Sarah Glaser Shares Love for Comics Through New Major
While Old Dominion University offers over 50 academic options, when it comes to master’s degrees, there isn’t necessarily an ideal fit for everyone student’s interests. Graduate student Sarah Glaser is paving the way for fans of comics who come after her with hopes of earning the title of comics professor.
It was just five years ago that a friend gave her a copy of “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.” This was the turning point that sparked Glaser’s interest in comics.
“When I opened that comic book and started reading it, it was like an epiphany,” Glaser said. “I had found my medium, right in front of me. And so, I went on to more comics, I kept reading. I couldn’t stop and I eventually started looking at the different narrative structures. I started talking about it with friends.”
“I think in comics. I speak to my friends who create comics, in a particular way. I think it really is a code or a language,” she said.
Her friends often wanted to talk about the content within the comics, but Glaser was looking beyond the content-level meaning of the panels. She started researching and found that there was a social group for her interest in the Hampton Roads area called “757 Comic and Cartoon Creators.” The group holds bi-monthly meetings at Panera Bread to discuss and critique each other’s projects and talk about their common interests.
Glaser believes that the option to pursue an interdisciplinary major is not promoted well enough at the university. The process of creating her own major wasn’t difficult.
“I was attracted to the humanities department because both humanities and comic studies are interdisciplinary and in a world that’s connected in new different ways across discourses, being interdisciplinary should be one the most important things,” Glaser said.
There is an option in the institute of humanities called interdisciplinary individualized studies, which allows students to study what they’re interested in after taking a entry-level humanities courses. One of the themes of any individualized interdisciplinary degree program at ODU is how students can use their studies to give back to the local community. Glaser is studying the fan/geek/comic-making culture of the Hampton Roads area for her research.
Glaser is interested in the application of comics in scholarly work. She is inspired by people like Nick Sousanis — the first person to have his doctorate’s dissertation done entirely in comic form, published by Harvard University Press.
“I think in comics. I speak to my friends who create comics, in a particular way. I think it really is a code or a language,” Glaser said.
After Glaser graduates with her master’s degree, she plans to study comics at the University of Dundee in Scotland — the only school in the world offering such a degree at the doctorate level — to receive her doctorate’s degree in comic studies with the eventual goal of teaching courses as a professor of comics journalism. Comics journalism is the study of people who have made comics about real issues. Students in the course may even create their own comics based on or reflecting on real world events happening as they are enrolled in the course. If she follows her current path, she will be the second person in the United Kingdom — to her knowledge — to be a professor of comic studies.
Glaser is also interested in zine culture as an avenue of being resistant to mainstream culture. A zine is a compilation of hand-drawn art or comics that are shared at smaller festivals and small press gatherings.
“It’s a place where marginalized voices can be expressed in comic form,” she said.
Outside of her research, Glaser started many creative projects but hasn’t completed any yet. She has a graphic novel series and a comic/game academic conceptualized in her mind.
Explaining the concept of the academic piece, Glaser said, “It’s a game that starts out as a comic, the idea being that each level brings you to another dimension. The first level is scroll-down, the second level is stop-motion panels, the third level is continuous movement, so you get more dimensions with each level. It’s an exploration of debates in game studies between ludology and narratology.”
Glaser’s everyday experiences in life are her inspiration for most of her comics. After taking on the role of a graduate research assistant in the department of humanities recently, she has decided to share her love for comics with her colleagues and passersby by posting a weekly comic every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. on her door on the 3rd floor of the Batten Arts and Letters building. Her first comic is of herself getting distracted while talking to her supervisor about her responsibilities and first assignments in the role.
Next time you’re on the third floor of BAL, look for Glaser’s weekly comic on the door of room 3047.