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It Starts at State

Robert Lilly, Class of 2019 

Photo of Robert Lilly, faculty member and studentRobert Lilly’s journey to becoming a comic book author and illustrator began when he was simply a child who loved comic books. Now, at age 66, he is teaching STATE students about the artistry he loves while also furthering his own education. During the fall of 2019, Robert, who writes and illustrates his own comic book series, called “The Snipe,” began teaching his craft in the same semester he plans to graduate with a master’s degree in media studies.

Robert’s interest in comic books began when he was not yet able to read but enjoyed the pictures in the local newspaper. His first taste of making comic books started when he was given the opportunity to be a cartoonist for the Nitro High School newspaper, where his first comic was published. After graduation, STATE’s location to his job at the nearby Union Carbide plant made it the obvious choice for his academic advancement. 

“The idea that I could pop over and take a class here and a class there was very appealing,” he said, “since I worked at Carbide.”

He obtained a bachelor’s degree, continued his career, and became inspired years later to take his education even further after attending a campus commencement ceremony.

“I attended a graduation and had seen someone obtain a master’s in media studies,” he said. “They had created a graphic novel as their thesis project, and I said, ‘That’s the thing for me.’”

Robert has been making comics for more than 30 years, perfecting his craft and having fun while doing so. This amount of experience encouraged a professor to give him the opportunity to teach a class at STATE about graphic narrative. Now he is inspiring students to pursue art with the same passion as his own.

He believes a good work ethic is the key to being a good cartoonist. 

“My first piece of advice is to work hard, and the second is to do a lot of work and throw it away,” he says. “You’re going to do a lot of bad stuff, so be selective and show the good stuff to people.”

Robert has grown with a medium of entertainment that was once only known by a very small audience and has grown to the  pop culture phenomenon it is today. He himself, having gone from just drawing pictures with word balloons as a child to creating his own running comic book series, and now teaching the medium to newcomers, is a remarkable example of how persistence can let anyone, from anywhere, and at any age, succeed.
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