Gearing Up for Semester Two at MICA

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Every week I conducted one-on-ones while students peer reviewed.

Adding Making Graphic Novels at MICA definitely made for some tiring weeks, but I was genuinely energized as I worked with the students on their 30-page stories. Only two flamed out, which is not a surprise. But, those who finished the work delivered some strong stories or chapters in their larger works.

We were blessed to have Comicraft founder Richard Starkings address the group about lettering for three consecutive weeks. Many hadn’t given it the consideration it deserves.

As I prepare to begin the spring semester on Wednesday, I eagerly look forward to starting with a new cohort. Five are repeaters, and there will be eleven new students to meet. We’ll begin with presentations as they introduce themselves and their proposed project, including influences and proposed timeline.

We had a pot luck holiday party on our final day as students presented an overview of their semester.

While preparing for the course, I recently received a summary of the student course evaluations. While only seven of the seventeen responded, it was enough to give me a snapshot. Bottom line: I delivered what they wanted and/or needed.

Here are some of their comments, which thrilled me:

Three Things Learned

• Pacing myself while working on a long project, how to write a script for a comic, and how to do comic lettering/word balloon placement

• Writing a comic script – Adjusting scripts according to feedback – Making pages quickly

Sample Student Feedback

• Ideas were altered somewhat according to feedback, but only for the betterment of the story.

• I think the coursework strongly depends on the individual and their style, pace of working and complexity of story. The work I had for the semester was quite a lot, but so was everyone’s, and it seemed to be a bit easier for me because I was working digitally and with a simple style that I could do very quickly.

• Gave me an idea of the comic production process and how time management can affect what is in production.

• I think the writing feedback was the best part of the course, as I am more of an artist. It helped me to make a story i’m proud of.

• Most effective: professor feedback on script—professor feedback on work—peer feedback. Least effective: peer review one week before finals

• Instruction on scriptwriting and storytelling was very useful.

What did you most value about your faculty member?

• He is an editor with a lot of experience; therefore, his writing feedback is very helpful. Plus, he has industry connections.

• Always wanting to learn more about the artist’s side. Cares about well-being Friend, nice and approachable.

• Very helpful and genuine in feedback, even if it’s hard to hear! It was refreshing, though, and made me a more confident writer/artist. A very good addition to the sequential arts faculty, which could really benefit from having more story/writing-oriented classes.

• He gave very good feedback and made me feel like he really wanted me to improve my work!

• I appreciated Robert’s willingness to point out flaws in my work.

• Depth of knowledge on the subject and being able to tailor instruction based on the needs of each student.

• One of my favorite classes I’ve taken at MICA, thank you for such a great experience, even if the workload was crazy!

• Pleasure to learn from Robert. Was always engaged and provided good feedback. A very eye-opening experience.

I finally got to meet my fellow instructor Carla Speed McNeil at a faculty event last week.

I am so glad I was able to connect and help the students. They noticed and learned from it better. Based on their suggestions for improving the course, I am adding in a lecture on writing dialogue for comics, something many struggled with. I also need to tighten my expectations of what they will do. To that end, I have added Dave Gibbons and Tim Pilcher’s How Comics Work, which is a strong overview from concept to final files. I’ll ask for thumbnails and dialogue early on so they adjust their art to allow for balloons and captions.

I’ve also arranged for Thom Zahler, of Love & Capes fame, to speak this semester since so many are interested in going the self-published route.

As I await the beginning of the semester, I can already feel myself getting excited.

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