Treating Comics Seriously: Six Questions For Lecturer Phillip Vaughan

Phillip Vaughan is a lecturer at the University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art And Design (DJCAD) with a background in 3D animation for the television, film and games industry. At DJCAD he teaches graphic design and has run the first module on Comic Art and Graphic Novels, the results of which have just been published in the Anthology One book from the new UniVerse imprint. Jeremy Briggs talks to Phillip about his work teaching the new generation of animators and graphic artists.

What comics did you grow up reading and what do you read now?
Being brought up near Dundee, it was inevitable that my first comics were The Beano and The Dandy. I soon graduated to more ‘adult’ comics such as The Victor, Warlord, Commando, Starblazer, Spike, Buddy and Champ, all DC Thomson stalwarts. In 1982 I picked up the new Eagle, but wasn’t impressed with the photo strips (bar Doomlord!), really I bought it for Dan Dare, especially the early Ian Kennedy run. A slow adopter, I moved onto 2000AD in 1984. Also around this time I discovered Marvel and DC Comics imports in my local newsagents. Sporadic though these imports were, I managed to collect runs of Uncanny X-Men, Peter David’s run on the Hulk, John Byrne’s run on Superman and some of Alan Moore’s stint on Swamp Thing.

These days, I have stuck with 2000AD through thick and thin, and like the sentiment of anthologies such as Strip and Clint. I dip my toes into the American mainstream now and then, currently reading Hellblazer, Fatale, Action Comics and Captain America (mainly for the Alan Davis art). I have also been picking up Requiem by Pat Mills and Oliver Ledroit.

You lecture at DJCAD, could you tell us a little about what you cover and how comics came to be in the curriculum?
For the past 7 years I have lectured part-time in Graphic Design, mostly covering On-Screen and Motion Graphics, and I have also taught 3D Animation. We restructured our courses last summer, and as part of the new Communication Design umbrella, we were invited to pitch new expansive modules. I proposed the Comic Art and Graphic Novels Module, and was happy when this was picked up for Level 3 students to participate in.

Dr. Chris Murray, Lecturer & Programme Convenor at the School of Humanities (left, with Phillip Vaughan, centre, and Cam Kennedy, right), was a great help in the preparation of this module, as he had undergone the same process in the School of Humanities a couple of years before. The first cohort of students signed up for the module last year, and we are expanding to offer the module to other undergraduate areas of the art college next year.

You have had a number of comics creators give talks to the pupils as part of the course – who has done this and do the students value these talks?
So far we have been very lucky to welcome David Bishop, Colin MacNeil (a DJCAD graduate and cover artist of Anthology One), Frank Quitely, Cam Kennedy and the guys from DC Thomson, Calum Laird, George Low and a childhood favourite of mine, Ian Kennedy! Phew! This year, as well as returning guests, I have a few more very special creators up my sleeve, who have agreed to come in and impart their considerable knowledge! The students have given very positive feedback, and I can’t wait to reveal who we have coming this year!

How did you get involved with the Dundee Comics Day?
Dr. Chris asked me! No seriously, me and Chris had been having several planning meetings with regard to my module and Chris’s Comic Studies MLitt in Humanities. We dreamed up a wish list, that just so happened to include a lot of 2000AD alumni and I had a few contacts, Chris had his contacts and we managed to get a stellar line up of guests for Dundee Comics Day 2012. Again we are looking to push the boundaries for this year’s Comics Day…stay tuned!

How did Anthology come about and is it something that we can expect from each year of the course?
The Anthology was always part of the brief for the DJCAD Comic Art and Graphic Novels module, where the students were asked to produce between 2-6 finished pages of comic art, on a subject of their choice, for publication. The final book, Anthology One, features the best of the work from the module, and runs to 72 pages of full colour artwork. Colin MacNeil has provided a stunning cover for the first issue. The book costs £5.95 and is non-profit, with costs just covering printing, and it will be used to support and promote the students hard work!

We will be launching the book at Hi-Ex on the 31st March. Everyone who has seen the finished product has been very impressed with the work, which was produced in a very short space of time. Anthology Two will feature the work of students from the Comic Studies MLitt, and then we will keep the book running as a biannual affair! These publications will all be published under the UniVerse imprint which we have recently set up.

Could you tell us a little about your work outside of the university?
When I am not teaching, I work as a freelance designer/animator. Over the last 16 years I have worked on many different projects including 3D animated sequences for Deathtrap Dungeon, Star Trek, Farscape, Tom & Jerry, Wallace & Gromit, Teletubbies(!), Braveheart, plus a couple of original computer game concepts for various publishers such as Eidos and Sony. Most recently I completed the character design, animation and front end work on an iOS Superman Game App for DC Comics/ Warner Bros, which was nice! In the little spare time that I have I produce comic work just for fun and have had a couple of strips in Zarjaz, with the next one appearing in issue 15, out in July. The next project on the table is a comic book collaboration with Dr. Chris Murray.

There is more information about Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design on their website.

For more information about the Comic Art and Graphic Novels Module at DJCAD e-mail Phillip Vaughan at

For information about ordering Anthology One email:

There is more information about the University Of Dundee’s MLitt in Comics Studies on the university website.

There are more details of Phillip Vaughan’s freelance work on his website, V14 Studios.

Phillip Vaugan will be at the Hi-Ex Comics Convention in Inverness on Saturday 31 March and Sunday 1 April 2012 where he will have copies of Anthology One for sale.

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