Friday with the Cartooning Class

Okay. After last week's heavy discussions of comics theory and story structure, I thought it was time for something a little lighter. Plus, it's the last week of school for my 6th and 7th-grade cartooning students, and so as a sort of celebration of what was a really great school year for us, and in answer to, oh, TENS of requests, I am reproducing some pages from our student 'zines. That's right, the column that I did Because You Demanded It!

First of all, here's a cover from Katrina, whom some of you may recall me writing about back in this column a couple of months ago. Usually when the kids ask me for cover suggestions I say, "Something that suggests a collection of stuff from the whole class." So Katrina by God tried to represent the whole class -- that's her in her yellow convention kitty hat, standing in front of a bunch of mug shots of her classmates.

The requirement for the class 'zines, once preliminary instruction is out of the way and we are up and running for the year, is two pages of content per student. Splash pages and pin-ups are great and I am delighted to print them, but they don't count as the two pages -- I am trying to teach them real panel continuity and page layout, not early 90's hacking. It's okay for kids to collaborate, I understand that not everybody can do everything, but the requirement doesn't change -- two kids working together owe me FOUR pages, it's still two per student. Most kids this year preferred to be one-man bands but in previous years we've had groups of students set up their own little in-class studio operations, almost. That's always a hoot, seeing five twelve-year-old girls unconsciously adopting the old Eisner/Iger studio model without any input from me.

I am very rude about rejecting pages that aren't fully finished. "Backgrounds," I tell them. "I don't want a couple of heads floating in a white limbo. You have to set the scene." Occasionally the kids get a little peevish when I tell them that the page isn't done, and as you can see from this little two-pager from Emily, she has learned that the best revenge is to outflank the teacher. Here the empty-looking white limbo is actually part of the story.


Rachel is very practical and always has an eye on the bottom line.

"How about if I advertise for an upcoming story?" she wanted to know. "Like, print my splash page for the next issue but put 'coming soon' at the top?" I allowed as how that would be okay by me, and so that's what we did.


We actually get a lot of cat-themed stories. Here's a two-page one from Kelsey.

I am occasionally asked which of my students I think will stick with it, or which ones are the best. This year I had several possible future Big Names, but really, I think Desiree is the one to beat. She's not as flashy with her actual rendering as some of the others, but Desiree has an amazing grasp of how a comics page WORKS. I do the best I can to put that across to the kids ("Change your angles! Point of view! Find the shot that works best for the STORY!") but I have never, not once in the two years she's been in my class, had to kick a page back from Desiree because I thought it wasn't clear or I couldn't tell what was going on. She is all about story.

Most of my girls tend to be giggly and they're all about trying to crack each other up. Desiree is painfully shy and quiet; I don't think I've heard her say more than "uh-huh" or "thanks, Mr. Hatcher" in the last couple of years. She worked Emerald City with us last year but had to miss this one, sadly. I did get Roberta Gregory to sign an ashcan of cat stories for her, though. She is a huge fan of Roberta's -- the family-friendly stuff that I can pass along without getting fired, anyway -- and above all Desiree loves Roberta's cat strips. The alert eye will catch the influence here, I think, though it's very much Desiree's own thing. She took the cat theme the girls have been doing the last couple of months and really ran with it. This is just an excerpt -- the kid's a factory, she averages an eight or ten-page story in every issue we publish. Ty and Tommy have been Desiree's ongoing series characters this year, and this is from one of their misadventures.

And I'm afraid that's all I've got room for. But I hope it gives you an idea of what my students are doing. I would put all their pages online if I could. As it was, I'm really grateful to Debra at our printshop for scanning these few samples for us, in a quiet moment between paying jobs.

See you next week.

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