Making Graphic Novels is Fun

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Students at work awaiting their time with me.

I had no idea what to expect when I stepped into room 413 of the Fox Building. I knew I told my students we’d start at 5 but as I hurried in at 4:40, the room was already full of expectant people. They knew me only by what they read and Jose Villarubia’s sterling recommendation, but what would happen?

As it turns out, our first five weeks of the Making Graphic Novels course have been a reciprocal experience. That first day, I spoke about myself and my career, reassuring them I knew how to help shape their stories.

Each student gamely stepped up and gave a short presentation of their story, their characters, and, interestingly, the influences they were drawing upon. Thankfully, I recognized most of the names being bandied about. Each concluded with their proposed schedule, assuring that a 30-page graphic story would be done by December 13.

Joe is walking the class through his presentation for the story he will create this semester.

After that, each week, I have had the students arrive in two shifts, the first from 5-7 p.m., who would meet with me one-on-one while the others worked and received peer feedback. Then, I’d run downstairs to the café, grab a sandwich (thankfully, they make good paninis), and return for the 7-9 p.m. shift.

As we’ve gotten to know one another, they ask questions that go beyond the story they’re working on, often about comics or my career. In turn, I ask them to walk me through all the digital tools they’re using. My 16 students (yes, one dared drop the course) range from traditional pencil and ink on Bristol board (one going so far as to rule his pages for European album dimensions) to various table-based drawing software.

I enjoy listening to the students peer reviewing one another, being constructive and helpful.

The stories range from a drunken groundhog to warrior cats to fantasy to drama. I appreciate the range of subject matter and the varying art styles. In many cases, they are genuinely appreciative of my story and dialogue suggestions. I even showed one how to redraw a page to maximize the drama.

Jose and Carla Speed McNeil, who also teaches there, report back they’re hearing good things from the students, who range from early 20s to early 30s. Apparently, my department chair is also happy since she showed me my spring schedule, so I guess I am back for a second round.

While it makes for a long day, I find myself looking forward to it as I drive along I-95 and love exercising my comic book muscles.

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