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Comic books are a unique medium. They add a visual dimension to storytelling, but still leave room for the imagination. And there’s only one thing more fun than reading one- and that’s making one.
Comic books have their beginnings in the hieroglyphics of Egypt according to some, but it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the traditional balloon symbol was added to contain characters’ speech. This is usually attributed to Richard Fenton Outcalt’s 1896 comic “The Yellow Kid”.
Most early comics centered on a humorous theme, hence the terms “comic book” or “funnies”. As time went on, more dramatic themes were created, many with “super-heroes” as key figures. The 1920’s and 30’s saw a big rise in this medium as the art form spread to other areas of the world.
One of the wonderful things about comics is that anyone with a story to tell can make one. Currently there are 850 schools in the United States alone that have adopted the initiative “The Comic Book Project” as a means of promoting literacy.
Would your youngster like to make a comic strip? It becomes possible with a few simple materials and an active imagination.
Grades K to 3rd
As soon as your child is able to grip a pencil with some control, they will be able to at least draw characters and a setting. Use another comic as a model, perhaps one you have made and shared with them. Then follow these steps:
Have your child dictate a story. Distill the events and key words so there is little fluff. Don’t worry about dividing the words into frames, just record them for now.
Start sketching key events on 4 or 5 inch square papers, creating a kind of story board. If your child is able, have them do this. Order them by penciling in numbers in one corner.
Have your child practice drawing key characters so that they will be recognizable in the final version.
Decide together what characters will be doing or saying in each frame. Eliminate extra frames and create new ones to flesh out the story. Place the text in balloons or strips on frames that need them. This is your rough draft.
A younger child may want to start out with a 3 to 6 frame story. Words are optional if pictures can tell the story. Once you have gotten the story down and are satisfied with your character development, you can begin to create final frames.
Working on separate frames (full page frames are good for 5 and 6 year olds; smaller ones for 7 to 9 year olds), compose the story. Use crayon or markers to color your frames. Don’t forget to add marks that express what the characters are going through- like anger, confusion, happiness, love and frustration. Make sure you leave enough room for words and speech balloons. Use pencil for words until your child is older.
Place completed squares on card stock, using a glue stick to attach them in order. Design a cover with the title of your comic and list the author(s) and illustrator(s). Bind by stapling or using a punch and fastening with yarn. Don’t forget to date the final copy. Have fun sharing with your child’s friends and relatives.
This simple process will probably take several sittings, depending on the concept and your child’s age. Have fun with it. If your child seems frustrated, put it away for a rainy day and then come back to it. Have fun and reserve criticism so that your child will want to continue using comics as a means of storytelling.
Major points to address:
Grades 4 to 6th
Older children can produce more complicated storylines and more sophisticated art work. The same process listed above can be followed. Your child may want to use index cards to write and order the events of their story. They will probably be able to write a story without dictating to you.
At this age, colored pencils can be used for art work and a fine roller marker for written portions and balloons. If handwriting seems too difficult, try using Word with Comic Sans or other font, cutting out strips of words to fit in the balloons. Use spell check or a dictionary to finalize spelling.
Let your child know that they may need to make several tries at a frame before they get it the way they want it. Kids this age can easily produce a comic of 6 to 12 frames or more.
Try to have several types of comics for your child to use as sources for ideas and examples of layouts. Your child may want to start a comic club with a few friends so that they will have an audience for their work and a supply of comics to read. Or a birthday celebration could be centered on a comic book theme where all children would have an opportunity to try their hand at making one.
Your child may or may not want your help, so try to be responsive to their degree of independence. Most of all, have fun. Your child’s creation will likely be a keepsake and a source of great pride.
Main points to address:
Posted in Leisure.