Summer Fun Reading: UNC Asheville’s Student Graphic Novel Contest Winners

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Panels from "Blink" graphic novel
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By Nikolai Wise ‘21

Looking for a little lighthearted reading while you’re on summer break? Check out the winning entries of UNC Asheville’s graphic novel and comic art competition.

The competition was judged by a jury of four, including Greg Cravens of the National Cartoonist Society, Jack Cassady of toonmaker.com, Sasha Hussey of UNC Asheville’s Media Design Lab and illustrator James Lyle. Senior KE Stultz, won first place in the competition, and seniors Ginger Buxeda and Keith James tied for second place.

As an art major and art history minor at UNC Asheville, Buxeda has been an artist since she was in the sixth grade and dreams of writing comics or children’s books.A panel from Ginger Buxeda's "Once Upon a Time" graphic novel.

“The whole experience of writing my own narrative was extremely rewarding,” said Buxeda. “My reason for competing in this competition was in the name of fun, and in the hopes that my work would be exposed to a larger community than just my friends and family… This is really the starting point for me, so I’m really excited about all of it.”

Buxeda’s art piece is a graphic novel style comic about the origin story of a super hero who can communicate with animals.

“I would say that this comic is unique in its combination of a sense of realism and theme,” said Buxeda. “There tends to be a sort of dramatization of heroes in comics, either in terms of their overwhelming sense of patriotic purity, or their deep, suppressed emotions that lead them to be a sort of anti-hero. Instead, I wanted my main character to be more of the average person. No capes, fancy costumes, or bulging muscles—just some comfortable shoes to run in.”

The story is comedic but has a message while staying light-hearted.

“There is definitely a moral to the story,” said Buxeda. “The moral is to pay closer attention to the ways in which we affect animals and the environment. For the purposes of our own entertainment, we tend to neglect the suffering of the ‘natural’ world, assuming for some reason that we exist in a separate bubble from the rest of creation. Through this narrative, I hope to inspire at least one person to pay closer attention to their own behaviors and maybe even save an animal Panel from Keith James' graphic novel, "The Worm, A Dream."themselves.”

James is a senior computer science major at UNC Asheville with a minor in art.

“I've been drawing all my life, but I only started getting a formal drawing education about three years ago,” said James. “I entered the competition because I love comics, and my dream is to become a professional comic artist.”

James’s submission was a comic titled The Worm: A Dream which is based upon a dream that he had had about a worm that transformed into a kitten.

“The subject matter of my comics are pretty unique,” said James. “There are a lot of comics out there that feature dream imagery, but I've only found a few that are based directly on the author's dreams. Most comics featuring aliens tend to have completely original designs or designs based on the ubiquitous grey alien.”

The winners and honorable mentions from the 2018 UNC Asheville Comic Art & Graphic Novel Competition can be viewed at http://library.unca.edu/events/graphicnovelcompetition .