A Page from a Student Comic

Homer Figg comic
I’m writing more about a project in which my class constructed a graphic novel version of a novel we are just finishing reading. This page really blew me away with the sense of artwork. So, I am sharing it out, with little context. (More to come later …)

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

PS — Bonus points if you can figure out the book …

There Are No Digital Natives

Here is yet another canon shot against that Native/Immigrant divide that we sometimes refer to … which does not exist with such clarity as one might be believe, so how about we stop using these terms? Agreed?

My friend, Bill Ferriter, wrote a post about this, too, focusing on how teachers are often called Digital Immigrants, as if they can’t find the power button on a computer or something.
Reading Bill’s post led to me make these two comics:
Not a Digital Native
Take that, Native Boy

Peace (in the shift),
Kevin

Making Fun with Comics (again)

I’m checking out a comic creator app called Rosie Comic Maker, which I want to use this summer for periodic looks at the Making Learning Connected MOOC. Rosie, the app, costs two bucks (I think), and there are limitations around poses and expressions. But I think there might be enough for me to play with. (I suspect Rosie has some other connections to television or something but I am out of the loop. I just like the cartoony feel to the comic maker)

Here are my first three comics:

Clmooc comic 1

Clmooc comic 2

Magic Box of Stuff

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

 

Considering the Composition of a Selfie

Comic Selfie Collage

I had an interesting moment recently with two of my classes. We were watching the movie version of Tuck Everlasting (after reading the novel) and there is a scene where the Stranger (played by Ben Kingsley) stops alone in the woods and pulls out a handheld mirror, holding it up and examining his own facial features for signs of age.

I wish I could share a screenshot of the scene. He’s holding the mirror up high in the sky with his left hand, staring up at it with a stern expression while touching his face with his right hand. I never thought twice about it because it seemed obvious what he was doing.

Students in both classes, however, said the same exact thing as soon as they saw what he was doing, and their reaction was immediate and spontaneous, shouting out:

“Selfie!”

This is the first year that this has happened with the movie, and it reminded me again of how fast pop culture and technology is flowing through our world. A year ago, only a scattered few might even have heard of a selfie. Now, it’s become a youth touchstone, an automatic response to anyone who holds any kind of screen in front of them.

“Selfie!”

We had some time after state math testing yesterday, so I did a mini-lesson around selfies. We looked at the famous one from Ellen at the Oscars and talked about some elements of composition of the selfie:

  • face(s) in foreground
  • some sort of background visible
  • smiling, happy selfies are more likely to be viewed than sad, depressing ones
  • faces are off center, and shown on upward angle (because phone is held up, facing down)
  • some faces are closer; others farther away — giving the viewer multiple points to examine (more interesting than a single selfie, they agreed)
  • famous people are more likely to become viral
  • Instagram is the reason why selfies are so popular

Then, I brought the students into Bitstrips and told them: “Create a webcomic selfie and feel free to make it crazy.” Most were very excited about the assignment — they love making and using avatars in our comic site.

But one kid dropped his head.

“Do I have to? I am so sick of selfies.”

Maybe the tide is already turning.

Peace (in the mirror),
Kevin

Comics Collection Review: Zits (Sunday Brunch)

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)

Story Summary: With all of our focus on graphic novels, it is easy to lose track of the power of the daily comic strip. The connections between art and words and character coupled with the confines of just a few panels is something magical when done right (and painful when done wrong). SUNDAY BRUNCH: THE BEST OF ZITS SUNDAYS by the partnership of Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman is a massive collection of comic strips featuring a the growing teenager, Jeremy, and his two befuddled parents, Walt and Connie, as they weave their ways around life. The comics have perfect pitch (at least, to me, as a parent of a teenager) but what sets this collection apart from some others are the guest narratives of other comic strip writers and artists as they talk about their own inspirations. These short narratives are interspersed throughout the book by comic strip colleagues, and the personal writing provide a wonderful lens into how comics played a part in nurturing writers and illustrators. It’s interesting to see how subversive comic strips were for so many of them – tales of flashlights under covers abound. Add to that the little annotated notes that Scott and Borgman put beneath most of these comics to explain where the ideas for the jokes and art came from, and you have an insider’s view into the world of newspaper comic creations. And you can laugh while you learn.

Art Review: What sets the comic strip Zits apart from most of its brethren is the art, and I was really fascinated by the explanations for some of the experiments that Borgman (the primary illustrator, although the book gives some nice insights into the partnership between the two collaborators) provides as he works all sorts of echoes of modern art into a comic strip. There’s also some nice commentary on the impact of the shrinking comics sections on artists, and what that has meant to how an illustration perceives their canvas.

More Information:

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; Original edition (November 1, 2011)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1449407978
• ISBN-13: 978-1449407971

In the Classroom: I have lots of comic collections in my classroom. Calvin & Hobbes remains a hit. When we talk about having variety of reading materials, we should consider comic collections as another way to draw kids (particularly, boys) into reading. SUNDAY BRUNCH: THE BEST OF ZITS SUNDAYS is a great collection that would fit nicely in the bookshelves of a middle or high school classroom. From a teaching perspective, the narratives around the impact of comics on writers and readers might open up doors of discussion around the kinds of reading and writing that your students do outside of school. What are they reading that we never see? It’s worth finding out.

My Recommendation: I highly recommend SUNDAY BRUNCH: THE BEST OF ZITS SUNDAYS for middle and high school classrooms, and for the teacher with teenagers in their lives – either sitting there in that desk or lounging around at home.

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

Free Comic Book Day is Today

Hey — Today is Free Comic Book Day! (And tomorrow is Star Wars Day — May the Fourth be with you). Find a store near you that is giving away free comics and get a few, if not for yourself then for your kids or your students. The Free Comic Book Day website has more information, including a handy “store locator” tool.

Good luck!

Peace (in the comics),
Kevin

 

Book Review: How About Never? Is Never Good For You?

I suspect I am like a lot of readers of The New Yorker magazine. On the day it arrives in the mail (usually a Tuesday or Wednesday), I flip through the pages to read all of the cartoons, either chuckling and sharing with my wife, or scratching my head to figure out just what the heck the joke is. I end up at the last page, where the Caption Contest takes place (my neighbor recently won) in order to see if I could have done better (not likely).

I then move on to articles and forget the cartoons. But Bob Mankoff’s whole professional life is constructed around cartoons, and the editor of cartoons at The New Yorker has a fantastic new book out that explores his life as a cartoonist and brings us into the inner workings of how cartoons get chosen by the magazine. The book — How About Never? Is Never Good For You? — is jam-packed with cartoons and comics, as Mankoff shows off his own work (which I now recognize by the dot style of drawing) and a host of other artists whose work I read every week.

Mankoff even promises to show a reader how to win the Caption Contest, and then admits that that promise was a ruse to get you reading his book. His style of writing is like his style of cartooning — witty, sly and engaging, in a voice that let’s us know that while he takes his job seriously, he’s not above poking fun at anything and everything, including himself. And after all that, he does in fact give some insider views on the Caption Contest. So, there.

As I was reading the book, though, it occurred to me many times just how difficult it would be to make a living making cartoons. So many get rejected. So few get published. And yet, you have to make a handful every week, knowing that you will be lucky if one gets chosen. Mankoff tries to solve some of this years ago when he co-founded the Cartoon Bank, which is now part of the New Yorker family. The Cartoon Bank is a data-base of comics that can be purchased for use, allowing some income stream for artists. Mankoff has that kind of sensibility to support artists.

Peace (in the cartoon),
Kevin

Webcomic: The Dangerous Lives of Poets

This morning, the Wonder Poem (posted by Mary Lee) is about the CN Tower in Toronto. I wrote a poem and then thought I would jazz it up a bit with some humor as webcomic. So, I did. I was struck by the use of colors for events through the year and how it seemed to me to be like a flower without petals.

The Dangerous Life of Poets (CT Tower)

Peace (in the high places),
Kevin

Remixing the Comics: Standardized Testing


You might guess that we are into standardized testing time in our school and state. Hey. You’d be right! I was reading the comics with that on my mind and frames began jumping out me. I just had to hack and remix the comics as a sort of commentary about testing. I used ThingLink as way to embed some comments for each frame, although I suspect you could get my message even without my words.

Honestly, though, it was that kid staring at his test in the Nancy strip that got me going. He looks so … sad.

Wondering how I did this kind of remix?

First, I read all the comics and tries to piece together a possible story sequence. This is the most difficult part because you need to look for narrative threads and understand there will be some gaps in whatever story you remix with the frames. Once I started to identify possible pieces of comics, I got to work.

I started with old fashioned scissors and tape, and blue paper. I scanned it as an image file (when I have taken a picture of this kind of remix in the past, the words get fuzzy. You might have a better camera than I have, though). Then, I uploaded the image to Flickr, where I used the Aviary app in Flickr to add text, and “borrowed” the completed image over at ThingLink. That allowed me to layer in some commentary.

Peace (in how we frame things),
Kevin