About Amalgae Comics

DeWayne Sturgill KnightOur Quest

The Amalge website is dedicated to our Comic Book Illustration course, taught each summer at East Tennessee State University by Professor Ralph Slatton. An important objective of the course is to give students an opportunity to develop skills and freedom in visual storytelling. With this freedom comes the added responsibility of finding original ways to say what can sometimes be very tired ideas. Although there is still much interest in traditional genre, we always encourage students to tap into the unexpected.


Acknowledgements: Thanks go to Matt Johnson for his drawing that we now use as part of our Amalgae banner, and to DeWayne Sturgill, for his knight (on left), who guards this website from trolls, demons, and hackers.

The Origins

Our comic book illustration course originated in 2004, beginning as a special topics, or experimental summer course. The student publication was first dubbed, Amalgam, by one of its student contributors, Daruth Padilla. The title suggests a mixing pot of diverse ideas, all stirred into a common stew. In 2011, we became aware of possible trademark issues, with a commercially owned publication, bearing the same name. This year, I decided to change our name to Amalgae, to avoid possible confusion and conflicts. Another milestone for 2011 was that our course was granted permanent status. It no longer carries the special topics label, but is now offically listed in the university catalog as, Comic Book Illustration.

Types of Comics

We set very few limits on subject matter. In the past, students have explored diverse themes. Although superhero and manga themes are quite popular, some students gravitate toward the more unusual or surreal topics. One story used abstract geometric characters to explore dark humor.(see Ryan Webb's, "Cool Stuff) There were also themes that dealt with the dark angst of human struggles, in which comic characters explore the very meaning of existence. (see Valerie Bodell's, "Don't Fear Zombies") These are effective because of their unique visual contrasts; we usually don't expect cartoon characters to contemplate the deeper meanings of life. There are also stories dealing with the controversial issues of religion and society. On a related topic, one story gave a peek at an age old conflict, a chess battle between Creation and Death. Little did Death know that Chaos takes a suprising role. (see Kristen Hawkins, "Vomitorium.")

Comic Book Code Authority

Comics Code Authority

A word should be said about the kinds of stories we allow. Although most our stories have tame content, on rare instances we have themes that are meant for an adult audience. We occasionally allow strong language or concepts if they contribute to the overall artistic merits of the work. As a safety precaution, we suggest adult supervision for our general audience.


On a historical note, The Comics Code Authority was a body created as part of the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, as a tool for the comics-publishing industry to self-regulate the content of comic books in the United States. Member publishers submitted comic books to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Comics Code, and authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the books complied.


Just like what was experienced in the commercial world of comic books, our student publication also felt increased pressure in 2010, to self-regulate our content. Students are now instructed to avoid problematic areas involving excessive obscenity, topics of racism, hate speech, or suicide. Although we respect creative freedom, the department has final say as to what is considered, "over the top."