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In the English ClassroomFEB
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Top Ten Graphic Novels Recommended for the ClassroomDr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy adapt Robert Louis Stevensons classic tale in a stunning, yet faithful adaptation. Also available in a Scots translation by Matthew Fitt. Maus Pulitzer Prize winning account by Art Spiegelman of his fathers experiences in a WWII concentration camp. Gripping and emotional, the book uses the visual metaphor of cats and mice not to trivialise, but to individualise the horrors of the holocaust. We3 Grant Morrisons western manga about three animal test subjects who escape from a lab in search of home. Raises many questions about humanity, freedom, and the nature of language while continuing to stun with Frank Quitely and Jamie Grants artwork. Charleys War The graphic equivalent of Dulce et Decorum est, Pat Mills pens this moving tale of one mans experience in the trenches that sent shockwaves through the comics industry on its first publication. Persepolis Marjane Satrapis autobiographical account of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and its effects on school, family and home. Adapted into an animated film. Classical Comics: Macbeth Available in original or simplified text versions, brings one of Shakespeares most revered dramas to life in all its blood-stained magical glory. Tale of One Bad Rat Brian Talbots award winning story of a young girls escape from abuse, filtered through the works of Beatrix Potter. Watchmen Often referred to as the Citizen Kane of comics, Alan Moores postmodern take on superheroes revolutionised the graphic novel. Currently being film as a live-action feature. Palestine A journalists eye-witness account of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the first Intifada. Surprisingly humourous, Joe Sacco still captures the heart of a complex political situation. The Sandman Neil Gaimans masterpiece of fantasy storytelling that takes a guided tour through over 3000 years of fable with some of the most unforgettable characters ever set to paper. Spider-Man: Blue Dream team duo of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale take on Spider-Man with surprising depth and emotion. Deals with Peter Parkers awkward relationships against a background of impossible super villains.
Comics TerminologySplash panel. Also, splash page (if full page)
Speech balloon/ bubble
Bleed (image runs off page) Also, full bleed, image runs off page on all sides.
Page Panel/ frame
"Camera" angles shot-reverse shot close up long shot
Gutter (space between panels) Narrative box/ voice-over Emanata Other terms Spread: two facing pages in a printed book Recto/verso: technical terms for pages in a spread. Recto = right page, verso = left page Printers spread: the layout of pages for printing. Not the same as a spread in a printed book. Thumbnail: a rough sketch of a comic, delineating placement of figures, word balloons, and background elements, as well as content of word balloons. Pencil: a relatively defined drawing preliminary to the final inked stage. Inks: the final stage of a comics drawing (applying ink to the pencil guidelines) Mockup: a rough layout of pages to plan a book Paste-up: the final artwork pages ready for printing Indicia: important copyright and other legal information printed in a book, usually at the beginning. Thought Borderless panel balloon/bubble
Literary Devices with ComicsOften comics will contain very sophisticated literary devices, but since it is a visual medium, it is often hard to spot them. Foreshadowing: Authors use a number of techniques to foreshadow, including dialogue that reveals a character trait, describing the behaviour of one or more characters, a plot turn that alters the circumstances for a character, or a brief setting change that divulges information that will become crucial later in the story. Similar techniques are used in comics, but often through the art as opposed to the words. Examine the pictures on the next three pages from the wordless graphic novel Tuesday by David Wiesner. 1) What kind of mood do they present? 2) How is this achieved? 3) What is the effect of getting closer and closer to the lizard on the first page? 4) How does the last panel of the first page relate to the double page spread that follows? The twist on the second page is surprising, due to its surreal image of flying frogs, but not unexpected, due to the foreshadowing.. Task: Now, try to write a description of the scene that unfolds over the first three pages of Tuesday. Be as descriptive as you can, and try to make the revelation of the frogs as shocking as possible (often hard to do when you are writing at a slower pace!) Onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia is where a writer attempts to imitate a sound with words. This is a technique more often associated with comics than literature - especially if you have ever seen the 1960s Batman TV series! Comics have to be very descriptive with their onomatopoeia, as there is often a lot of action in a single panel and the reader has to know which action the sound refers to. For example, guns will never go Bang! in comics, they will go Blam!, Brrrekkk or Braka! Braka! Braka! Task: Examine a variety of comics, then note down interesting uses of onomatopoeia and what sounds they are describing, e.g. Kunkk - a metal door being slammed. Use this technique in your own writing, to make the sounds more interesting and individual. Forget clocks going tick tock - what sound do they really make?
Poetry and ComicsEvery word in a poem counts. A word conjures an image, images juxtaposed to create something new or suggest something elusive. Comics, like poetry, are about simplifying and paring down. There is only so much space on a page and every mark must count. Visual concerns are crucial for both media. A cartoonist cascades panels across a page as a poet decides the placement of each line and letter. In the examples show here students were asked to create a twelve panel grid and have text in each panel that alternatively begins, I used to believe/but now I know. This exercise comes from Kenneth Kochs Wishes, Lies and Dreams which is full of great exercises for teaching poetry, many of which encourage the juxtaposition of language in interesting ways. When done with comics, this exercise can add visual juxtaposition to the mix.
Silent Joke Cartoon ExerciseStep One:
From the list below, choose a cliche scenario. Draw a cartoon based on that scenario, but do not add a caption. Draw it as if a caption existed, so one character (specified by the word caption) will have their mouth open as if they were saying something.Scenarios: A man with a cast in a hospital bed, with a visitor by his side. (Caption: either) A business meeting at a long desk with a man at the head pointing to a graph chart going down. (Caption: man at graph) Over-the-shoulder view of someone looking at a dialogue box on their computer. (Caption: dialogue box) Martians coming out of their flying saucer in the middle of a cow pasture. One of the Martians is saying something to a cow. (Caption: Martian) A child on Santas knee at a shopping centre. (Caption: child) Two cavemen standing in front of a stone wheel. One of them has a hammer and chisel, as if he had just finished making it. (Caption: either caveman)
Pass your drawings to a partner who will then write five captions for the scenario.Step Three:
Draw another captionless joke. Make the drawing any scenario you want, but try not to make it a cliche. Again, swap with a partner and write five captions for each others drawings. For inspiration, look at some of Gary Larsons Far Side cartoons.
Creating a CharacterHere are 20 questions to create a quality character. The idea is that your character should be someone that would be able to exist in the real world, with likes and dislikes, a past, a future, desires and flaws, just like all of us. Try to answer the questions as creatively and realistically as possible. Physical description: 1. Name: 2. Age: 3. Sex: 4. Ethnicity: 5. Description of features and mannerisms: Personal/professional history: 1. Education: 2. Occupation: 3. Description of parents: 4. Description of upbringing/childhood: 5. Main relationships: 6. Type/intensity of religion, if any: Personality: 1. Basic personality traits (thoughtful, angry, goofy, etc.) 2. Shortcomings/weaknesses: 3. Strengths/special abilities: What makes this character tick? 1. Driving motivation(s) or goals: Interrogate your character: 1. Dirty secret: 2. First love: 3. Favourite music and/or art: 4. Incident that created a scar, either physical or mental: 5. Describe a turning point in character's life:
Developing and exploring a CharacterLook over the details of the character you created before and now draw a sketch of them. Explore the character in the following timed writing exercises of five minutes each. Important is to write slowly, and keep your pen or pencil moving. Write the images and ideas that appear in your head as you relax and try to focus on seeing the character.
If you get stuck, write "WHAT IF" and continue from there, allowing your writing to take surprising turns.
iting! Don't stop wr
For example, if you are writing, "John the ape is blue with scales and is moving slowly down the hill towards the town," and then get stuck, try "WHAT IF?" For instance, "WHAT IF he is not walking, but he is sledding down the hill, on a giant billboard..." In other words, let your ideas and images change to something different, even if they seem ludicrous. Write on the following for five minutes each. Keep your pen moving during each one, and use, "WHAT IF?" to get yourself unstuck if you need to. 1) Write something the character wants. It can be world peace, the end of evil or a glass of water. It could be as simple or grand as your imagination wants it to be. Write the first thing that comes to mind, and let it change as you follow the train of thought. By the end of this five minutes, you may find that your character wants something different than you originally believed. Describe and envision your character's LAST fight or argument with another character -it can be a mother, an enemy, a friend, a grocer -- whomever. Just imagine an argument or fight, and imagine that this is the FINAL time this fight will ever happen. Describe it visually or with dialogue if you like. Just remember to see it in your mind, write slowly and follow the imagery you see. Write what you see. In the same way, describe the character's death. Imagine how you see the character living his or her last moments. You are not defining the character's entire story arc here; you are merely playing with the POSSIBLE ways your character might die. Use "WHAT IF..." if you get stuck. You may find yourself describing numerous deaths for the same character. All this writing reveals more about the personality and drive of your character. In the same way as above, describe an imagined CHILDHOOD SCENE. Briefly make a list of objects in the character's pocket, backpack, in his car, or something he is holding. Make a list of possible objects. Begin with one of them and describe a scene with that object. Is your character giving it to someone? Receiving it? How is she using it? Who else wants if? Again, don't answer these questions directly, just describe a scene.
Writing a simple narrativeYou are now going to write a very simple story about your character to get to know them better. Your story should deal with your characters journey somewhere ordinary (the coffee shop, their work, school, etc. - you decide!). It should be grounded in reality, but try to add some imaginary elements. You story should have a solid structure (see the diagram over the page if you need reminding about the basic three-act structure) so you need to determine where and when it will start and where it will end. It must logically conclude somewhere near their destination. Task: This will be a single page comic with 9 panels. Produce a script for your story, remembering to be mindful of how much information can actually fit into a single panel of a comic. When this is finished, you will produce TWO versions of the story! Version 1: In 9 panels, tell the story purely visually, with no text or sound effects. In this version it might help to imagine that a companion who travels with (or near) your character for the entire journey holds the "camera." Imagine this person is using a still camera, with limited ability to zoom or get too close to them; the camera work should be very limited. The camera has just 9 shots left. Version 2: In 9 panels tell the story purely visually, again with no text or sound effects. Taking EXACTLY THE SAME MOMENTS from version 1, tell the story this time with much more ambitious camera work. Your budget is limitless -- you can use helicopters, cranes, etc. With this camera work you must ENHANCE the storytelling. Be sure to use shots that promote storytelling. You might wish to use this camera work to convey an overall idea, or create a certain ambience. But remember, you can't change the actual events, only the way we view this action. So if in panel 1 version 1 the character is just getting out of bed, then you must chose the exact same moment (with a different view) for version 2. Compare the two versions and see how the same story can be radically changed by the use of thoughtful and adventurous camera work. Extension: Once you've completed both versions, compare and contrast the effectiveness of the stories. Now, take version 2 and ADD 3 more moments. These could be between existing panels, or at the beginning or end, consecutive or not. Essentially you're "filling the gaps". Now you have a chance to tell the story injecting a different mood and/or atmosphere. Task: Finally combine both versions into one big story. Use all the panels from version 1 and version 2. See how the "simple" and more ambitious shots work surprisingly well next to each other. Maybe a mixture of shot types is a good style of storytelling? Finally, chose any number of panels to form your ideal version of the story, as few as you wish or all of them.
Andy Runtons Owly comics are great examples of this simple, yet effective, silent storytelling.
Three Act StructureII.ConflictCONFLICT RESOLUTION
III. Resolutionof conflict, either temporarily or permanently
(If they are new chararacters you need to establish their personality somehow)
(time and place)
+Reactions of characters which are motivated by their characteristics(of person or relationships between characters)
(Things return to normal.)
+ Reversals Complications Secondary conflicts AND, eventually...
(Things have changed, fundamentally or superficially.)
An Action, Event or Situation (a new
character, a sudden change, etc.)
Of course, this is not all that happens in a good story, whether it's comics or something else. Soon we will also be talking about: digressions, observations, flashbacks, mood pieces, slices of life, themes & leitmotifs, and other things that happen in and around the story itself.
AutobiographyWriting about yourself is often one of the hardest things to do, since real life does not follow the rules of fiction and people are rarely as interesting as characters in a comic. One of the main traps that people fall into is thinking, ...but nothing interesting has happened to me! - mature fiction, though, often relies on the small things, rather than cataclysmic events. For inspiration, read the short stories of James Kelman, alongside the autobiographical comics of Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb for an idea of what sophisticated, subtle storytelling can achieve. Task: Write a 2-3 page story in thumbnail form about an event that changed you in some way. But please please please make it a SMALL change. You can't adequately cover your feelings about a death of a person close to you or a divorce of parents or something like that in 2-3 pages. Try to think of something like when you changed your mind about something, or maybe changed your clothes. Do: Autobiography is a kind of self-portrait. It's not about what you did, it's about who you are. Find a story to tell that has something to say about you and the way you are. Think about structure: You need to impose, if not 3-act structure, then at least some kind of cadence or rhythm on events that may not have had any structure at all. Be tough with yourself and be honest about your role in events and how others act towards you. Don't: Don't just write an anecdote, that is, don't just tell a funny story you would tell at a party. You'll end up with a you had to be there kind of feeling. Don't rely on narration too much (where the images just illustrate a story you're narrating). There are lots of options here: only dialogue, modest narration augmented by dialogue, full narration with images showing contrasting image narration. Don't be self-indulgent: avoid self-aggrandizing and also self-pity. Dont use cliched conclusions or morals. In fact, avoid morals entirely. If there's a lesson to be learned, let it be understood by your readers rather than telling them outright.
Other Ideas for Comics in the ClassroomMyths and Legends Pupils recreate a myth or legend about a culture they have studied. They could either retell one they know, focusing on the artwork, or they could write themselves into a tale involving those mythical characters a la The Sandman. Interviews Students could conduct a comics interview (in the style of Maus or Palestine) with a historical figure such as Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill or Genghis Khan; or a character from a novel they have studied, making sure to move away from a talking heads format to illustrate what the character is saying. The skill will come in making sure that they do not write what the reader can already see and vice versa. Time, Continuity and Change Have students retell a historical event, or an event from a novel they have read from a perspective not normally chosen (as in Persepolis or even Charleys War). For example, a war through the eyes of a child, the Salem witch trials from the perspective of an afflicted girl, Lady Macbeths decent into madness from the perspective of her servant, Winston Smiths interrogation from the perspective of the Thought Police, etc... Mixed-up homonyms This can be a hard part of spelling/language for students to learn, so make it fun with humour. Have students brainstorm a list of homonyms. Then have students create short comic strips to show how the meaning of a sentence or idea is changed when the wrong word (homonym) is used. Personification Poetry Students write a poem which personifies an object and create a comic to visually illustrate their poem. They should choose something non-human and brainstorm feelings and experiences that might apply to it. They then personify their subject in a poem. When transferring this into a graphic format, it can be interesting to go beyond mere illustration and to work in some visual juxtapositions or images that play off ambiguity in the words.
Editing and peer assessmentNow that you have finished writing and illustrating your comic, you should reflect on your work. This will help you to note what went right this time and, also, how you can improve next time you write a story. Swap your comics with a partner and answer the following questions about each others comic. These are the types of questions that real-life comic editors and publishers use to see whether a story is fit to print or not. Talk about the story: Is there a 3-act structure? Who is the main character and what is his/her motivating desire or need? How is that need addressed? How is the story resolved? Do you think that the author has made the story compelling? How? Did you find it satisfying? Why or why not? Talk about the timing: Did the story fit the length? (i.e., did it feel cramped or overlong?) Where should the story be compressed or lengthened? Was closure used in an interesting way at any particular point? Talk about the art: How appropriate is the art to the story? What panel(s) did you like the best? Why? Choose a panel that needs work. What would you suggest? How well integrated are the drawings and the words? Can they exist apart, or are they interdependent? Look for a place where drawing takes the place of words. Talk about the writing: Is the dialogue well-written? Do the characters have individual, distinctive voices? Are descriptions well chosen, or do they repeat what is visible in the drawing?