July Comics Challenge: Make Your Own Superhero!

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Superheroes are fun, right? Everyone loves superheroes? Well they are the focus of this month’s COMICS CHALLENGE, where we’re all going to be having a go at making our own. That’s the challenge, nice and simple: Make Up A New Superhero. And here are some handy Templates We Prepared Earlier, to help you do just that!

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Download the templates as a PDF!

Here’s a suggested ‘lesson plan’ / way to use these templates as the basis of a session with your group! This is based on the assumption that you have a whiteboard / flipchart / other flat and writeable-on surface to hand…

  • Start by thinking about Famous Superheroes. How many Superheroes can the group name? Try writing all the answers up on the board as you go. Bonus Discussion Points: Who is the coolest? Who would win in a fight?
  • Pick a couple of the suggested characters and see how much the group know about them. What is their secret identity? What superpowers do they have? Do they have any weaknesses? Who is their best friend? Who is their arch-nemesis?
  • Using the suggested characters as a basis, make a list on the board of superhero THEMES (e.g. Bats, Spiders, Cats – lots of animal-themed ones) and SUPERPOWERS (e.g. flight, super strength, stretchiness – see how many you can think of).
  • Get the group to come up with ideas for either the THEME or SUPERPOWER for a new hero. Try and get as many suggestions as possible on the board.
  • Pick one and have a go at creating a new Superhero!  Have a go at drawing them on the board! Don’t worry if you think you’re not good at drawing, try and give it a go anyway. If it really *is* rubbish, it just works as an encouragement to the kids to try and do better!
  • Okay, now everyone have a go! Confident artists can just dive straight in and start drawing; younger or less confident artists might want to use one of the worksheets provided above; just start designing a costume straight onto the template!
  • Once everyone’s had long enough to draw, take a look at everyone’s new heroes. Get each artist to tell you about their character!
  • FINAL STEP: everyone draw a comic about their superhero! You can use some of our handy comics page templates, to help you get started!

 

 

We’d love to see some of the results! You can tweet pictures at us at @ComicsClubBLOG, and we’d love to feature them here on the blog!

 

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June Comics Challenge: SOUND FX COMICS!

For this month’s Comic Challenge we are looking at SOUND EFFECTS in comics, and to talk us through it we’ve got this fantastic strip, produced exclusively for Comics Club by Louie Stowell and Freya Harrison!

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Here are a couple of ideas for activities you can try with your Comics Club groups, working from that fantastic how-to:

  1. NOISY COMICS! Everyone has to create a short comic – about whatever they like, but with the proviso that it must contain at least one sound effect in EVERY PANEL.
  2. WHAT’S THAT SOUND? Come up with a short list of events which would create a loud noise – something exploding, someone shooting a laser, whatever you like – and then everyone has to pick one and draw a comic about it. You can come up with a few ideas for NOISY EVENTS yourself, or get the group to brainstorm some! Here are some Neill came up with earlier:

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Encourage the kids to have a go at thinking what sound each would make – everyone have a go at making the noise! And then think how you’d translate that noise into a sound effect: firstly, how would you ‘spell’ it, and also how would you DRAW it? What kind of letters and shapes would you use?

3. WHAT’S THAT SOUND? (SUPER WEIRD VARIANT) – depending on how everyone got on with the above exercise, have a go at thinking up some EVEN WEIRDER events. Go super dtrange / conceptual – really challenge the kids with ‘how on earth would I even put that on paper?’. Again, here are some Neill came up with earlier, to get you started:

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We’d love to see the comics you come up with! As ever, feel free to share stuff with us at @ComicsClubBlog on twitter!

Huge thanks to Louie and Freya for providing our excellent Sound FX comic! Louie is the writer and Freya one of the main illustrators who created Usborne’s fantastic book Write and Draw Your Own Comics, which is one of our top recommendations for getting kids making comics!

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Louie is a writer and editor, check out her twitter for news about her projects, at @louiestowell!

And you can find more of Freya’s amazing work at freyaillustration.co.uk!

 

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Comics Awards For Kids!

If you’re running a group using comics with kids, a great way to find good new comics for them to read – and to get them actively engaged with thinking and talking about those comics critically – is to get involved with one of the comics awards programmes that involve young people in their judging process. There are couple of these in the UK that you might want to check out, for instance…

The Excelsior Award 

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The Excelsior Award is the only nationwide book award for graphic novels and manga – where kids aged 11-16 decide the winner by rating each book as they read it! Eight graphic novels are selected for the shortlist and it now attracts over two hundred and fifty schools and public libraries from all over the UK and Ireland! The overall goal of this scheme is to encourage reading amongst teenagers. However, its secondary target is to raise the profile of graphic novels and manga amongst school librarians and teachers. This storytelling medium has been a largely underused resource within education for many years. The Excelsior Award attempts to highlight some of the amazing books that are out there – books that fully deserve to be in our school libraries alongside regular fiction!

There is also the Excelsior Award Jr, for kids aged 8-11: http://www.excelsiorawardjunior.co.uk/ 

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If you’d like to get your group involved in the Excelsior Award process, you can find out more information here: http://www.excelsioraward.co.uk/info.html – and about the Excelsior Award Jr here: http://www.excelsiorawardjunior.co.uk/info.html

 

The Young People’s Comic Award

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Organised as part of the British Comic Awards, the Young People’s Comic Award is judged by young people and aims to celebrate the best in comics aimed at, and suitable for, a young audience. You can find a list of winners and nominees from previous years here: http://britishcomicawards.com/

 

And here’s a great video about the 2016 awards:

Judging is carried out by reading groups from schools, public libraries and Scouts and guides troops. If you’d like to get your group involved, you can find out more about how to get involved at the BCAs site, here: http://britishcomicawards.com/awards/young-peoples-comic-award/

 

 

 

Comic Club Spotlight with Ellie Egleton

Ellie Egleton tells Hannah Sackett all about her experience of running a comic club.

Can you tell me about the comic club you ran at your old school? What did you do in a typical session? I am currently preparing for my postgraduate teacher training course and so for work experience I returned to my secondary school as a teaching assistant. I really enjoyed the work and so I asked if I could please organise an after-school Comic Book Club which I was kindly allowed to do.

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Every Friday I had a group of students, ranging from 11-15 years old, come to my Comic Book Club! It was great to see a real mix of boys and girls! The activities varied from week to week but the basic idea behind the club was to give the students a starting point where they can jump into reading comics. I have found that with the volumes and volumes of comic books published, it is often difficult to know where to start reading. So, I would prepare a PowerPoint showcasing a particular character such as Spider-Man or the Avengers (usually characters who the students requested) and give them an introduction into the character’s history and recommended my favourite stories. To finish we would have a fun quiz based on the character and I would give out comic books as prizes!

We threw a Batman murder mystery party where the Joker had been “killed” and the students each had a part to play to work out who had committed the crime. My Dad also came in as a guest speaker a few times to show the students some cool comic booksranging from classic back issues to first appearances and issue ones. We also had weeks where I would help the kids create their own comic books and they wrote and drew some amazing things!

We all had a great time geeking out at Comic Book Club! All of my PowerPoint slides have been posted at http://thamesmeadcomicbookclub.blogspot.co.uk/ , a blog I made for the kids to refer back to and to help those interested in starting their own comic book club!

Did club members have a favourite activity? I think that the comic book quizzes were very popular! The kids had the choice whether they wanted to work on their own or in a team and there was certainly some friendly competition! I think that the students also really enjoyed leading the session. We would often discuss what they were reading or creating and so Comic Book Club members became a close friendship group which was nice as I’m not sure if the students would have had a chance to interact with one another outside of the club. Sometimes the kids would create their own PowerPoints to showcase the characters that they loved reading!fig-06


Can you tell me about the research you’re doing at the moment? 
I am currently conducting research for my dissertation which is to investigate how comic books can be used in the classroom to help students’ with their ongoing identity development! It has been great interviewing teachers about how they might incorporate comic books into class and running activities with students to see how they may relate to characters such as Spider-Gwen and Ms Marvel! I am also organising activities where the students can create their own comic books all about their identity in order to explore what is important to them and what makes them who they are! I think that comic books can be very useful in the classroom as resources which students can relate to and be creative with! My dissertation project is due in April and so I look forward to concluding the research!

In addition to all this, you also find time to make a web comic! Haha yes! When I was at school I wrote an all-ages book called Classified Files of a Superhero which I am now lucky enough to be making into a graphic novel! Classified Files of a Superhero had a very small print run, only 100 copies, which went to family, friends and a few book shops. Now, the graphic novel is being published page by page over at http://powerpunchbootcamp.tumblr.com/  featuring art by Kurt Wood (@kurtwooddotcom) and Alejandro Rosado (@aleroart).

Power Punch Boot Camp is a place for future heroes, world domination and pancakes and is absolutely my childhood dream come true! I loved showing the Comic Book Club kids the process behind making the comic and I hope that it has inspired them to carry on creating!

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Which comics should we be reading right now? This is a very tricky question as there are so many great comic books out there right now! Recently, I have really enjoyed reading Gwenpool! I think it is such a quirky, fun comic book and I really like the character! I think that the DC Comics’ Rebirth range is also a great place to either start or continue reading comics! I’ve been particularly enjoying Green Arrow, Nightwing and Titans! I am also super excited for Marvel’s new Jean Grey ongoing series and so, as a big fan of the character, I always recommend classic X-Men stories including the Dark Phoenix Saga, Phoenix Endsong and X-Men Origins Jean Grey #1! They’re some of my favourite ever comic books!


What are your plans for the coming year? 
I’m currently counting down the days until I graduate from the University of Surrey! I am looking forward to spending time in Florida over the summer at Disney and starting my teacher training in September. I also have plans to contact publishers with the Power Punch Boot Camp graphic novel and so I am keeping my fingers crossed for that one!

Many thanks to Ellie for finding the time to talk to us – we’re looking forward to hearing more about her research and wish her all the best with her PGCE and her graphic novel!

May Comics Challenge – Star In A Comic!

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For this month’s Comics Challenge we’re joining in with an awesome competition currently being run by The Phoenix, which gives YOU the chance to create a new character and then have that character appear in a brand new four-part series in the Phoenix, illustrated by ME!

For our challenge we’re going to take the idea of Starring in a Comic and run with it, giving you some tips and ideas for making some…

Comics Challenge - COMICS STARRING YOU 1Comics Challenge - COMICS STARRING YOU 2Once you’ve come up with your characters, why not enter them in the competition, and if you win, you could see them appearing in the Phoenix? Here’s all the details:

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…or head over to @phoenixcomicuk on twitter to find out more!

If you’d like to have a go at this activity with your comics club group or class, you can download this activity as a PDF worksheet, here!

Good luck!

 

April Comics Challenge: LET’S ALL DRAW UNICORNS with Sarah McIntyre!

For our April comics challenge, we’re joining in with a fun challenge set by the inimitable Sarah McIntyre! Sarah is currently the writer-and-illustrator-in-residence at Booktrust, and they are running a fantastic competition called Pictures First where you can make a drawing and then have that drawing turned into a short story or poem by a Famous Writer Person! And you can enter this competition in the funnest way imaginable… by DRAWING UNICORNS.

You can read all about the competition over on Booktrust’s blog! Here Sarah shows step-by-step how to draw her character Dumpling the Unicorn:

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And here’s Sarah explaining what she wants to see in your drawings!

I don’t just want to see ordinary pretty pictures of a unicorn with flowers and rainbows. Your picture needs to spark a story, and you have to give the writer lots of visual clues, interesting and unusual unexplained details they can use to inspire their story. And there needs to be some DRAMA, your unicorn is in some sort of peril, or caught up in a situation that makes the viewer think, HEY WAIT, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??

 

This can be anything from danger (hanging off a ledge on Mt Everest, battling in a fighter jet) to embarrassment (suddenly appearing in front of the class in only polka-dot knickers, farting in a lift).

 

The people who win the competition will be thinking of several things:

  • WHERE is your unicorn? Is it deep-sea diving? At a chip shop? On Mars?
  • What’s it standing on? Concrete? Lava? Moon craters? Broken crockery? Or is it falling from some great height?
  • How big is your unicorn? Is it tiny enough to live in a matchbox? The size of a pony? Or enormous like Godzilla? How can you show that in the picture?
  • Mood? Different colours can influence the mood of your picture. A yellow background might make it look cheerful and sunny – or possibly toxic. A spotch of red or hot pink can make something stand out so we notice it.

  • Is your unicorn wearing anything? It might be wearing anything from basic bows or a horse blanket to a full Marie Antoinette costume or a sparkly disco suit. It’s mane and tail might be styled. Or not.
  • Who else? Are there other characters in the picture? A group of elves in a forest will suggest a very different setting to, say, a group of school children on a football pitch, workers on a construction site, or a Jurassic lake full of dinosaurs.
  • Expression? Does your unicorn look angry? Embarrassed? Worried? Over-caffeinated? Strangely chilled out, considering the dire circumstances?

 

Head on over to Booktrust to find out how to enter this fantastic competition! And if you’re on twitter, be sure to tweet pictures of your drawings to @Booktrust with the hashtag #DumplingTheUnicorn!

Top Tips for Making Comics!

There is, of course, a lot to be said about the art and theory of making comics – indeed, some people have written whole books on the subject – but on the other hand, there isn’t. If you’re working with kids who are just starting out, there are a couple of incredibly simple tips that will do a lot to help make their comics clear and readable. And these are:

how-to-make-legibile-comics-2 This is the big one! It’s worth restating over and over again, at the start of every session if needs be.

To go a step further, it’s good to encourage the kids to think about what the characters are going to be saying as they plan the panels, to ensure there’ll be plenty of room and to make sure that reading order flows nicely, and avoids the following kinds of confusion:

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Also:

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While we’re on lettering: you don’t want to be too prescriptive necessarily, but I find it can be helpful to think about HOW the lettering’s going to look – the joined-up cursive script that kids are dutifully practising in other lessons may not be the best fit for making readable comics. Or in other words:

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AND FINALLY: all panel layouts and ways of combining images as a sequential narrative are of course valid: but again, just when you’re starting out it may be helpful to reinforce the message to stick to clearly defined panel borders with, crucially, a gap between them.

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That’s it! Once more, the first one’s the biggie: if you want to pick one thing to focus on, let that be it.

(These strips feature Professor Panels of How To Make Awesome Comics, appearing here by courtesy of The Phoenix.)  

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