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),

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),

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),

Slice of Life: Of Gutters, Frames, Bubbles and Comics


(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Yesterday was the first of three days of parent-teacher conferences. I probably should write about that. But I’m not. Instead, during some down times during the day, I created a few webcomics about Slice of Life (as I am apt to do, if you know me at all), as part of a way to have fun with the idea of slicing your day into reflections and in part as a way to encourage others in my various writing communities to get writing!

These two characters are recurring dudes in my comics about various writing projects that I am engaged in (they began in a series called The Tweets and continue as a sort of ego/id stand-in for my brain)

And so …
Slice of Life Muse Comic

Slice of Life Quilt Comic

Slice of Life topic comic

Peace (in the comics),

All I Got Was This Lousy Comic

A lot of folks are over at Educon, but not me. (again). I tinkered around with Chad Sansing’s Virtual Toy Hack page (which he is using at Educon, I believe — NOTE: Chad is NOT there. Too bad for all them, I say) and created this version of the “all I got was a T shirt” meme. Maybe next year ..
I didn't go to Educon
Peace (in the hack),

Book Review: Super Graphic

This is a book that my older boys were fighting over to read when I took it out of the box, and then I had trouble getting it back from them to read myself. Visual artist Tim Leong, from Wired, has put together a fascinating look at the Comic Book Universes (in all their brands and trajectories and offshoots) in a series of infographics that will blow you away with the detail, humor and design. As an example of how to represent information in a graphical format, Super Graphic is an exemplar text.

It really is one of those books you have to read to get full enjoyment out of.  (Even the credits are done in infographic mode as are the reviews of the reviews of the book. You get the sense that Leong lives in an infographic world.

Not everything in here is child-friendly, just as in comics, but there are enough cool infographics that you could pull out (well, photocopy, in color) to share as how to hone your interest in a topic and share out your knowledge in interesting ways. Super Graphic is a wonderful ode to comics and visual design.

No wonder my kids were fighting over it. Super Dad always wins, though!

Peace (in the panels)



Comic Review: Unearthed Comic

Tell me that comic didn’t give you a chuckle? Of course it did. Sara Zimmerman‘s science-based funnies are hilarious and her collection of comics is available in her latest volume, Unearthed Comics: Unearthing Science. Zimmerman brings a lot of wit and wisdom, and science, to her comics and that makes the classroom a perfect place for a collection like this, although you might want to scan the content first. I wouldn’t say there is anything over-the-top but that might depend on your own values.

Like anything, read it yourself first to determine appropriateness for your students. Plus, that way, you get the chuckles before they do.

I downloaded her collection into my iPad and every now and then, I open it up in the Kindle app, read a few pages, and get back to work with a smile on my face. If that isn’t the role of a good comic strip, I don’t know what is. Sara’s comic is worth your time, and she shares out her strips at her website and in an email newsletter format (and via Twitter). I am now going to get her first collection of comics ….

Peace (in the frame),

When Teachers Make Comics

comic teachers
I brought a group of teachers at a recent Professional Development session into Bitstrips to show them what a comic space looks like and to work around the idea of digital identity and avatar creation. Yeah, lots of laughter and giggling, and then thoughtful reflections at the end. That’s how PD should work, right?

Peace (in the frames),