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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March Comics Challenge: COMICS JAMS!

A great way to get kids started writing and drawing their own comics is to make it into a fun game, and one great way to do that is with Comics Jams!

What is a Comics Jam, I hear you ask? Let’s find out!

 

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This activity can be huge amounts of fun, and serves as a great Creative Icebreaker to get groups writing and drawing. And can lead to all kinds of unexpected and hilarious results. Here is a personal favourite, from one of Neill’s Comics Club groups in Oxford: the strange and slightly heartbreaking tale of Mr Chip, and his adventures in the world of dating…

 

The wonderful writer and illustrator Sarah McIntyre has lots more excellent advice about making comics jams – check out her blog post on the subject!

If you’d like to use this activity in your own classes or groups, you can get the whole thing as an activity sheet by just clicking on the following images:

Or you can download as a PDF, here!

We’d love to see what you come up with – please send your own pictures and comics to info@comicsclub.blog, or tweet them at us at @ComicsClubBLOG – we’ll be sharing some of the best!

 

 

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Creating Characters!

Have you had a go at our February Comics Challenge yet? Lots of fine people have, taking Jamie Smart‘s top-notch tips and creating all sorts of strange and remarkable characters. Let’s have a look!

First, here are some of the amazing creations from Neill’s Comics Club group at The Story Museum in Oxford:

DJ DUCK, by Morrigan!

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The **CATEGORICALLY NOT CUTE** Floating tozbot, by Sabeen!

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The frankly extraordinary MR DEPRESSED LATTE MAN, by Eliza!

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The (extremely positive) FLYING MAGIC CLOUD SHEEP, by Jack!

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The (adorable) GINGERBREAD BOY, by Freddie!

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The (angry) Ballet Pig MR BALLA ANGRY, by Libby:

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…and lots more! (Sorry to everyone I didn’t get a photo for!)

It was great seeing other people join in on twitter, too:

Once you’ve created a character, of course, the fun part is making up a whole story about them! Neill’s usual starting point for story structure looks like this:

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But in honour of Jamie’s work, this time we tried a variant, which looked a bit more like this:

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…and which led to some HIGHLY ENTERTAINING results:

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(AMAZING. I do love a story with a moral, apart from anything else.)

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(HARROWING).

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(MACHO APPLEJUICE)

…anyway, why not try this out yourself? you can find Jamie’s activity sheet as a download here, and a stack of blank comics pages right here. Let us know how you get on!

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February Comics Challenge: Create a Character with Jamie Smart!

For this month’s comics challenge we are very lucky to have an activity designed by the amazing, talented and wholly indescribable Jamie Smart! Jamie is the prolific cartoonist, creator of Bunny VS Monkey and Looshkin in The Phoenix, as well as Find Chaffy, Where’s the Doctor, and MANY MANY MORE, not to mention being the creator and editor of the incredible all-ages anthology comic Moose Kid Comics. One of Jamie’s signature talents is his knack for creating unique, distinctive and hilarious characters, so for this month’s Comics Challenge he’s showing us how to do just that!

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If you’re doing this activity with a group, try brainstorming a load of suggestions at step 1 and writing them all up on the board / flipchart / wall / whatever, and then picking one to draw – that way you’ve got loads more ideas for when everyone else has a go!

Here’s the whole thing as an activity sheet, ready to be drawn on:

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Or: download as a PDF!

Have a go yourselves, and do show us what you come up with! We’d love to see your characters – get in touch through our contact page or tweet them at us at @ComicsclubBLOG!

Thanks so much to Jamie for letting us use this! If yo’re putting together a collection of Great Comics For Kids, Jamie’s work is an excellent place to start. You can buy his books such as Bunny VS Monkey (3 volumes so far, and beloved favourites all) in all good bookshops or direct from the Phoenix.

 

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You can also read all 3 issues to date (plus one Christmas special!) of Jamie’s incredible Moose Kid Comics project online. For free!

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And be sure to check out Jamie’s website for more details on ALL HIS OTHER STUFF! There is a lot of stuff! The guy is VERY PRODUCTIVE!

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How To Start Up a Comic Club

We here at comicsclub.blog are all about encouraging people to start up comic clubs, and several of you have asked for some guidance on the specifics of how to go about this. To help you get started, we are incredibly lucky to feature this Guest Post by Alix Coughlin, co-founder and wrangler of Team Ketchup, self-publishing youth comic collective

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So you think that having a Comic Club would be a Really Good Thing, and a lovely idea and you know a bunch of people who would really enjoy the chance to meet up, talk about and make comics, but you don’t know where to start?

To be honest, that’s where we were at the beginning of Team Ketchup – it was just an idea, but four years later we are self-funding, published five issues of our comic, have thirty members and have exhibited at Thought Bubble three times – it grows very quickly!

So here are some ideas, based on our experiences and with the benefit of hindsight.

We initially came together to be judges for the British Comic Awards Young People’s Choice Award http://britishcomicawards.com/ as it gave us a focus and a list of books to read. The group was put together by a librarian, Joolze, and supported by me, a parent, and we persuaded one other parent to join us. Having the group in the library meant that we had access to the catalogue of books, a trained and knowledgeable children’s librarian, and a safe space. It also meant that children from different schools and of different ages could join. However, other groups at the British Comic Awards are reading groups from schools.

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Step One  – contact your local library and ask about the possibility of starting a comic club. Libraries really want young people to come to the library, and they are looking for ways of having more community involvement. It can be once a month, or once a week for a short period of time e.g. six weeks, in the first instance, so it’s not too overwhelming. The other option is to go to your local school and ask about running a reading group focused on comics. If you are looking for a focus and a reading list, then the Excelsior Award http://www.excelsioraward.co.uk/ is a good place to start, although you do have to pay to join in. It has both a Junior Award and a list more suitable for teenagers and will help you find age appropriate material if you are not a comic fan yourself.

The main point to take from Step One is that you need people to give up their time, just a little bit, in order to get the most out of it. Look for people who are enthusiastic and willing, because they will be your greatest asset. And that goes for the kids too – do they really really want to read and talk about comics? Are they passionate about super-heroes and super-powers? Do they feel like they’re the only people they know who make comics? Are they secret comics makers who haven’t shared their work before? Get them together with other people like them, and they will blossom and grow and become much more powerful than they ever thought possible! And parents who don’t “understand” comics at first will grow to realise the potential in them and what their kids get out of being part of a comic group. We have an amazing support group of parents who help out at events, we couldn’t do it without them.

Step Two – start off small, don’t have more than 10 or 12 members, it gets loud and there will be a lot of different opinions and readers of different comic styles. For every DC/Marvel fan there is an equally loud Asterix/Tintin fan. For every reader of The Phoenix comic there will be a Raina Telgemeier devotee. Also, it makes it easier to resource as you could choose a list of books to read and easily find ten different comics to share out and swap.

For a list of resources, don’t feel like you are on your own. Comics people are amazingly generous with their knowledge and skills and there are multiple Lists of Comics out there on the internet. Twitter is especially good for advice. The British Comic Awards shortlists from the last few years are a good place to start for junior clubs, and the Excelsior Awards. Both have a lot of books from The Phoenix Comic, which are essentials for any comic club https://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/product-category/comic-books/  in fact they are essentials for all libraries and schools. This http://www.booktrust.org.uk/books/children/comics-and-graphic-novels/ is a good list and is split into younger and older readers. Neill has written a list based on a seven year old http://neillcameron.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/comics-and-literacy-day-4-comics-for-7.html but that was a while ago and needs adding to (seriously Neill, what else have you got to do at the moment?). Sarah McIntyre is also an amazing advocate for comics and has written some ideas here http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/502079.html

For the first few weeks just reading and sharing ideas will keep the children busy, but introduce the idea of critiquing the books they’re reading – what do they like about them? What do they notice about the colours, characters, backgrounds, stories? Who would they recommend them to and why? Get a discussion going on what features there are in a comic that makes it stand out from other story genres, what shortcuts can be used, how is the story broken down into sections? Does it give them any ideas about their own stories or an idea for a character? The more variety of styles, drawing, characters and genres they are exposed to the better for when they start their own drawing and comic creating.

Step Three – start to think about getting the kids writing and drawing their own comics. Again, you are not on your own, there are so many inspirational comic creators out there sharing their ideas. This Comics Club blog and challenges are a fabulous place to start, and easy to follow. Get Neill’s book How to Make Awesome Comics and follow the instructions – it does what it says on the tin. Start a comic-jam with guidance from Sarah McIntyre http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/?skip=5&tag=comics%20jam

http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/tag/comics%20jam  – with a video so there’s no excuse!

It will take a lot of paper, pens and pencils (and we find biscuits help too) before the kids find their style and get into making stories that make sense or don’t end in explosions and blowing up, but it is part of the process. One of things we wish we had done at the beginning was to give guidelines on layout of the comics. Ensure the children leave a margin around their page, they use clear panels that don’t join together, and that their text is written in block capitals, with the bubbles drawn in after the text is written. If they start out knowing that this is their brief, even when planning their stories, when it is printed it will look neat and tidy and be able to be reduced from A4 to A5. Print off some comic layouts for them to help them to see the style, or encourage the use of a pencil and ruler to make their own frames.

This step might need a long time to develop it, but if you use all the resources available to you there will be lots to do, plenty of exercises to develop story telling skills and understanding of the comic format. Don’t rush it!

 

Step Four – looking for funding in order to make a printed copy. This is where links with your library will be helpful as they may know what local council funding is available, and will be able to help with applications. Have a look here https://www.gov.uk/apply-funding-community-project for what is available in your area. Go small rather than big, to begin with, save that for later!

You may choose to photocopy your comic, in which case it will be cheaper, but if you want a good quality product that will sell, make contact with a printing service. You don’t need a large first run, but work out how much it will cost, how much they will sell for , and what profit you’d need for a second run, so it becomes self-funding.

If you are linked with a school, approach the Parent/Teacher Association, or the governors, or the Literacy Co-ordinator and ask for help. Funds raised can always go back into school. Year 6s are often asked to plan and carry out an Enterprise project in their last term of school, this would be a fantastic opportunity for them to research print costs, how to market the comic, who to sell to. Local colleges with Arts students are often asked to take part in enterprise schemes too, you could approach them for support and partnership.

Step Five – the children make and print their own comic. Give them a time frame – they will need to produce a first draft for approval by you (make sure the story does not offend anyone, makes sense, and can be read) then a couple of weeks to refine and finish it. Make sure that all pencil marks are inked over and then rubbed out. It’s up to you if they are coloured or not, depends on the cost of your printing. There should be a clear margin around the comic, with panels drawn in neatly, with space for a title and the name of the author.

What we expect is two submissions from each member of the group. Then we have a final deadline meeting where they read each other’s comics and then vote on which story is the best. Then the content of your comic is democratically chosen. You could also have a competition to design and draw the front cover, and the name of your collective (do choose carefully, ours was originally The Pink Fluffy Ketchup Covered Flower Ponies!).

Once all the pages are gathered in and checked, send them off the printers and let them do their job. Plan a launch party for your comic and show the world your creation!

Hope these are helpful. Let us know how you get on and share your work. We are always open to questions. We’ve always said, we might be the first self-publishing youth comic-collective in the country, but we don’t want to be the only ones!

Get in touch – Facebook: Team Ketchup, Twitter: @theteamketchup

Email : pinkfluffyketchups@gmail.com

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Stick Stories: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Last week we shared our first-ever Comics Challenge – Stick Stories – and now we thought we’d share some of the fantastic work some of our members came up with! First, here are some of the stick-figure renditions of characters and stories from Neill’s Comics Club group at the story museum in Oxford. Let’s start with a classic!

…Stick Rapunzel, by Libby!

Here’s one that manages to condense not just one story but an entire 6-movie epic saga into 4 panels: Stick Star Wars, by Charlie!

And, proving that even alarmingly violent dystopian sci-fi can be rendered adorable in the right artistic hands, here’s The Stick Hunger Games by Lauren!

(Here’s Stick Katniss!)

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And here are are some of our amazing artists with their work!

(… there were *many more* great ones, I just can only take so many photos. Sorry if I missed you out!)

Once we posted the challenge online, we had lots more people join in with their own Stick Stories! Check out some of this gloriousness and see if you can identify the characters / stories! (Answers at the bottom).

 

 

 

 

 

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(Answers, from top to bottom: Arriety from The Borrowers, Pippi Longstocking, Batman VS Superman, Pokemon Go, An Original Composition (I think), The Hobbit,  Ant-Man, Boffing Leaves The Oven On (what, you haven’t read it? It’s great), Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami).

There’s loads more – follow us on twitter at @ComicsClubBLOG or check out the #stickstories hashtag to see them! (Thanks to everyone from Sarah McIntyre’s @StudioTeaBreak gang who joined in, that was fun!)

If you’d like to have a go at making some Stick Stories yourselves, you can find the full activity and downloadable worksheets right here!

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