Dr. Matthew Jones, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Communication at County College of Morris (CCM), has long found the relationship between cinema and comics intriguing as evidenced in his first book, Found in Translation: Structural and Cognitive Aspects of the Adaptation of Comic Art to Film.
“I see my interest in comic art as complementary to my interest in film, media and culture in general,” says Jones. “However, I’ve always preferred independent and underground work to mainstream products.”
He notes that comic art has a long history. “First, it has a history in modern times that stretches back to the birth of the newspaper as the first mass medium. More broadly, though, foreshadowing of comic art as a medium can be seen in Egyptian art, Asian pictographic writing systems and even in prehistoric cave paintings.”
Of particular significance, comics provide a gritty interpretation of society generally not portrayed by the mass media.
“Hollywood movies and classic literature tend to offer a sanitized picture of ourselves the way we’d like to be seen,” says Jones. “The ‘rubbish,’ such as newspaper broadsheets, old crime comics and the underground comics of the ’60s, gives us culture in the raw.”
Jones’ passion for comics and films has followed him throughout his academic career. Most recently, he was asked to present a paper at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire as part of the Illustration, Comics and Animation Conference.
In the classroom, Jones uses his fascination with the cultural narrative of films and comics to encourage students to share their values through storytelling.
“I had a speech class where the students’ last assignment was to take one episode in their lives, turn it into a narrative and use it to persuade listeners about a personal value that they held,” he recalls. “One student shared a story about how he traveled to South America to help rebuild a village that had been wiped out in a storm. He seized on that as an experience that illustrated a value he held and did a hands-down tremendous job from beginning to end. He learned from it, I learned from it and it turned out to be something that the entire class benefited from.”