It’s rush hour when I meet with Christine Stoddard and David Fuchs at the James Branch Cabell Library Starbucks. Drink orders volley, coffee presses hiss and sputter, and the end of the waiting line falls well beyond my line of vision. After maybe five minutes of conversation, I’m forced to wonder how many Cabell visitors are here today to read comic books.
“Cabell carries comic books?” I ask again, astonished. Stoddard, a junior cinema and English double major, widens her eyes. “Literally tons,” she said.
As it turns out, the Comic Arts Collection housed on Cabell’s fourth floor holds more than 100,000 items, according to the VCU Libraries website—30,000 of which are comic books. It also offers graphic novels, editorial cartoons, comic strips, memorabilia, comic journals, fanzines and a broad array of reference materials.
Yet Stoddard and Fuchs say they believe there is still plenty of room for university-sanctioned support of the sequential arts. Stoddard, a “funny pages type of girl” who prefaces her favorites list with “Ooh, ooh, where do I begin,” and Fuch, “more of a comic book guy” who desires to be described as “ruggedly handsome,” are co-editors of “Comicality,” VCU’s newest print publication. The project, which is funded by a Student Media Commission grant for emerging print publications, is set to be released by the end of this semester.
Since October, Stoddard and Fuchs have been collecting submissions from student artists and writers, including everything from single-panel comics and strips to excerpts from long-form graphic narratives, as well as essays and articles about comics culture.
Fuchs, a sophomore kinetic imaging major, cited a particularly interesting piece “about a surfer dude and time travel, which I really liked.”
Stoddard added, “There were dinosaurs. That’s why he liked it.”
The content isn’t limited strictly to comedy, Stoddard said. “Comicality” will run the gamut from the humorous to the dramatic to the bitingly satiric.
“I guess the focus is ‘sequential arts’ rather than ‘comics,’ ” Stoddard said.
Naturally, I learned a lot about comics and local comics culture just speaking with these two. For example, I hadn’t known that Wiley Miller, cartoonist of nationally syndicated strip “Non Sequitur,” studied art at VCU. I’d also had no idea that Jon Arbuckle from “Garfield” had been set up with a steady girlfriend. We discussed the merits and demerits of such Sunday staples as “Kathy.”
“Totally unlikeable,” Fuchs said, which segued into an exchange on the ever-present risk of staleness in serials.
“Many comics follow a formula,” Stoddard said. “Lasagna! Naptime! Lasagna! Mondays! John’s a loser.”
By the time we parted ways I got the solid impression that “Comicality’s” editors possess a marked passion for the art form.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the interplay between words and images,” Stoddard said. “And I think that when used correctly, the two can be very powerful in a way that words alone or images alone cannot be. That’s something that most of the current (VCU) publications can’t really speak to.”
In addition to helping bring Richmond’s comics culture to a wider audience, Stoddard and Fuchs express a desire to encourage stronger interdisciplinary collaboration between VCU’s artists and writers through their publication.
“I feel like the two should complement each other,” Stoddard said. “It just makes sense for them to be together.”
Look for “Comicality” in displays across campus before the end of the semester. Contact the “Comicality” editors at [email protected] to make a submission or to request further information.