Welcome to comicsclub.blog, a new site where we’ll be sharing ideas, activities and resources all designed to help encourage children make their own comics. We believe that comics – reading them and making them – are a hugely powerful way of developing children’s literacy skills and creativity. And, also, are FUN.
There are many local groups and comics clubs around the country doing excellent work with kids already; this blog is intended as hopefully a way of joining up some of those efforts; of sharing ideas and resources and encouraging more people to set up comics clubs in their own schools and libraries and communities.
I’m Neill Cameron, I’m a writer and cartoonist (you can find out more about my own work here). I suppose what’s relevant here is that I made a book called How to Make Awesome Comics, and I’ve spent the last coming-up-on-a-decade teaching comics workshops in schools and libraries and at festivals all over the UK. I currently run a monthly comics club with a group of amazing kids at the Story Museum in Oxford, and I thought it would be fun to share some of what we do there, and also to join in with the great stuff that others are doing all over the country.
I wanted to set up this site because… well, because I think comics matter. Here’s an excerpt from a blog post I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago, which is possibly my best attempt to explain why:
Comics matter, for all the reasons that reading matters. Learning to read makes a tangible, measurable difference to children’s lives and prospects, in terms of economic outcomes and quality of life. And comics are – have been, can be, will be again – a huge part of learning to read. Of reading for pleasure; of coming to love reading; making it not something that is enforced from above, a Discipline That Must Be Mastered, but something so exciting and cool and mind-blowingly awesome that it has to be torn out of kids’ hands when it’s time to go to bed.
And if any part of you is wondering if this is still true, if children still have that response to comics, then let me put your mind to rest right now: they do. They absolutely do. Comics perform a fantastic dual purpose:
- providing kids with a visual narrative that they can follow and engage with while their verbal literacy skills are still developing, thus encouraging the development of those skills
- offering unique opportunities for exciting subject matter that can hook kids imaginations, lending itself to strong visuals. Robots! Dinosaurs! Mutant rabbits with laser nunchuks! COMICS.
When kids actually get to see comics, when they are given exciting stories and phenomenal artwork and funny jokes about beavers doing a radioactive poo, they flip out. They dive in with both feet and get lost and fall for comics so hard that it alternately makes me inspired and delighted and, actually, angry.
Angry because I’ve seen, first hand and over and over again, just how much enjoyment and hilarity and genuine learning and TANGIBLE INCREASES IN READING DEVELOPMENT kids get from comics like Corpse Talk, or Dungeon Fun, or Moose Kid, or Star Cat. And because I know, all too well, that those comics are not a part of the lives of the vast majority of children, right now. They’re not in the corner shop, they’re not in big rainy day trunks at school, they’re not in the dentist’s waiting room. They are, to generalise wildly, the province of a privileged few: those with parents who can afford them and have even heard of them in the first place. All of which immediately limits your reach down dramatically to a pretty small circle of ‘in the know’ people. And whilst I love those people to bits and indeed am one of them, I think we can all agree it’s not enough. We need to break past that circle, to explode the art form outwards and back to where it should be; an available, accessible, affordable part of the lives of all children.
To start with, this blog will be posting monthly Comics Challenges – fun activities designed to kickstart a comics club session, some of them contributed by Neill, but also by a range of amazing cartoonists who’ll be joining in and sharing ideas.
One thing we’ll be focusing on is designing activities with a view to being achievable by non-professional artists. One of the founding principles of this blog is that Anyone Can Draw, Even People Who Think They Can’t Draw, with the corollary that Drawing Is Fun And You Should Totally Have a Go. We’ll also be looking at the amazing work being done by kids in comics clubs around the country, and sharing ideas and advice from group leaders on how to set up your own club.
Our first Comics Challenge will be appearing right here in two days, on Friday 13th January 2017. Sharpen your pencils, grab some paper and sit in EAGER ANTICIPATION, it’s going to be fun!
In the meantime, we’ll be trying to use this site as a hub for Useful Resources – you can find some blank comics page templates to print off and use, a list of recommended books on making comics (including the one I made, CONFLICT OF INTEREST WARNING), and links to some useful stuff you can find around the web.
If you’d like to be kept up to date on what we’re getting up to here at comicsclub.blog, you can:
- follow us on twitter at @ComicsClubBLOG, or
- sign up to our mailing list for regular monthly rounds-ups!
And finally, we’d love to hear from YOU – on twitter or you can use our Contact page to get in touch. Particularly we’d like to hear from…
- Teachers and Librarians! If you run a comics club already, or are thinking of setting one up, drop us a line! We’re hoping to feature work from as many different groups as possible, so please do let us know what you’re doing and help us shout about it!
- Comics Creators and festival organisers! If you have any public comics workshops / events coming up, let us know about them so we can feature them on our Events page!
- Literally anyone with a good idea. We’re just starting out here and we’d love to hear your thoughts – on what you’d like to see, on what would be useful – on any ways YOU might be able to help us. Our goal is to Help Awesome Kids Make Awesome Comics, and we’d love it if you could help us with that.
Image credits: illustrations (c) 2017 by Neill Cameron. Photos in this post feature work by: The Students of Neill’s Comics Club groups at The Story Museum, The Pupils of Wood Farm School, The Pupils of Lent Rise School, Jonny Toons, Jordan Vigay, Zoom Rockman, Team Ketchup, Byron & Indigo Buchan, Neill & James Cameron.