What started out being an oddity -- college classes and programs devoted to the study and creation of comics -- is quickly becoming a full-fledged trend, according to this interesting Associated Press feature picked up by USA Today.

Apart from places focused on nurturing the industry's next Will Eisner and Marie Severin -- think The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont or the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia -- a number of schools throughout the U.S. are dipping their collective toes in the water, like the University of Cincinnati that hired cartoonist Carol Tyler, nee of the recent Late Bloomer and the 1993 classic The Job Thing (both from Fantagraphics), to teach its first comics-related art class last year.

Why all the interest? Chain bookstores from Borders to Barnes & Noble devoting a growing amount of space to graphic novels -- specifically Manga -- along with libraries, to the chagrin of some who still believe comics are more aberration and obscenity than art.

Just as interesting as the feature is the comments section below it that rather perfectly illustrates the cultural divide among those who perceive comics as either illiterate trash -- another easy major for college athletes -- or treasure -- cultivating creativity or simply a love for reading in a world of pigeonholing and standardized testing.