Men and women pose for a photo at an awards ceremony
L-R Juan Walker, PhD, A'Shaela Abdon, Art Abdon, Kim Barker, PhD

Golden Blocks comic receives recognition

A year and a half ago, Augusta University and the College of Education and Human Development obtained grant money to develop three comic books, Golden Blocks Legends Comics, to use as educational tools.

A comic book cover featuring an older woman and five kids with two buildings in the background.

The first in the series, Lucy Craft Laney: Mother of the Children of the People, has been honored with three American Advertising Awards, an award which recognizes and rewards the creative spirit of excellence in the art of advertising in the southern region of Georgia. The entries will move on to the district level, where they will compete with other cities.

The entry won Professionals Best in Show, Professionals Mosaic and Professionals Gold for the work done in the comic book. Juan Walker, PhD, associate professor, is team lead of the project and was blown away by the recognition since the project was a new endeavor.

“It’s really extraordinary because as an educator, we have talked about not teaching in a bubble, and this project exemplifies not being in a bubble,” Walker said. “Yes this is curriculum, but other people have told me this is great for social studies and literacy, and it brings awareness to the community.”

A man shows off awards while sitting at a table in a large banquet room.
Golden Blocks comics illustrator Art Abdon

Art Abdon of Art the Artist Studio illustrated the book with the help of his daughter, A’Shaela Abdon, an Augusta University alumna. Art Abdon was shocked when he heard their name called on three different occasions.

“It was surprising, but it was really awesome and great,” Abdon said.

“We were all thrilled, particularly for the artists, Art and his team,” said Betsy VanDeusen, PhD, director of the Dr. Paulette P. Harris Literacy Center. “You could just feel the joy, and that it was a big deal in their field and particularly for the awards related to the quality of the artwork.”

There were several people involved in the project including Kim Barker, PhD, associate professor in the COEHD, who helped write and edit the book, and local historian Corey Rogers of the Lucy Craft Laney African American History Museum, who provided a lot of the background information and was instrumental in laying out the importance and facts on the history of Laney.

Besides the awards the comic has received, the book has taken on a life of its own. Other institutions have called looking for advice on how they can adapt their own stories to comics as a learning aid. They also received a call from Lucy Craft Laney Elementary School in Minnesota. A teacher there was hoping for more information, and Augusta University was more than happy to provide them with copies of the comic so they could better understand the history of Laney. 

“There’s always the idea of wanting to do something that’s impactful, but then to be able to help other people do that same thing, recreate the model, is so powerful,” said Barker. “Beyond this we are researching how effective this is with not only kindergarten through 12th-grade students, but our teaching candidates and how it impacts their content knowledge and their ability to teach using evidence-based practices.”

There was a lot of work in developing the comic. From not only the storyline itself, but the illustrations as well. While they had some photos of Laney, Abdon said it took several revisions to find just the right “look” for her in the comic. The illustrators also concentrated on the accuracy of the historic buildings in the book. They wanted to make it appealing to kids but also didn’t want to lose the impact it could have.

Two women and a man stand together in front of a brick wall.
From left, Kim Barker, PhD, Juan Walker, PhD, and Betsy VanDeusen, PhD, spearheaded the Golden Blocks Legends comic series.

The next comic will feature local teacher and coach John Tutt, who taught mathematics in Augusta for more than 60 years. That comic is due out this month. The final comic is expected by the end of the summer and will feature Thomas Walter Josey, one of Augusta’s first African American physicians.

Abdon said they will likely bring in other paid artists and interns with AU ties to help with the final comic.

The team has learned a lot of lessons in this journey and have been working to make the comics even more effective since they started on the ground floor. From how much text to use to the general layout of comics, this has all been a work in progress for the entire group.

One thing is evident, though, they have gotten plenty of support from the community and beyond.

“We had high hopes for this, but every group we presented to, there’s just been a huge interest in them,” said VanDeusen. “Recently the team presented to the Richmond County Schools, and they were very interested in using the comic book. What the team has done, we’ve designed a teacher’s guide since you read comic books differently than regular text.”  

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at

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Avatar photo Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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