More Than A Dozen Students Awarded At James O’Keefe Comic Contest


On April 14, Diablo Valley College hosted its 12th annual award ceremony for the James O’Keefe Comic Contest honoring student graphic artists.

The event – which featured the author, artist, activist and educator Justin Hall as a guest speaker – awarded more than a dozen students for their work producing different styles of comics, ranging from horror to inspirational to informational.

Hall provided insight on his work, life and the comics industry, while offering advice for aspiring students and artists.

“Be courageous with your storytelling. Tell your authentic tales, even if that’s scary,” Hall said. Quoting his mentor, the cartoonist Howard Cruse, he added: “It’s time to take some risks in the service of truths.”

In recent years, DVC’s art and comics programs have become a staple at the college.

“We have been doing this long enough that we are well known [within the community],” said Adam Bessie, co-host of the contest and an English professor at DVC. “Anyone that goes through this program gets better and gains experience.”

His co-host, Arthur King, who teaches art and digital media at DVC, said a goal of the contest was not only to show people the wide variety of comics that exist, but to demonstrate that any form of expression can be done through the medium.

Bessie added, “Visual storytelling is becoming increasingly prominent, [as] people are becoming accustomed to having a visual aid. This contest is trying to match these changes.”

Award winners

The first two awards, known as the East Bay Zine Awards, went to Trinity Rice and Morganne Rodriguez for their single-page foldable comics, which Bessie called a “quick pump-shot of joy.”

The Scott McCloud Award for best nonfiction comic went to Ruby Jablonski for her work, “The Funguide,” an informational crossover between pictures and illustrations. The runner-up for the award, Chunni Haung, depicted local flowers in full bloom with precise locations.

Manho Tang’s “the Kid” won the Windsor McCay Slumberland Award for comics that provide the feeling of a lucid dream.

Meanwhile, Coco Lepe won the Hope Larson Best Visual Adaptation Award for her horror piece, “Dark Waters”; Victoria Drozda won the Naoko Fujimoto Award for best crossover between poetry and visual representation with her work “The Ghost of the Sea”; and Addy Stevens took home the Zinester Up and Coming Award for best light-hearted and playful comic with “Hiding Louie Brighton.”

In addition, Tiana McClenahan won the Neil Gaiman Award for best depiction of an alternative mythological setting with “Fangs of Silk”; Erin Hamilton won the Emma Rios Award for best visual art and color combinations in “The Wheat Witch”; and Eva Sachtschale won the Marjorie Liu Award for “Prey,” her powerful piece about the dangers of assault.

Finally, first place awards went to Nina Lovejoy, who won the Justin Hall Award for her “Dungeons and Dragons Character Creation Guide,” and Sydney Blood who took home the EC Comic Award for the contemporary horror piece, “Ice Cream.”

All 13 of the winning submissions for the James O’Keefe Comic Contest have been published and remain viewable online. Contest winners received packs of art supplies, and cash prizes went to the top five winners.