Recently I was invited to Wistanstow Primary School (in Shropshire, UK) to talk to a class of budding new comic enthusiasts about making comics. The class had been playing with computer programs such as Comic Life and using grids to create their own comics, and the teacher and my Mum (who works there as a Teachers Assistant) thought it would be good if I could come in and talk to them as I’ve just completed my degree in Illustration for Graphic Novels (well, last year :P).
I love comics, but I’ve struggled to actually make any of my own so far (although I have a few in the pipeline – watch this space) so I just wanted to get across the idea that it doesn’t necessarily matter how good you are at drawing, or how strong your character is (although both are important of course) but it’s how good your STORY is that is most important – after all, if the story isn’t interesting, who’s going to want to read it?
I had a lot of information in my head about Sequencial Art and the ‘story-peak’ that my tutor Dan Berry taught us (that might not have been what he actually called it… basically it was a graph of sorts showing how a story starts off slow -with Introductions to characters and such- rises to a peak at the height of the story -a character makes a startling discovery for example- and then lowers again as the issues are resolved) but when I realised I was pitching to a class of 9 year olds I had to ditch that, and after I’d shown them some of my own work, moved on to a nice activity instead – basically I shut up and let them draw 🙂
The Afternoon’s Activity
The idea was to get any distractions out of the way and get them thinking about the story itself. I had each child write their name, an animal (it could be anything) and a place (again, anywhere, although with this one I offered a few suggestions myself) on three scraps of paper, and put them in three tubs. I then drew a basic grid on the whiteboard, and picked one piece of paper out of each tub – we ended up with **** the Pig, and her destination was the School (I’m not allowed to use the children’s names…
I then asked the class, how does **** get to school? What happens to her on the way?
It was fairly quickly decided that she would fly there (naturally) but on the way she crashes into a bird (oh no!) and then the two of them crash into a tree! Having only one panel left even I was starting to wonder about how they’d get from the tree into the school, until I heard the genius suggestion of having the tree catapult the two of them into school! Amazing 🙂
Artists Note: Children are harsh critics! You’d be amazed at the speed in which they can point out that you’ve forgotten to draw the curly tail/ponytail/feet 😛
The Children’s Comics
What follows now is some of the comics the children drew -WARNING- some of them are cute, some of them are scary, and some of them are just leaps of inventive genius! (click on the comics to enlarge)
I think this could be my favourite animal design – an Afro and side-burn sporting Dragon at the swimming pool being attacked by a knight – he get’s his own back in the end *FWOOOSHH!*
I can’t remember what’s happening at the end of this one, but a low-flying Dragon accidentally hit’s a cactus and get’s stuck in the Desert – to pass the time he jumps into a spontaneous ‘Gangnam Style’ dance with the locals! Brilliant!
Things take a darker turn in this comic, as a young Piglet is attacked and strangled by a masked assailant! But everything turns out ok in the end, as Mummy pig turns up, stabs the attacker (see the blood!) and takes the Piglet to hospital (well, maybe not so well for the attacker…)
In this comic a Piggy Princess is having a ride in her carriage when oh no, she realises she’s forgotten her hat! Then to make things worse she’s thrown from the carriage – but luckily she end’s up next to a shed that just happens to contain her missing headpiece 🙂
In this cautionary comic a Dog is really excited to be in Space – and look, someone’s laid out a moon picnic! But by the end he has suffocated, because dogs can’t breathe in space silly! Remember kids: Always bring a space helmet.
I think this is my favourite comic as far as creative problem solving goes – a Bull is drowning, and is on the verge of death, but luckily a CPR savvy Penguin turns up and saves his life (check out the ‘come on, stay with me’ bubble! Someone’s been watching Casualty with mummy!) – the Bull is then so grateful he asks the Penguin to marry him, which of course Penguin agrees to, and they finally end up at his location: The Church! Genius!
In this comic a cat agrees to get her Grandma a Coke from the supermarket, and on the way accidentally falls into a tube that seems to take her straight there! (via a paddling pool) – unfortunately when she finally makes it home she’s brought back Diet Coke instead! Oh No!
Unfortunately some of the pencil work has been lost in the photocopy here, but this comic is told from the view of a guest star of this story, the Hairdresser – and what a cool looking dude he is! The horse is so enamoured by his stylish ways he wants the look for himself, and by gum, does he get it!
A baby pig is too hot in his cot, so he goes out for an Ice Lolly to cool down – he then decides to take a nap in the sunshine but wakes up with the most horrific sunburn! (does anyone else smell bacon…?) To sooth his skin he goes for a nice cool swim – just look at that tan! Great use of colour here!
*Lucy’s Pick* This is an adorable little comic, where a cat is sad because there are no flowers in her vase! She goes out to pick some but get’s lost… luckily there’s a friendly tiger around to show her the way home, and the last panel show’s how happy she is now there’s flowers in her vase – great little story 🙂
An Eagle’s late for School, but not so late that he doesn’t have time to stop and tell a passing doughnut about his poor time-keeping skills! Love the simplicity of this one!
An Octopus is on his way to the Supermarket to buy cookies, but he piles so many in his trolly it falls over and scatters the cookies everywhere! The manager is so mad he throws him out and into a tree! Luckily it’s not far from the ocean though, and the Octopus jumps back into the sea! 🙂