Comics and Cartoon studies: 'Comics are coming above ground'

EUGENE, Ore. - Students at the University of Oregon can minor in Comics and Cartoon studies.

"We need to be analyzing them and thinking about them very consciously, because that's how kids are getting their sense of how the world works," said Betsy Wheeler, an associated professor of English at the University of Oregon.

Comic books are more mainstream now than in years past.

"I think part of the reason that comics are coming above ground is that it's much more OK to be a nerd than it used to be," Wheeler said.

Students like the program, Wheeler said. "They come in, they are so into it."

"To be able to engage in a marginalized art form, so critically and so closely, I think a lot of people would be fans of comics if they read them," said student Veronica Vold, "and a lot of people would be scholars of comics if they had the opportunity to engage in scholarly questions.

An anonymous $200,000 gift started an endowment for the program.

OK, but what about finding a job?

"It's good training for working in graphic design," Wheeler said, "and it's also good for understanding how artistic expression and how popular culture work in the modern world."