Baird, Heatherand Trevor Alvord, Harold B. Lee Library
The purpose of this project is twofold. First, I wanted to learn more about the influence of Mormonism on the world of Comics and create a way to share this knowledge with the larger Mormon community. Second, I wanted to better understand the culture surrounding Comics in general so that I could help craft a more effective design for the Mormon Comic Art Exhibit in Special Collections. BYU has been acquiring literature pertaining to Mormonism for several decades now and has amassed an impressive collection of Comic Books and original art on the subject. Some of the works are simply created by Mormon artists and have nothing to do with Mormonism, but other Mormon artists have drawn from their faith. BYU has even collected several examples of anti-Mormon comic books. What I hope to achieve with this exhibit is to provide an opportunity for the uninformed population to learn about this entirely underrated art form and its wonderful artists. I believe there is still so much to learn and so much good that can be done if more people were made aware of the possibilities.
For this project, I determined that in order to really understand comic art culture I needed to go to a Comic Convention. At first I thought it didn’t matter which one, as long as it occurred within the time constraints posed by this grant, however, I soon realized that It would be most beneficial to go to a Comic Convention in a city that also had a comic art museum since that would be extremely useful for my research for the exhibit design. Originally I planned to go to San Francisco, but then I learned that the Comic Art museum there was temporarily closed. After I discussed my options with my project mentor, I decided to go to Comic Con in London in order to utilize the Cartoon Art Museum there. This allowed me to ascertain how Mormon contributions to Comics compared to international standards. The research I conducted for the Comics and Mormons exhibit in Special Collections also contributed greatly to my findings.
I had no idea of the scope and significance of Mormon Art in the Comic Art community.
Through my research for the exhibit I learned that several Mormons have contributed to some of the most well-known comic book characters ever written.
It is hard to quantify the discoveries I’ve made in the course of this project. It is easy to imagine at the beginning of a research project that you are the only person interested in a particular subject, but over the course of this project I have met with countless people who have such a passion for comic books that they have devoted their lives to them. Many people are completely unaware of the thousands of artists that gather together at conventions. Comics speak to people in a way that is different from every other form of communication.
Mormon comic art is special in that it is generally more focused on religion than any other group of comic artists. This is evident—not only by the comic book adaptations of the Book of Mormon or by the web comics devoted to “Mormon Problems” featuring bishops and green jello—but also in the way it refrains, for the most part, from using crude language or using sex as a punch line. Instead, Mormon comic art generally focuses on the positive and uplifting aspects of life, celebrating it in an almost uniquely Mormon way. The most important thing I learned about Mormon Comic Art was actually learned at the Cartoon Art Museum in London. There, comics as old as the art itself are displayed in an almost haphazard manner. It is overwhelming to a degree, and at first glance I was unimpressed. However, I was privileged enough to speak with the curator of the museum and when asked about the design plan behind the exhibit, she explained that there really isn’t one. Their museum is underfunded and overcrowded, yet, people continue to pay the 7 pounds to enter and explore. This proves the passion that people have for comic art world-wide. People love comics for many different reasons, but I think even people who have no love of comics will agree that their popularity cannot be ignored. Comic art is not a dying medium. On the contrary, it has finally gained recognition among the academic world. The Cartoon Art museum in London may be small and the Comic Art Museum in San Francisco may be floundering, but the existence of the hundreds of comic conventions that occur every year and the thousands of people that continue to pay hundreds of dollars to attend them prove their power.
Proving the importance of Mormon Comic Art is necessarily proceeded by establishing the importance of Comic Art in general. Once that is discussed the only thing left is to point out this niche within the Comic Art genre fulfills a basic desire of community. It provides a feeling of camaraderie among religious artists, as shown by artists like Ric Estrada of DC Comics. It also speaks to thousands, if not millions of people as evidenced by the popularity of newspaper comic strips like Pickles by Brian Crane.