Cartoons that shape the world 

Graphic novel course is part of Continuing Education at Quest University

click to enlarge Comics potential Jody Kramer at work with her daughter Iona. Kramer's course on the graphic novel runs at Quest University from Feb. 24.
  • Comics potential Jody Kramer at work with her daughter Iona. Kramer's course on the graphic novel runs at Quest University from Feb. 24.

There had been mice in cartoons before — namely a guy called Mickey — but then American artist Art Spiegelman depicted the Holocaust using mice to represent the experiences of Jews under Hitler.

It changed everything.

His graphic novel Maus, published in serial form between 1980 and 1991, told the story of his parents, who had survived Auschwitz, intertwined with the experiences of those who did not.

Since then, the graphic novel as an art form and storytelling device has exploded in popularity.

Animator Jody Kramer will explore this in her course Drawing Out the Truth: Non-fiction and Cartoons, which runs on Wednesday evenings for six weeks from Feb. 24 at Quest University Canada in Squamish.

Kramer works in the Vancouver film industry and previously worked at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The students will be drawing every class, Kramer says, and all abilities are welcome. "I want it to be really accessible, whether it is people with a lot of drawing skills who are interested in trying out the medium, or those starting out who have never drawn before," she says.They will also read and analyze masterworks of graphic art comics, from memoir to journalistic.

"I want to teach the value of drawing as a powerful and accessible medium for telling real-life stories, both from the point of view of the reader and from the point of view of the artist," she says.

"If I want to understand a different point of view or a new subject I get a lot more information faster out of reading a graphic novel. I get a complete picture, to use a pun."Artists can express themselves in ways that won't come through in just the written word."

Along with Spiegelman, Kramer cites graphic artists and storytellers such as Marjane Satrapi, who drew her experience as a young Muslim woman following the 1970s Islamic revolution in Iran in Persepolis. Her graphic novel was made into an Oscar-winning animated film.

She will also be looking at the works of American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, whose works include Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home, about her relationship with her father.

"It crosses the line between memoir and to identity issues. Her work has been really helpful to people dealing with the same kind of issues," Kramer says.

"You get something that is universal and specific out of it about what it is like to have a relationship with a parent that is really complicated."

Kramer's course is one of 20 arts, sciences and humanities courses being offered by Quest's Continuing Education department from February to May.

Other arts classes include Get to Know Your Guitar: Six Strings From the Very Beginning, World Cinema, Creative Writing, Exploring Identity Through Drawing, and two digital photography courses.

For more information and to register visit www.questu.ca/continuing-education-winter-2016.html.

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