The Institute of Contemporary Art's "artful book club," ICA Reads, has selected Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, as its 2017 pick for a book of critical and societal importance. This reinterpretation of Octavia E. Butler's science-fiction masterpiece, Kindred, was adapted by iSchool alumnus and adjunct lecturer Damian Duffy (MS '08, PhD '16) and illustrated by John Jennings. A New York Times bestseller, the novel tells the story of a young black woman's time-travel between her home in 1970s California and a plantation in the antebellum South.
Self-described as "huge Octavia Butler fans," Duffy and Jennings answered a call for entries for an earlier attempt to adapt the novel in 2009 but didn't get the job. By chance, that adaptation fell through, and they were offered the project again in 2012. Duffy and Jennings have been working together for about twelve years, making comics and curating comics art exhibitions concerned with issues of identity and representation.
"We both felt like the critical examinations of race, gender, and representation that permeate Kindred were very much in line with the original comics work we've done. Also, we felt that making a graphic novel version provided a chance for new readers to discover her work, as well as a chance for fans to revisit her most famous novel through a new lens," said Duffy.
Duffy's interest in comics started at the tender age of six, when he read his first Spider-Man comic. He has been making comics for just about as long. His first attempt at becoming a professional comics creator was in 2001, when he and his friend, Dann Tincher, self-published three issues of a sci-fi/crime comic series called Whisp. In addition to the Kindred adaptation, Duffy and Jennings have published another graphic novel, The Hole: Consumer Culture, and a horror comic, Urban Kreep.
After working at the University of Illinois Law Library for six years, Duffy decided to pursue an advanced degree in library and information science.
"Witnessing firsthand the impact of information access, communication, and preservation as well as the role of LIS scholarship in the growing inclusion of comics in cultural discourses, I felt like the profession had the potential to overlap with my creative/artistic pursuits," he said. "I always wish more people thought of comics as a medium of communication, as capable of telling many different kinds of stories to many different audiences as prose or film."
Last spring Duffy completed his PhD degree and received the Berner-Nash Memorial Award for outstanding doctoral dissertation. He is now an adjunct lecturer at the iSchool, teaching Computers and Culture (LIS 390) and Social Media and Global Change (LIS 490).