A collective minicomics workshop

Cold type at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center

Back in November, I taught a fun, fast workshop at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center while in town to talk at Western Michigan University Direct Encounter with the Arts Program (I also hit the Kalamazoo Public Library and Kalamazoo College—it was a busy three days!).

The end of the workshop

Using the minicomics format I wrote about last week, I had students draw an 8-page comic on the spot, with the idea that each person’s story would form a part of a longer narrative.

The lesson plan for the workshop:

Collective storytelling and a simple minicomic

Pingüino                      Lucky                           Chris Kross

Here’s what we’re doing:

Your main character is Pingüino. If you need secondary characters, you can use Lucky and Chris Kross.
Pingüino is a daydreamer – every event of his life takes on other meanings.
You’ll get an assignment for an event. Depict that event–along with the daydream variation that Pingüino indulges in–in the 8 panels you have available. (Note that one of those needs to have the title on it instead or as well.) Your scene should be wordless, or mostly.

Go outside and use locations available to you for drawing reference if possible.

How to do it:

Start with a thumbnail (sketch version) in 20 mins or so.

  • Think about how the story will be broken down into moments of action or moments where you need to establish information (location, characters). These moments are called atoms.
  • Lay out one sheet of paper (one side) with 8 panels, and then sketch each moment of the story.
  • Put your thumbnail on the wall, and in conjunction with others’ scenes, construct a story of Pingüino’s whole day.
  • Make decisions collectively about the order of the stories, and what needs to be done to make the segments work as a whole.

With the other scenes in mind, edit your thumbnail.

Lay out:
Use the diagram to lay out your final panel arrangement.

Draw your revised comic in ink in the final layout.

Construct your book.

And then:
Make a plan to make copies of all the books from the workshop in person, via email, or via snail mail. You could just keep a set, you could bind them together to make one book, or you might make a slipcover. [This idea is here because the workshop was held in a book arts center. You could just staple or rubber-band your sets together, or you could find nice little boxes to store them in.]

You could edit, taking stories you like more or that work better, and use them together. You could redraw bits from others’ work.

Notes for workshop leaders:

Time breakdown:

20 minutes to discuss: talk about how to conceive of story, how to break it down into atoms, camera angles. Read or hand out atoms section [to come in DWWP2 chapter 3]. Also the McCloud picking moments [Making Comics].

30 minutes to thumbnail

40 minutes for critique

10 minutes to make book forms and discuss.

60 minutes reworking, layout, and inking (probably won’t finish)

If you have access to a copier, make copies right away.

Events of the Pingüino’s day to assign

Eating a meal

Getting ready to go out

Getting to downtown area

Buying newspaper

Getting coffee

Reading newspaper, finding want-ad

Going to apply for a job

Walking dog

Running into an old friend

Running into a hostile situation

Going to the park

Going to a repair shop

By the way, Kalamazoo Michigan (and in fact the whole great state of Michigan) is an amazing comics town. I’ve never had so many enthusiastic people trying to book me into so short a time.

Awesome comics-friendly people and places in Kalamazoo:

Kalamazoo Public Library: Kevin King Stewart Fritz (only the most enthused of many enthusiastic comics fans at the library!)

Kalamazoo College: Glenn Deutsch

Western Michigan U/Direct Encounter with the Arts program: Paul Solomon

Kalamazoo Book Arts Center: Jeff Abshear

Michigan News Agency/Dean Hauck


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