Peace (on the panels),
(from Boolean Squared)
(This post is also a podcast)
I remember well the ink-stained fingers. On Sunday mornings, before anyone else received their delivery of the New Haven Register, I would sit on top of the red newspaper box where the bundles would get delivered. First, I would open up the pack by slitting open the plastic wrapper with my pocket knife, and then I would open up the first newspaper on top, turning quickly to the colored comic section. The rest of week wa black and white, but on Sunday, it was full color. It was early enough in the morning that there was often not much traffic along the main street of my town, and in some seasons, I’d have to use the streetlight above for a reading lamp.
But there I would sit, enjoying the first look at Sunday comics before anyone else. And my fingers would turn a rainbow hue from the ink coming off the news, the black of the front page mixed with the colored ink of the comics. My reading done, I would pack up the bundle and begin my methodical journey around the neighborhood, delivering the newspapers. All the while, though, my mind would be replaying the antics of Calvin and Hobbes, or the adventures of Spiderman, or nutty ideas of The Far Side, some of which I still don’t get.
I was thinking of those Sunday mornings the other day because I have a book collection of the comic, Zits, and along with many great strips that appeal to the comedy of being a father of a teenager, the book includes many short narratives of famous comic creators about their memories of comics as a child. Some write about their parents forbidding them from reading the funny pages, which only made it more enjoyable. Others write about where their inspirations as a writer come from, or where their drawing styles emerged from.
For me, the comics were part of childhood, and when I became an adult, I realized that I wanted to try my hand at creating a comic. I chose the classroom as my setting, and technology as the wedge, and created Boolean Squared. The art is minimal at best (I wish I had a partner) but I loved the writing challenge of a comic, and for a year, it ran in the online edition of our local newspaper, The Springfield Republican. I published about 150 comics during my two-year stretch and then retired it. Writing and publishing Boolean Squared was an incredible joy, and a whole lot of work.
The experience made me think of writing and creating in a whole new way, and I still bring comics into my classroom on a regular basis for teaching writing craft and for students, to write. They may never experience the ink-stained fingers of my own childhood (kids don’t deliver newspapers anymore, do they?) but at least they can experience the genre of comics, and who knows? One of them just might be a budding webcomic creator and they just might remember that teacher who valued comics as a piece of writing and art.
Peace (in the funnies),
If you have a geek on your list (and who doesn’t these days?), you might want to consider the collection from the “Not Invented Here” comic by Bill Barnes and Paul Southworth. The setting for this very funny comic is inside a software development firm where terms like “kernals” and “code” and”interface” form the backbone vocabulary of a funny group of programmers, marketing folks and others. I’m no programmer yet even I had plenty of chuckling moments, particularly as technology goes astray.
Check out the back page description:
Behind every great piece of software is a talented, conscientious team of hardworking individuals dedicated to producing the highest quality product using internationally accepted best practices and industry standards.
And then, there are these guys.
One particularly storyline around a social networking site called “MySpice” that seeks to add a fragance element to connecting with friends had me laughing so loud that my sons needed to see over my shoulder what I was reading. That the storyline ends with a tragic accident involving a user and a perfume spray in the eye, not to mention the mangling of some programming code, made it delightful to read as a parody of the direction of sites like MySpace and Facebook (although I think the Spice Girls should had a cameo).
The characters in Not Invented Here are nicely fleshed out — from Desmond, the overweight programmer whose need to improve every line of code he comes across is a fixation of comedy of errors (so to speak); to Owen, a sofware design guy who has no clue what he is doing most of the time and whose stumbling around in the world is a fine comedic relief; Marketroid, the robotic head of marketing whose fingers are all over every product, and not in a good way; and more.
I’m tempted to send my copy of Runtime Error to my programming friend but that would mean getting rid of the book. Nope. I might have to buy a second copy to send him for the holidays.
Peace (on the funny pages),
We’re shifting into Figurative Language techniques as we move towards poetry — a bit earlier this year for us for scheduling reasons. The other day, we tackled onomatopoeia (the hardest word to spell when your type fast) by using comics as our jumping off point. We began with a Wordle list that I generated of various sound effects.
After talking about the use of sound effect words in comics and its use as an art form to denote action and sound on a flat page, and then looking at a comic page in which onomatopoeia was used, students then had the task of creating their own comic strip about whatever they wanted, using at least five examples of onomatopoeia. They did a nice job with their comics, and you could have heard a pin drop when they were working on them, too. They seemed surprised that we were doing comics for writing class. But any chance to give them a taste of some alternative form of writing and reading is something worth gravitating to. Don’t dismiss comics as juvenile literacy. There’s a lot going on in those frames.
See some of the other comics.
Oh, we also watched the short cartoon from the Dr. Seuss story, Gerald McBoing Boing (the boy who doesn’t speak words). The kids loved the video, even though the cartoon is pretty dated. But the show’s art is something I love — it is so very different from any other cartoon, particularly the Looney Toons of the same era. And since Gerald talks in sound effects, it is a perfect example of onomatopoeia. I have the DVD but, no surprise, you can find it online, too.
Peace (in the comic frames),
Most comic collections are just that: collections of some of the better comics from a series as chosen by the writer. This collection of The Underfold webcomic entitled Best Apocalypse Ever is sort of like that, with one outstanding difference. Brian Russell brings us right to the start of his comic — right back to the days when he began writing subversive yet funny comics in the underside of folded paper at his job serving coffee at a church. I know, sounds strange, right?
But if you want to see the genesis of an idea for a comic slowly taking shape, and then transforming over time, this collection — with various written narrative insights by Russell — is the real deal. Which is not say The Underfold isn’t one of the oddest, wackiest comics I have come across in some time (compliment). Between the talking eyeball, the tentacles-instead-of-hands, the breaking of the wall with the reader, and the paper-bag-over-the-face character, The Underfold is an odd assortment of imagination.
From the standpoint of a writer, though, I loved Russell’s ongoing commentary in Best Apocalypse Ever about where his comic started and where it ended up going, and the decisions (sometimes last-minute decisions) that shaped the various narrative and artistic arcs of The Underfold. I felt like we were in a room, drinking beers, and he was giving me an inside look at his creative process, sometimes slipping me a joke on the underside of a napkin.
Peace (in the process),
This is the third piece of my Occupy the Classroom webcomic. You can view the first comic (about the Occupy the Classroom kids) and the second comic (about the Iced Tea Party) over at Flickr. I felt the need to introduce some closure, and why not use a new student as the one who can bridge the divide? The “uniter, not fighter” in all of us.
See this comic at Flickr.
Peace (in the funny pages),
Yesterday, I poked fun at the Occupy Wall Street with a comic called Occupy the Classroom. Today, I offer the counter to that: the Iced Tea Party movement (you knew it was coming). Tomorrow, I try to wrap it up with … well, I won’t say yet. You’ll just have to come back (and no, it’s not that I don’t know what I am doing.)
View the comic on Flickr, too.
Peace (in the tea),
I had this idea the other day to turn around the Occupy Wall Street into Occupy the Classroom as a webcomic. So this is what I came up with. Now I am thinking this idea may need some more episodes down the road (what about a counter Tea Party group of kids? I like that.) It came to me that many of the attributes of the Occupy Movement makes sense for a classroom culture (as long as the teacher doesn’t act like the Oakland Police Department).
(You can also view the comic over at Flickr.)
Peace (in the funny pages),
When we took part in the National Day on Writing, my students used our iPod Touch devices for podcasting. It was our first exposure to the devices this year. I couldn’t help but listen in to their discussions and a few comments stayed with me. So, I made a comic, not just because I think the comments are sort of funny (they are, to me) but also because the comments give us some insight into their thinking around using mobile devices in the classroom.
Peace (in the sharing),