Student artists collaborate to present first VCU comics anthology

VCU’s first comics anthology features the work of 15 different student artists. Photo courtesy of VCU Comics.

Chris Suarez
Contributing Writer

After months of writing, illustrating, coloring and designing, a group of VCU comic artists will be releasing the school’s first anthology of student-made comics, titled “WEIRD.”

Originating last semester, the idea of compiling original comics from VCU student artists was discussed among students working at the Student Media Center in various departments.

“Back in 2009, I got an anthology of art from Savannah College of Art and Design from my high school art teacher,” said “WEIRD” editor-in-chief Chris Kindred. “At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing. I told myself I want to do that one day.”

Despite the dedicated amount of art students at VCU, Kindred said comic artists have been under-represented in Richmond over the last few years.

“There’s been a lack of centralization in the comics community,” Kindred said. “We have had tons of talent, but they’ve ultimately gone off from Richmond without leaving any mark of being from Richmond. I wanted to take a snapshot of the current comics talent here.”

After weeks of brainstorming on how to approach making the anthology, editors decided on the theme, “weird.” The editors chose “weird” as their theme to have a broad appeal and gather various student artist interpretations of the more peculiar aspects of the everyday world.

Courtney Shackelford, an editor and contributor to the anthology, submitted a comic entitled “Swamp Witch.” The concept and name of Shackelford’s comic originates from a song by American folk artist, Jim Stafford, telling a pseudo-fairy tale about a witch priestess. Other comics in the 98-page anthology cover topics and themes such as mythology and post-apocalyptic worlds, Shackelford said.

While the editors chose to create the anthology partially to demonstrate the ability of VCU artists, students and recent alumni from any school of VCU were permitted to submit their work to the anthology.

“We figured the best way to jumpstart Richmond’s comics community, which has been on the verge of blowing up for the last few years, was to make the anthology,” said editor and contributor Tres Dean. “It gives people who are already into making comics a chance to show their work, but also gives other people a chance to try it out.”

Dean, an English major, played an important role in designing and formatting the collection. Last summer, Dean interned for Marvel Comics’ editorial department at their New York City offices, working in the department responsible for Spiderman, Daredevil, Hawkeye and other street-level characters. The team of editors drew influence from Dean’s experience with the world-famous comic publisher.

“What I got to see while I was there was comics going from their earliest form to reality,” Dean said. “One of the challenges we had was figuring out how to handle our submissions. Editing is really important, (which is) something I learned (from) this summer.”

After months of accepting submissions and working with artists on their comics, the anthology will feature the work of 15 different student artists. A release party will be held at the Commons Richmond Salon 1 from 8 to 9 p.m. on April 18. The event will include free food and drink, door prizes and free copies of the anthology. The theme for next year’s anthology will also be announced.

“I want the anthology to be a staple of VCU Arts,” Kindred said. “I want people to come to VCU for the comics anthology.”

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