Derf Backderf combines journalism with cartooning in ‘Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio’

Derf Backderf attended art school as a young man and dropped out before long. He decided instead to do journalism school, where he enjoyed writing, taking photos and making cartoons for the school paper. After college, he had some stints doing political cartoons and comic strips for newspapers, and eventually, he yearned for more space to tell sequential stories. 

“My comic strips were not character-driven,” Backderf said. “It was all kind of stream-of-consciousness or gag stuff or weird, whatever popped into my head. Writing long-form books, you build them all around characters. I always thought that would be a fun way to write, and damned if it isn’t.” 

With his latest graphic novel released this month, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, Backderf has combined copious reporting with visual storytelling to recount the Ohio National Guard’s slaughter of unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War. 

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Shawn Pryor crowdfunding a comic-turned-picture-book about domestic violence

Shawn Pryor originally wrote a short comic alongside artist George Kambadais that was supposed to be published as a back-up in another comic, but that comic series was discontinued before his story would have run. 

Left without a home for the comic, about domestic violence from a child’s perspective, he got an idea: what if he turned each panel into a whole page and instead released it as a children’s picture book? 

“It was mind-blowing,” Pryor said. “The reason why was because a lot of the story is just black background. So you’re focused on the character or place or presence. Your eyes are always focused on the subject at hand, and you’re not focused on any kind of background stuff. It brings the characters and the feelings and the emotions closer to you.” 

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