil Things(a reading review blog that has now been replaced by his writings for The Comics Alternative), neither of which has really rocked the world or undermined the foundations of entrenched power.
And Assisting Andy and Derek on the Podcast are:
Gene Kannenberg, Jr. received a PhD from the University of Connecticut in 2002. His dissertation discusses the comics of Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. His Milwaukee childhood consisted in large measure of trips to comics spinner racks in places like the Rexall Pharmacy and Open Pantry market to pick up whatever (generally Marvel) comics he could afford each week — though the first comic book he ever owned wasn’t from Marvel.
Andy Wolverton is a librarian at the Severna Park Community Library, part of the Anne Arundel County Public Library system based in Annapolis, Maryland. Although he taught band for 15 years and received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from The University of Southern Mississippi, most of his musical attention these days is focused on singing and playing guitar during library storytime programs.
A comics fan since childhood, Andy spends much time teaching parents that comics and graphic novels are not only fun for kids (and adults), but can also play an important part in helping turn reluctant readers into lifelong readers. You can visit his blog Journeys in Darkness and Light.
Shea Hennum doesn’t have a PhD (yet), but he is current enrolled at the undergraduate Literary Studies program at the University of Texas at Dallas. He’s been reading comics, in one form or another, for over a decade, and he spent several years working comic book retail.
Sean Kleefeld has only managed to attain his Master of Arts degree, but that’s largely due to the amount of time he’s spent writing about comics! He’s been reading them since before he can remember, and he started writing about them in 1988, when he had his first letter published in The Fantastic Four.His first professional writing gig wasn’t until 1996, though, when he started providing reviews for American Entertainment‘s online magazine.
Derek’s reading blog where he used to write about the various things he’s reading. (It’s now replaced by his reviews on The Comics Alternative blog.) There you’ll find commentary on the various novels and histories he’s reading, but mostly you’ll find entries on comics.
Sean’s daily blog devoted to all manner of comics culture, from reviews of current titles, to retrospectives, to insightful critical essays, to analyses of the business side of the industry.
Oh Really? Well, What Kind of Professional Credentials Do These Guys Have?
Andy, Derek, and Gene have devoted much of their scholarly energies toward comic studies. In addition to the various reviews and commentary they write for The Comics Alternative blog, each has contributed to book collections and published essays in peer-reviewed journals. At times they have even worked together on several projects, including a couple of upcoming books. Here’s a sampling of their published work in comics studies:
Essays on The Black Condor, Hellblazer,Gil Kane, Richie Rich, and Marv Wolfman. Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels. Ed. M. Keith Booker. Greenwood Press. 2010. 59-60, 277-79, 342-43, 510-11, 701-2.
Review essay on 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide, by Gene Kannenberg, Jr.; and The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels, by Danny Fingeroth; The 101 Best Graphic Novels, by Stephen Weiner; and Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know, by Paul Gravett. International Journal of Comic Art 12.1 (2010): 483-492.
“The Not-So-Untold Story of the Great Comic-Book Scare.” Review-essay on The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, by David Hajdu. The Chronicle Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education 54.37 (2008): B19.
Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tijuana Bibles to Zap Comix. By Tim Pilcher with Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Introduction by Aline Kominsky Crumb. New York: Abrams, 2008.
“A Conversation with Art Spiegelman.” Art Spiegelman: Conversations. Joseph Witek, ed. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. 238-262.
“Oh No, Not Again!: He’s Not Like the Other Kids.” Little Sammy Sneeze: The Complete Color Sunday Comics 1904-1905. Winsor McCay. Ed. Peter Maresca. Sunday Press, 2007. n.p.
Exhibit review: “Disney Planet Amusement Facility, the dwarf planet formerly known as Pluto, Sol system.” Interplanetary Journal of Comic Art: A Festschrift in Honor of John Lent 1.1 (2007): 84-85.
“Chips Off the Ol’ Blockhead: Evidence of Influence in Peanuts Parody.” Studies in American Humor New Series 3.14 (2006): 91-103.
“Life in Shanty Town” and “The Problem with Mars.” Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays! Winsor McCay. Ed. Peter Maresca. Sunday Press Books, 2005. n.p.
Entries on “Comic Books” and “Tintin/Hergé” for Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society. Macmillan Reference USA, October 2003.
“Read All (or Some) About It.” Review of X-Tra 3.3. Comics Journal 242 (April 2002): 68-69.
“What Lies Beneath?” Review of David Boring, byDaniel Clowes. ebr: electronic book review 12 (2002).
“The Comics of Chris Ware: Text, Image, and Visual Narrative Strategies.” The Language of Comics: Word and Image, ed. Robin Varnum and Christina Gibbons. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002. 174-97. Reprinted in A Comics Studies Reader, ed. Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. 306-324.
“Graphic Text, Graphic Context: Interpreting Custom Fonts and Hands in Contemporary Comics.” Illuminating Letters: Typography and Literary Interpretation, ed. Paul Gutjahr and Megan Benton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001. 163-92.
“Virtuoso Cartooning.”Historic Virtuoso Cartoonists, ed. Lucy Shelton Caswell. Catalog of the 2001 Festival of Cartoon Art, August 26 through September 30, 2001. Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library, 2001. pp. 31, 33.
“‘I Looked Just Like Rudolph Valentino’: Identity and Authority in Maus.” The Graphic Novel. [Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the Graphic Novel, KU Leuven, Belgium, May 2000.] Symbolae Facultatis Litterarum Lovaniensis – Series D – Volume 13. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2001. 79-89.
Review of Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers, by Mathew J. Pustz. Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing News 10.2 (2001): 13-14.