For the first time, students at the University of Texas at Dallas can learn how to create a comic strip via a new Comics Workshop taught this semester by a Dallas-based syndicated cartoonist.
The class falls under the university's Creative Writing program, along with classes like Poetry and Screenwriting, and is being taught by Hector Cantu, co-creator of Baldo, the first comic strip to feature a Latino family.
Cantu is a former journalist who worked at both the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News before creating Baldo with his partner, illustrator Carlos Castellanos, in 2000. The strip appears in more than 200 newspapers across the U.S.
He's been a regular guest speaker on college campuses such as Notre Dame, Purdue, Rutgers, Baylor, and University of Texas at Austin. Teaching a class was a logical next step.
Comic strips are unique from other forms of storytelling since they require words plus visuals, and the market and audience is very specific.
"There aren't too many nationally syndicated cartoonists, less than 200, so it's a rarity to have that title," Cantu says. "I've always loved talking about comics and the Baldo story and the creative process of how you go about writing comics."
Cantu and Castellanos blazed a trail when they created Baldo.
"When I looked at the comics pages 20 years ago, I didn't see any people like me that had my background or that I could relate to as a reader," Cantu says. "Baldo presented a different voice on the comics page."
His class will cover the fundamentals of comics and graphic storytelling, shaping a story, developing a plot and script, working with an artist, preparing a proposal, and tips on how to get published. He'll also cover graphic novels, which have become extremely popular in recent years.
"A lot of shows on Netflix and other streaming services right now are based on graphics novels," Cantu says. "Everybody is looking for the next unique idea, for what can be adapted into something on screen."
There've been gloomy predictions about the future and viability of newspapers but Cantu feels they will prevail — and they'll definitely always have comics.
"Blondie is always going to be there, Peanuts, Dennis The Menace — they're a daily anchor in people's lives," he says. "They stay essentially the same, and I think that's what people like about comics."
"It’'s a traditional part of the newspaper and will be around as long as newspapers are around," he says.