“Ripple Effects”: MIAD alum on comics and career
A longtime comic book aficionado, Jordan Hart ’08 (Communication Design) developed his passion for the medium at six years old in the grocery line with his mom. Studying at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), Hart developed some of the foundational skills he would need to pursue a career as a comic book creator. Years later, Hart never would have guessed that his new comic book, Ripple Effects, would be nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award.
Ripple Effects follows a superhero living in a world of superheroes. George Gibson is invulnerable to physical harm, but lives with type 1 diabetes. “The story follows his everyday life much more than his costumed adventures and I wasn’t sure how readers would react to that,” explains Hart. “But it was the story I knew how to tell because I also struggle with an invisible and incurable illness.”
Although his passion for comics developed at an early age, Hart hadn’t originally planned to pursue the medium as a career. “After graduation, I was working full time as an advertising Art Director but wanted to be a part of the comic industry, too. I figured I’d freelance for publishers in the evenings as a colorist or logo designer,” he explains. “One weekend, my parents were organizing their basement and found a stack of comic books I drew as a kid. When I was younger, I thought the act of drawing was what I loved. But there was a lightbulb moment after seeing these hand-stapled ‘issues’ as an adult. I learned that those drawings were just a byproduct of creating stories and characters—I was using colored pencils to record my imagination.”
That discovery was a turning point in Hart’s career. “After that realization, I knew I wanted to write comics…but had no idea how,” he continues. “So, I started analyzing my favorite graphic novels. Figuring out why they worked so well, from a story and dialogue perspective. I was living in Santa Monica at that point, so I took Fiction classes at UCLA. And after seven years of grinding in the L.A. comics community—releasing several comic series, attending a handful of conventions each year to network, and signing in every store that would have me—Fanbase Press offered to publish Ripple Effects after I emailed them a short pitch deck. Their expertise and editorial skills helped me create a story that ultimately caught the attention of the Eisner Award judges.”
The Eisner Award, the comic book equivalent to the Academy Awards for movies, recognizes creative achievement in comics and graphic novels. Ripple Effects was nominated for Best Digital Comic. “Being nominated for an Eisner Award wasn’t on my radar,” says Hart. “It’s the pinnacle of comic recognition and I feel like my career is just beginning. But I’m so grateful because Ripple Effects is the most important thing I’ve ever written.” Most recently, Ripple Effects was also nominated for a Harvey Award as Digital Book of the Year. Winners of the Harvey Award, the second most prestigious comic book award behind the Eisner, will be announced at New York Comic Con in October. Not only was the book recognized by the Eisner and Harvey Award committees, it was also named one of the Best Graphic Novels for Adults by the American Library Association and won the Book of the Year Award from Foreword INDIES.
“My goal when writing this comic book was simple: remind every reader out there with an incurable illness that they’re not alone,” says Hart. “This is something I learned over several years of support from others with invisible disabilities. To receive the highest creative recognition possible in the comic industry for this approach has been truly surreal.”
Although his dedicated interest in comic book creation had yet to develop, Hart’s experience at MIAD informed many of the skills he needed to succeed in the industry. While studying Communication Design, Hart also pursued fine art classes and especially enjoyed watercolor. “That, coupled with the Photoshop tricks and practices I learned in the Computer Studio courses, forged my personal comic-coloring style,” he explains.
Hart also taught a Computer Studio class after graduation, which helped him develop important perspectives that served him well collaboratively. “Making comics is a lot like being in a band,” he says. “You have a group of people, each with unique talents and perspectives, working together to make one piece of art. Everyone has their own process. The best thing I could do as an instructor was not interfere with individual methods. This is exactly how I approach working with the teams on my comics, especially pencillers and inkers.”
As a whole, Hart credits MIAD with the largest impact on his comics career. “[MIAD] taught me how to manage time, balance multiple projects, avoid creative burnout, and give and receive constructive criticism. MIAD showed me that you can achieve anything artistically if you’re willing to work hard and stay persistent.”
Coming up next for Hart is a new horror-adventure comic called The Cabinet, pitched as “Constantine meets Clarissa Explains It All.” With a small creative team—just co-creator and -writer David Ebeltoft, Italian artist Chiara Raimondi and Hart himself—The Cabinet will release at the end of 2023 with Image Comics, a publisher that Hart has “dreamed of working with since I was a kid.” Additionally, Hart will be visiting MIAD on his way to the New York Comic Con in October to speak with students.
Current and former First-Year Experience (FYE) students celebrated their video, animation and sound design works at the FYE Media Arts Festival 23 – an in-house film and media screening in MIAD’s Community Hub on November 16.
MIAD alum Brandon Minga ‘04 (llustration), principal artist and founder of the House of Rad (hrad), was excited to host the 20th anniversary of the Feed Your Soul benefit for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin on November 3, 2023. This was the second consecutive time hrad has hosted the event.
Three MIAD Communication Design students received 60th anniversary American Graphic Design Awards from Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) magazine. The students were selected from over 8,000 entries, and judged alongside professional design work. Fewer than 10% of entrants received an award.
Interior Architecture and Design (IAD) seniors from MIAD were taken to new heights on November 13 when they toured the construction site of The Couture, a 44-story skyscraper under construction that will be Milwaukee’s tallest residential and mixed-use building. The tour was part of a series of tours their senior thesis “Building Systems” class is taking with instructor Dan Kalkman, AIA.
The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) selected the design of MIAD alum Debbie Sajnani ’16 (Communication Design) for its 2023 annual ornament. The ornaments are recreated each year by artisans using a reserve painting technique, according to MAM.