Tags: comics jam

bog eyed book festival 2019

Today was Comics Day! Or at least, it was in southeast London, where a bunch of us whose comics are published by Bog Eyed Books gathered. One of the coolest things about comics festivals is seeing the comics kids make! Here's Jack, who was printing up so many of his own comics at the library that he got an A3 photocopier for his birthday, which is what he really, really wanted.

The park centre at Lesnes Abbey (in Abbey Wood) is perfect for the festival. Here's a Comic Jam going on in the foyer:

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welcome to the comic jam! how to use the 4 book trust videos

Can you remember the last time you were given a blank piece of paper and told to ‘write a story’ or ‘draw a picture’? It can be an unpleasant experience, especially when your brain refuses to cooperate, but it’s part of daily life for school children. Some decide this means they hate writing or loathe drawing. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here's an introduction to a series of four Book Trust videos about making comics, which can be used as an school classroom lesson (ages 8+), or just for fun at home.

Article originally published in Teach Primary magazine, 2015

Children naturally connect with making comics. There’s something about the combination of drawing and writing that pulls them through the process of creating a story, and it’s more fun than trying to fill a page with writing alone.

In making a four-panel comic we can explore the basics of story structure, characterisation, plot, motivation and dialogue. And comics are a great medium for engaging kids who have a diverse range of skills and needs.

If a child’s drawing isn’t all that great, he or she can enhance basic stick figures with clever writing and it will still tell a story. If children can hardly write a word of English, they can tell a story in pictures, and get help when they decide they need a sound effect here or there.

Reluctant writers are likely to enjoy the energetic nature of comics and the freedom that speech and thought bubbles provide. In a workshop film I’ve produced for children’s reading charity, Book Trust (available free online here), I start with a little tutorial on how to draw a Sea Monkey, a funny, incidental character in Oliver and the Seawigs, my illustrated chapter book with Philip Reeve. If the children have read the book, they’ll enjoy seeing one of its characters going on to have further adventures. (And even if they haven’t read the book, it’s still fun to draw Sea Monkeys.) How often have you finished a great book and wished you could keep following the characters, even though the story has ended?

In the first of the four videos, I walk the class through the process of creating a character they feel is their own. The kids can decide its name, how it will look, which kind of cheese it prefers, how it brushes its hair / scales / fur. It’s like having a new friend, or a beloved pet. They warm to it, and it looks back at them from the page.

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#thewritebook toolkit: a whole comics lesson in videos!

Guys, this is exciting! Booktrust have worked with me to come up with a whole online class on how to make comics! I'm always wishing I could get around to more schools, so this is a huge help. There are four videos: how to make a character, tips on making comics, a walk-through where kids can make a comic along with the video, then a fun song at the end, inspired by the comic character.

The video editor has expertly paced the tutorial so teachers can use it in the classroom. But I think people at home can get a lot out of it, too: kids or grownups! You can watch the videos on the website here.

Here's the second video, so you can get a taster. Kids find making comics fun, but it also focuses them on learning how to make a story very clear to a reader. When I lead kids in Comics Jams, I often see them coming to grips with the idea that it's not enough to have a story in their heads, but that they have to give enough clues on the paper for someone else to understand the story without them hovering nearby, explaining it. They partly learn that by drawing the comics, but also by being given someone else's comic, and seeing why it might be difficult to work out what's happening. Learning how to express a series of thoughts clearly is a great concept lesson that applies to any form of communication.

You can find some more tips on leading Comics Jams over on my Jampires website with David O'Connell (who does great workshops). And there's a printable guide to drawing a Sea Monkey from Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve over on my website. The Write Book site went live yesterday and a few people have already spotted it and seen its potential. Yay!

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leeds thought bubble 2014: jampires comics jamtastic!

Last weekend, the Jampires were out in force at Thought Bubble comics festival, to spread Comics Jam over Leeds! Here's team Jampires' David O'Connell, Matt Badham, Molly Bruton and me:

So what distinguishes Comics Jam from, say, raspberry jam?

Badges designed by David O'Connell; Jampires jam by the Butch Institute

A little explanation (as seen in the Thought Bubble anthology):

Our Comics Jam session attracted fellow Jampires like, uh, bees to honey. (These were Phil Welch and Katie White, who stayed with us and blogged all the way through the 24-Hour Comic Marathon at Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, earlier in the autumn.)

We ran a Comics Jam competition, and here's the winning comic! It's by 13-year-old Jordan Vigay and 10-year-old Jonathan 'Jonny Toons'.

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comics jamming at london world con

Last Friday I went to the huge international Science Fiction convention that is World Con, this year hosted right in my hometown! (It was, somewhat confusingly, also called LonCon3.) And I saw some familiar faces right away! Spot the family who were in my Nine Worlds convention blog post from the previous weekend... (The lady in the excellent Vivien of Holloway dress is Adela Terrell.)

And since I was going to lead a Comics Jam session, I wore my best Jampires dress! And brought along my beautiful new Jampire friend, knitted as a surprise by Ann Lam. Poor little Jampire; World Con was a BIG PLACE and he couldn't find jam anywhere, just post-apocalyptic landscape.

First photo tweeted by @ExLibrisNora

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another comics jam with viv schwarz

So you might have seen my last mega-blog-post about Thought Bubble comics festival. I went up to Leeds with writer-illustrator Viviane Schwarz on the train, which was a great excuse to get a peek at some of her latest work. You can get a hint at it from her brand-new tattoo (with 'Labora et Amare' lettering by Alexis Deacon):

And here it is, from Walker Books and edited by Lizzie Spratt, still in dummy-book form. It will be called I am Henry Finch and is very much inspired by the birds Viv used to live with. They would fly around the room and chatter incessantly, except when you raised something stick-shaped into the air. Then they'd all go very quiet and stare at you. Viv got lots of her friends to help her with the fingerprints.

And here's the other Comics Jam we did in our hotel room. It is slightly less manic than the first one.

Be sure to check out Viv's other books, they are brilliant. Some of them are comics: The Sleepwalkers, Welcome to Your Awesome Robot and Shark and Lobster's Amazing Undersea Adventure.

I found this in our hotel room after a wild day of comicking. Thanks, lovely room mate!


manchester comics jam

When I went to Manchester, I wasn't sure if anyone would be free to meet up, and I didn't know anyone there very well, except a little bit from the Internet and comics conventions, where we hadn't had much time to talk. So I was slightly nervous when I blogged I'd be at the pub at a certain time on Thursday night, if I'd end up with only one sweaty stranger in a Batman shirt who didn't even want to draw. But it was FINE. In fact, it was much better than fine!

Adam Cadwell (who runs the British Comics Awards I'm helping judge this year) jumped straight in and said he'd be there, then Bevis Musson (who baked the spectacular Morris cake) said he'd come, and I breathed a big sigh of relief. Then Andrew Tunney, Ellie @Frillyart, Andrew Chiu and James Lawrence all showed up. Here we are, drawing!

I drew a picture of Adam:

Here's one of our Comics Jams! We started with the theme of 'Rocket', each drew a panel for five minutes or so, then passed them around for someone else to do the next panel, and so on.

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dublin monster comics jam!

I knew we'd be drawing LOTS OF MONSTERS with LOTS OF KIDS in Dublin, so I did some limbering up by drawing my own monsters before the event. (Thanks for leaving such fab pens at the lodge, Children's Book Ireland people!)

When I arrived at the Green Room at The Ark, I could tell they were a comics-friendly bunch by their selection of tea mugs.

And here was our awesome Comics Jam team! Meet comics creator and illustrator Steve Simpson and writer and illustrator Mary Louise Fitzpatrick!

We started out indoors with the kids, giving them some basic comics-making tips, and having them help us design a monster character all together. Here's Steve drawing a curly monster moustache. Monsters are great for coming up with new characters because no one can tell us that we've drawn it wrong.

Photo by Ber Simpson

And then we went outside to Meeting House Square, and all 90 of the kids drew comics on huge rolls of paper!

It was wild, it was awesome! I'd never led a Comics Jam session that large before, and we made up a template to keep things simple:

1. The kids marked out their drawing territory with a box.
2. They drew a dinner-plate-size circle at the top of the box, one hand-width down from the top line of their box.
3. Monster time! They designed their monster inside the circle. Some of them added a pet or sidekick friend for their monster.
4. They wrote the name of their monster above the circle, and I encouraged them to do it in lettering that tells us something about the monster (hairy, slimy, spotty, etc). If their monster had a sidekick friend, they named the friend, too.
5. They drew a line under the circle and divided this big square into four boxes.
6. They had 8 minutes to start off the comics story in just the first panel. (I encouraged them to make something bad or embarrassing happen to their monster, so the story would have to go somewhere.)
7. We counted down the last ten seconds and then called 'PENCILS IN THE AIR!'
8. Everyone rotated one comic to the left and read the new comic in front of them.
9. They had 8 more minutes to pick up where the last person had left off in this new story and continue it, just in panel 2.
10. We did the same for panels 3 and 4, and at the end, they got to go back and see the original comic they'd started and see what adventure their monster had gone on while they were away.

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Speaking of comics, one more thing: When I arrived home from Dublin last night, I found new paperback copies of Vern and Lettuce waiting for me! I've designed new covers for the paperback edition and I'm really pleased with them. You can buy the book in hardback now, but the paperback will come out this autumn (a little early for the Edinburgh Book Festival). You can read their magazine, The Pickle over on my website.

And Dublin! Keep an eye out for my fabulous studio mate, Gary Northfield, who will be arriving in September to take part in Dún Laoghaire's Mountains to Sea festival. Before he arrives, get a copy of his new book, The Terrible Tales of the TEENYTINYSAURS, and see what awesome comics he makes!

And you can see us talking on RTE2's Elev8 show here.


the oxford children's comic festival 2013

Hurrah for Britain's first children's comics festival! It was awesome, and Oxford's Story Museum totally rocked. For Free Comics Book Day (4 May), The Phoenix Comic joined up with other comics creators to put on a day of comics workshops, drawing activities and convention tables. One of the most exciting parts for me was seeing two kids at their own tables, selling their own self-published comics. You will have already seen Zoom Rockman (right) many times on my blog, and he's been all over the media, including The Independent, Evening Standard and Vogue's 2013 Hot List. But Jordan Vigay, also 12 years old, is newer to the scene - I'd only met him once before, at Animated Exeter - and it was exciting to see him at work!

Here's an interview I did with Jordan, in which he talks about his comic, The Red Crow, now in its third issue:

The Phoenix Comic was out in force! And it's official: Laura Anderson (who creates the Evil Emperor Penguin strip) is taller than Jamie Littler (Cogg & Sprokit) when she has Zoom's giant hamburger on her head.

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a happy chaffy christmas comic

Sam Reeve and I had loads of fun this Christmas and Boxing Day, getting everyone to make comics. Sam LOVES anything drawn by Jamie Smart, and spent much of the holidays drawing Jamie Smart characters into his sketchbook. Here's my drawing of Sam, Chaffy, and his poodle in a Jamie-Smart-McIntyre mash-up sort of way:

"Who's Chaffy?", you might ask. Chaffy is a little white ball of fluff with mismatched ears which we kept finding all over the house and on the moor. Also created by Jamie Smart, for his Find Chaffy and Find Chaffy Now books.

Photos 2-4 by Philip and Sam Reeve

Sam gave me a lovely comic for Christmas, The Hen House a very limited-edition anthology he'd created with three of his neighbour friends and edited by his dad, Philip Reeve, who'd been giving the three of them weekly drawing lessons.

Sam said, "Let's make a comic!" So we did, but we roped in everyone in the house to help us do a Comics Jam, taking turns making each page. Here we are, looking very industrious, and Sam, with all the scanned and printed pages laid out in an assembly line to make ten books.

We got lots of help from Sarah Reeve to print out the pages, and here are our final books! They are 20 pages long, with a single panel per page.

Because there are only ten of them, we will let you read it online:

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