PEMBROKE — Terence Dollard has taught broadcasting for decades and worked in the industry just as long, but he’s also a comic book and super hero enthusiast with his own web comic, The Agreement.
He has parlayed that interest into a weekly interview program called “Comic Culture,” which is shot in the TV studio in the Department of Mass Communication at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The show recently was picked up by The North Carolina Channel, a PBS affiliate.
On the show Dollard interviews comic book writers, artists and publishers in-studio or via Skype about their influences, the creative process, and the collaborative nature of this form of commercial art.
Dollard is an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communication, where he teaches television production, broadcast programming and advertising. He won a UNCP Outstanding Teaching Award this past year.
He has continued his professional development in the study of media and culture through online classes that tackle analysis of comic books as social representation.
“When I was growing up, comics weren’t cool,” Dollard said. “If you read comics, you kept it to yourself. Today, comics are mainstream. They are hit films and TV shows, inspired by the work of men and women who produced stories on paper every month with little fanfare.
“On ‘Comic Culture,’ I get to hear how they crafted complex stories in this commercial context. I get to speak with legends and rising stars, writers and artists, editors and scholars. It’s a fun way to learn comics from multiple points of view.”
“Comic Culture“ got the attention of UNC-TV’s Kelly McMullen, who was looking for locally produced programming of general interest. Dollard had 50 episodes already in the can, produced in broadcasting classes with student crews, that already had aired on the cable access channels in Robeson and Scotland counties.
His show will reach new audiences through weekly airings and re-runs on The North Carolina Channel, a subchannel of UNC-TV. The program also can be streamed through any PBS website.
Guests have appeared on the show from as far away as Israel, and repeat appearances include Tom Lyle, who worked for DC and Marvel and is now on the faculty at the Savannah College of Art and Design. This semester Dollard branched out with an interview of actor Jermaine Rivers, who plays the recurring character Shatter on the Fox TV series “The Gifted.”
Dollard said he’s been fortunate to interview so many talented writers and artists, and his conversation with Walter Simonson is a favorite.
“There would be no Thor film franchise without Walt’s groundbreaking run as writer and artist of the Mighty Thor in the 1980s,” he said. “Having the chance to ask him about storytelling and his creative process was inspiring. I’m certain people watching the interview will be just as inspired.”
Students working in the TV studio get valuable experience for their resumes and academic credit in the broadcasting major. A student directs the dozen episodes each semester, and other students serve in all the crew positions.
They’re supervised by Jamie Litty as part of her broadcast practicum course, which is a hands-on requirement for broadcasting majors to apply skills from their classes to real television productions.
Dollard also takes his show on the road, capturing the sights and sounds of comic book conventions and other fan events around the region.
“Conventions are always fun,” he said. “We’ve taken our cameras to Myrtle Beach, Florence, Raleigh, Durham, Dragon Con in Atlanta, and my favorite, HeroesCon in Charlotte.
“You’re among thousands of people who share your love of comics, animation, and characters. You can see what’s trending and new. It’s a great way to introduce myself to writers and artists, do a quick interview at their booth, or just watch as they work on a sketch.
“You get to meet big names and people who are just getting started. Often, that interaction will develop into a longer interview months later in the studio.”
Jamie Litty is a professor and the department chair at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s Departement of Mass Communications.