Where you can seriously major in comics

Surrounded by comics on the classroom walls and below a Superman comic on a video monitor, MCAD adjunct faculty member Jim Keefe is critiquing junior Kyle Kruegor's draft comic project in today's "Introduction to Comics" class.

Students such as Kruegor have already practiced the various stages -- plot, penciling, lettering and inking.

In this last assignment, they're tying it all together with a 4-5-page comic.

Keefe looks at the "thumbnail" (a blueprint or storyboard for the comic) and tells him:

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"I'm concerned you're putting in the reveal too soon."

Keefe interprets what he sees in the story, but Krueger tells him:

"It's not the man waking up from the dream about the monster, but the monster waking up from a dream about the man."

Keefe advises:

"Don't go full size, so tight, so quickly. It'll save you some time."

I'm not completely sure where this whole conversation is headed, but there's certainly a lot more going on than just doodling.

It's comic art, and it's serious business. The Minneapolis College of Art and Design is one of only three colleges that offer an accredited bachelor's degree in it.

Graduates may go on to work in the comic industry and on graphic novels, and those that don't may do story-boarding for commercials and films.

(They lay out the movie sequence frame by frame so directors can plan out their shots and see how they'll look before shooting. Big money-saver.)

It's serious even for those not intending to work in the business.The Intro to Comics skills should come in handy for Krueger, a junior who's majoring in illustration.

Although typical work for him might be creating single illustrations for magazines, he told me:

"This class really strengthens your drawing skills through repetition. You have to maintain a certain level of consistency throughout the (comic)."

As I'm about to leave, I grow nostalgic as I hear Keefe tell another student:

"This doesn't work visually. Blow it up. ... Make it pop. ... Think Adam West in 'Batman.' Whenever the villains come into the picture, they tilt the camera frame."