Introducing the Team: Dr Chris Murray

The second member of the DCCS team we have profiled is Operations Director Dr Chris Murray – here is his interview with Caitlin Mitchell!

14002555_892629600881864_129391861_oTell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Dr Chris Murray, I’m from Dundee, and I’m 41.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I’m a senior lecturer of Comic Studies at the University of Dundee. I teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. My role at DCCS is the Operations Director – I have overall responsibility for the Space.

How did you get to where you are today? (Note to readers – better get comfortable!) 

I’ve been reading comics my whole life, my first memory is of reading comics which my mum bought me from when I was about 3. There’s a funny story about my entrance into the world of comics – my uncle was lorry driver and he used to go to a pub in the Hilltown, where there was a guy who had his comics delivered to the pub so his wife wouldn’t find out he read them. The guy would turn up, sit with a pint and read his comics then give them to my uncle Dougie for him to pass on to me to read! I have no idea who this mysterious benefactor was but thanks to him and his grumpy wife, I was reading a lot of comics when I was young.

I did think about drawing and going to art school but I was never good enough so went the other way and did an English degree. I felt the comics I was reading were as good and as worth studying as those I was reading on my course, so wondered why we couldn’t study them. I found my supervisors were very supportive of this and had no objection to comics. I went on to do a PhD on comics and the relationship between propaganda and comics during World War 2. Over the course of doing that, I did teaching in the English department and at Duncan of Jordanstone. I also started to teach film studies.

I got a full time job as a lecturer after my PhD and I thought I want to teach a module on my specialist subject – British comics – it was well received with lots of students so I made the case to the uni to start a comics Masters project. They took a bit of convincing but after we got good numbers they were sold on it. From there, it was about making the right connections, like with Phil from the art college, and everything started to take off, and we later launched the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies. The origins of DCCS are in Dundee’s bid to be the City of Culture a few years back, for which we sought funding, and the comic school was part of that idea. The funders were keen on this and we were put in touch with The Rank Foundation. We were delighted when our bid was successful! It’s been up and running for a year now and things are going well.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

One of the thing I’ve been doing recently is combining creative work with research. I’ve started drawing again, doing thumbnails for comics I’ve been writing – I find doing comic strips and drawing thumbnails very relaxing. I also love handing it over to an artist who can draw properly, who bring them back completed. That’s an important part of what we do at Dundee – the critical and theoretical on one hand, and the practical on the other.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

I’d have to say The Invisibles, I have to say that because that’s where my tattoo comes from. I’m very interested in British independent comics from the 1950s, and also 2000AD – gotta love 2000AD. I should say in particular obviously Dredd, but also Zenith is one of my all time favourite things.

What is the best thing about working in DCCS?

The opportunities to be working with all the talented people in the studio, and also to see how enthusiastic the kids who come into the workshops are. Lots of them pick it up intuitively and it is really fun to see.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve got a book on The British Superhero which I’ve just finished. I’m working on the Being Human festival which is in November of this year, the theme is HG Wells and there’s several lectures and talks I’ll be doing. I’m also working on a collaborative project about organ donation, to raise awareness about the issues surrounding that. My next research work is going to be on the relationship between the British pop art movement of the 1950s and British comics round about the same time.

How can we follow you on social media?

I’m not really on social media but other people run the accounts for projects I’m in charge of.

Twitter – the DCCS page (@dccs) and the Scottish Centre for Comic Studies page (@comicstudies)

FullSizeRender (2)

Introducing the Team: Phillip Vaughan

Over the next couple of weeks, as well as profiles of our artists, we will also be creating profiles for the team behind the DCCS! Up first, Art Director Phillip Vaughan.

image2Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Phillip Vaughan, Course Director MDes Comics and Graphic Novels. I’m 43 and I’m from Dundee.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I run two Masters courses at Duncan of Jordanstone, I currently run the MSc in Animation and VFX and I will be running the MDes in Comics and Graphic Novels from September 2016. My background was in animation, video games and storyboarding. I’m also the Art Director of the DCCS.

What made you want to become an artist?

I can trace it back to my childhood, and watching a stop motion animation called Rupert the Bear in the early 1970’s. My parents would sit me down in front of it and I watched it constantly as a kid, which got me interested in animation. Being from Dundee, the newspapers were always delivered with The Beano and The Dandy, which got me interested in comics from a very young age. I would draw my own versions of the comics and hand deliver them to my neighbours! I suppose that was the start of my entrepreneurial comic career.

Do you have a preferred style of art?

I work basically 100% digital these days but I came up through the traditional route. At art college I never missed any life drawing classes, and worked with traditional means on paper. Over the years, working in the games industry, technology kind of took over so I now work with a Cintiq tablet but try to replicate my original style so I don’t think you can tell the difference between my original line work and my technological line work.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to catch up on comics and graphic novels I’ve not read. I do like to travel, recently that’s been travelling to comics events – I just got back from Comic-Con in San Diego, which is the biggest pop culture event that there is! We were lucky enough to be invited over for the academic conference, it was also great for networking and we were able to spread the word about Comic Studies in Dundee and projects like the DCCS! To put it into perspective there’s more people in the Comic-Con conference centre than there is in the population of Dundee. It’s a strange one, when your hobby becomes your job, you try to find other things to unwind, so I like to get out and about and explore the environment a bit more than I used to. But I’m always looking for sources of inspiration when I’m out and about.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

I’ve got a real soft spot for a comic from the 80s – the New Eagle, which had a mixture of photo stories (!) for boys and a brilliantly illustrated new interpretation of Dan Dare. That was my favourite growing up and my influence in a way. I really liked that run because it was one continuous story line and if you invested the time in it, it rewarded you for sticking with it. I loved the artwork by Ian Kennedy, who I am now lucky enough to have in as a guest lecturer at the art college! Currently I’m very impressed and excited by DC Comics Batgirl: Birds of Prey, illustrated by our ex-Dundee comics student Claire Roe.

What is the best thing about working in the DCCS?

It’s got a very vibrant, creative atmosphere! Also seeing the comics that the kids from our workshops create is really inspiring to someone who’s been around the block a bit, because they see comics from a different perspective and their ideas are really just off the scale sometimes. It’s also great to see that the kids have an outlet for their creativity, because I would have loved to have had something like this when I was younger. It’s great they can come together and share their comics with a tangible outcome.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m preparing the coursework for the MDes – I’ve updated the course substantially. Out with university work, I’ve started work on my own creator owned comic, which is as of yet untitled! More news on that to come later.

Finally, how can we follow you on social media?

Twitter – @phillipbvaughan


Meet the Intern: Caitlin Mitchell

Caitlin has been doing a great job here at DCCS, including interviewing our artists. To mark the halfway point of her placement we thought we would turn the tables and have our Coordinator Damon interview her to find out more about her!

caitlin interviewTell me a little about yourself

I’m Caitlin Mitchell, I’m 16 and I’m from Dundee.

How did your placement at DCCS come about?

My school (Dundee High) got involved with the Rank Foundation Fellowship programme. The school nominates a candidate for the programme that they feel has leadership potential. There was a group of us who were interviewed by the Rector and the senior management team, and I was lucky enough to be the successful candidate that the school put forward. Natalie Kay at The Rank Foundation then got in touch to organise my Community Action Placement, which is a two week volunteering programme. I’ll be doing two, one next summer, but the first is here at DCCS.

Did you know about DCCS before?

I didn’t know but it’s a really worthwhile project which I think more people should be aware of, and that’s what I am trying to help out with while I am here.

Have you read many comics?

My granny used to buy me The Broons annuals and when I was younger I always used to read Match of the Day magazine and it had comic strips in it. If it was about football then I was interested in it! But I always noticed that there was a lack of strips and articles about women’s football. Hopefully this is changing as women’s football has become more popular.

Which leads me to my next question, what other interests do you have?

I love football! I play a lot of football and watch it as well. I play for Forfar Farmington, it’s an all-girls club with teams playing from under 7 level (who I coach) up to the Scottish Women’s Premier League. I have represented BGC Scotland at the Rosebowl – a tournament between the home nations, which we won! BGC Scotland is a charity helping 8-18yr olds become involved in activities including football and other sports. I also like to read a lot – Harry Potter is my all time favourite.

Will you continue reading comics after your time here?

Definitely! I am enjoying finding out about different types of comics. At the moment I’m reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, which is the story of a young woman growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution. I was surprised and excited to see that there are all kinds of stories being told with comics not just superheroes. We just need more comics about women’s football teams!

Thanks Caitlin!

caitlin photo

Introducing the Artists: Rebecca Horner

The third artist to be interviewed by Caitlin Mitchell in our profiling project is Rebecca Horner!

13956833_892609424217215_1803330727_nTell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Rebecca Horner, I’m 23 and I was born in Belgium, raised in Fife but I now live in Dundee.

What made you want to become an artist?

I’ve just always wanted to be one, I always liked drawing pictures and my family thought I would grow out of it but I didn’t! Also I was home schooled from the age of 11 so I had more time to do creative stuff like drawing and photography.

Do you have a preferred style of art?

Pretty much all of my work is digital, and is very cartoony. I started using a tablet when I was about 12, so it feels like second nature to me. But I also keep sketch books and doodle and do life drawings and stuff like that.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like reading comics – if I’m not drawing them I’m reading them! I also like playing video games and playing with my cat Luna. I’ve only had her for a month and she’s a lot of fun.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

One of my favourites is DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. Two of my other favourites are Fables and Bartkira – hundreds of artists have taken Akira and reinterpreted pages with Simpsons characters, and it’s so cool!

What is the best thing about working in DCCS?

Having a dedicated place to work is the best thing ever! The workshops are really fun as well.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m always juggling about 4 or 5 different projects – today I’m working on a comic called Jackie the Monkey, which a writer commissioned me to do the art for.

How can we follow you on social media?

Twitter – @reekus

Instagram – @bleekus


Meet the Comics Clubbers

I spoke to two members of our Wednesday Comics Club, Islay and Jenni, about their experiences at the DCCS and their own love of comics! (Caitlin Mitchell)

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I: I’m Islay and I’m 13, and I’m from Dundee.

J: I’m Jenni and I’m 14, and I’m from Dundee too.

How long have you been coming to Comics Club?

J: We’ve been coming since the first week of Comics Club which was 2nd of March, so over 5 months!

What are you working on at the moment?

I: I’m working on a random comic book for the Comics Club fair at the Literary festival in October.

J: I’m doing some character design, and some work to take into the work experience I’m going to be doing at a printing company!

A few panels from Jenni’s strip in Tales From Dundee and Beyond: Comics Club Comic Strips Volume 1

What are your favourite comics?

I: I like a lot of comics, I couldn’t pick a favourite!

J: The Beano and The Dandy

What’s the best thing about coming to the DCCS?

I: Having the chance to make up your own comics!

J: I like being around other artists, because not a lot of people draw in my school

A few panels from Islay’s strip in Tales From Dundee and Beyond

Do you go to other clubs or have hobbies that you like to do?

I: I go to Scouts and go cycling sometimes!

J: Just Comics Club – it’s the first one I’ve been to in a few years.

How would you describe Comics Club to people who are interested in coming along?

I and J: It has good people in it and they are very encouraging, and it helps you to come up with new ideas that you might not have thought of otherwise!

Thanks for your time Islay and Jenni!

You can read the rest of Islay and Jenni’s strips in Tales from Dundee and Beyond: Comics Club volume 1, the first collection of strips from Comics Club. Downloadable as a PDF from the link above!

If you’d like to be in the next volume of Comics Club strips, come along to our workshops on Tuesdays (10-13 year olds) and Wednesdays (14-17 year olds) 4.30 – 6.30 each evening!

Introducing the Artists: Catriona Laird

Here is the second instalment of our artist profiles project, with interview by Caitlin Mitchell!

FullSizeRender (1)Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Catriona Laird, I’m 24 and I’m from Newport just across the water – I’ve lived there my entire life.

What made you want to become an artist?

I’ve always wanted to be an artist since I was little, but then I actually failed art in secondary school. I had a teacher dragging me round the school, interrogating me about picking a new life choice since it was “a bit late for that” in regards to my artistic dreams. So I turned to science because it was the only other thing I was actually good at. I studied forensic science at Abertay for 2 years but didn’t stop drawing in my notes. It was my grandad who then gave me art lessons, and so I went to the Gardyne campus at Dundee College to create an art portfolio which got me into Duncan of Jordanstone, and now here I am.

Do you have a preferred style of art?

I do a lot of digital stuff – I kind of like blending both traditional and digital art. But since teachers never taught me any digital art I basically taught myself how to do it, so I mainly stick with that since I managed by myself.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I play a lot of piano – I try and find theme songs for games and cartoons and try to learn them, because they’re so easily accessible and I also watch so many cartoons myself! I play for me rather than anyone else so it’s nice to just sit and learn something. I also play a lot of games – probably too many games.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

At the minute I’m really enjoying Saga – I recently started collecting it. Otherwise I have a lot of favourite Mangas, which is what I liked drawing myself. I’ll always have a soft spot for Cardcaptor Sakura.

What is the best thing about working in DCCS?

Having your own space away from home where you can just completely focus on doing the work without the distractions – also being around like minded people. I’ve only just started here but its nice to have this kind of base as it’s sometimes hard to find information, but here you’re in a space just focused on comics which is great if you want any information or advice.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the minute I’m working on some picture books to help my mum’s charity – she helps a school in Uganda called Uphill Primary School. They’re needing books at the moment on very specific topics; I’m doing one on a girl who has to walk all these miles to get to school and her experience of being there, also on things like the importance of glasses and getting your eyes tested  – things that they don’t know about.

How can we follow you on social media?

Twitter – @tsundernova

Instagram – @tsundernova


Introducing the Artists: Norrie Millar

Over the next couple of weeks we will be creating short profiles on the artists that work in our studio, with interviews by Caitlin Mitchell. Here’s the first; introducing Norrie Millar!



Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Norrie Millar, I’m 30, and I’m from Dundee.

What made you want to become an artist?

I come from a family of artists so it was sort of expected that I would go the same way – my brother was the same, he’s a musician. I eventually went into art school and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone up the road, and I studied fine art.

Do you have a preferred style of art?

My art style is quite traditional, with ink, paper, pencil and eraser. That’s how I like to work. Also messily – I’m very messy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like playing music, I play guitar – mostly rock and roll and heavy metal. I try to read a lot – my favourite book is Frankenstein.

What is your favourite comic of all time?

Tough question, I’ll give you a few:

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, which is one of the first comics I can remember reading as an 8-10 year old, so it has a lot of childhood memories for me.

Day Tripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá is a comic that I read when I was in my mid-twenties, trying to get back into comics. It’s a story about life and death, it’s quite an intimate book, and I got really invested in it.

Batman Year One, because it is the best Batman book. (And you can quote me on that.)

What is the best thing about working in DCCS?

Just having the space – it’s quite incredible, not something that a lot of people have. Having the studio is a very rare occurrence as lots of people have to work at home because they can’t afford one. Having the workshops is great as well.

What are you working on just now?

I’m part of an anthology Comic Haus, and I’m also working on a couple of personal projects.

How can we follow you on social media?

Twitter – @prehistoricfrog

Instagram – @norriemillar


Caitlin’s Intern Web Comic Episode 1

Hi everyone, I’m Caitlin Mitchell and I’m going to be an intern at the DCCS for the next two weeks! I’m aiming to keep you all updated about what is happening in the Space and what we do here 🙂

Part of this will be through working on a collaborative web comic with Rebecca Horner. Here’s episode one, watch out for more over the next couple of weeks!

caitlin01 resized2