SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — It is safe to say that Matthew J. Smith, Wittenberg associate professor of communication, is a fan of comic books. With a collection that would impress any comic book enthusiast (roughly 11,000 at last count), Smith’s compilation dates back to his childhood and continues to increase.
“I’ve read comics my whole life,” said Smith, who expanded upon his interests in comic books during graduate school by writing papers on the subject, some of which were published. “It has always been a hobby.”
Smith’s love for this pop culture phenomenon has been a driving force behind some of his work in the field of communication, which recently took him to the Comic-Con Conference in San Diego.
Scholars from a variety of disciplines were invited to speak at the conference. His comic book expertise was shared with others in the academic sector of Comic-Con known as the Comic Arts Conference. The presentation attracted the attention of a reporter for WIRED NEWS, a popular online news source, which presented an article that gave Smith “the last word on comics in academia.”
Smith said the Comic-Con Conference, held annually during the month of July, appeals to more than just the comic book guru.
“There are a lot of different aspects of pop culture that are addressed,” said Smith, who holds a bachelor’s degree from West Liberty State College as well as a master’s and a Ph.D. from Ohio University. “More than 100,000 people from across the globe came to the conference to discuss everything from toys to anime to Hollywood films.
“Famous faces, including Samuel L. Jackson and the cast of the television show Veronica Mars, made appearances during the series of events.”
The eclecticism found within the conference topics is something that Smith wishes not only to experience again, but also to present as an opportunity for Wittenberg students through a possible field study next summer.
“I could give you a lecture about the conference, but it’s different to experience it for yourself,” said Smith, who is currently working with the Field Study Committee to construct an academic experience that would include readings, discussions and a project while at the conference. “Students would get the experience of looking at the convention not only as a participant, but also as scholars.”
The conference opened another door for Smith, which related to his current work on a new book in the pop culture field. He met a fellow professor who is working on a book similar in nature to his, and they have become co-authors on the project.
“We had 75 to 80 percent of our material in common,” Smith said.
Not only did Smith enjoy the seminars and events that Comic-Con had to offer, he discovered ideas that he hopes to develop into new opportunities for his students.
“I met a lot of interesting, like-minded individuals,” Smith said. “That itself was very rewarding.”
- Written By: Erica Strauss '08