Graphic Novels: Super Heroes in the Kitchen

Wyatt cracks himself up.

Wyatt’s family clustered around him, listening intently to an expressive read-aloud of his graphic novel. He peppered his reading with creative inflections and sound effects. “Blam! Whammy!” he shouted.

“We just went through the funniest part,” Wyatt said. Wyatt’s Kitchen Crew, Issue #1 was the culmination of weeks of learning, drawing, and revising in the class Graphic Novels. His mom, dad, grandpa, and brother obviously enjoyed his humor and enthusiasm for the finished product.

The protagonist of Kitchen Crew was Cup Man. “He has a super power. He can make his head absorb in,” Wyatt said. “He can also leave soapy suds to track people.”

Before starting their final graphic novel, the artists learned and practiced cartooning techniques. “I made different drawings in my rough draft notebook,” Wyatt said, including cartoon self-portraits. “Me as a cartoon,” he said.

Wyatt has been interested in cartooning and graphics work for a while. “In fifth grade I was making graphic novels,” he said. Even though he had some experience with the process, he said he learned a lot from the class. “What it helped me is to make more specific things…and learning how to do things on the computer.”

Chris also enjoyed learning to design on the computer. During Open House, he demonstrated the program Paint Pro. “We used stuff like the models for design,” he said, demonstrating the use of pencil, pen, and background tools on the computer.

Clare took the class because “I really like graphic novels.” So much so that she reads two to three a day, her mom laughed.

She learned a lot about developing characters. “We want to draw it kind of simple so people can relate to them,” she said. “You have to enjoy drawing (your character) because you’re going to be drawing it  a lot.”

Clare got to know her character, Fuzzers, very well. He lives on the planet Draxy, is usually sad, has a best friend worm, and a mean grandpa named Spike.

Her poster cartoon featured another character – Sauce Girl. “She saves people from evil things in the kitchen,” Clare said. Evil things like rotten tomatoes and dirty dishes.

Jason described some of the cartooning techniques learned in the class. He pointed to a class poster that guided students on creating Character Model Sheets. “You make the size of the character and write facts about him, like siblings, expressions,” Jason said. Learning to draw a variety of facial expressions is a key skill. Jason talked about the various Word/Picture Combinations used by graphic artists in the real world. “Word Specific is when the words are telling the story,” in a cartoon frame, Jason said. “Picture Specific is when the pictures are describing the story, but the words come in every once in a while.” Other combinations include Duo-Specific, Interdependent, Parallel, and, the most common, Intersecting. Professional graphic artists incorporate these different combinations to add variety and interest to their comics.

Choice of Moment is related to editing and revising. “Choice of Moment is when you add something in. It’s when to add and when to take something out,” Jason said. “If it’s getting too long, you use Choice of Moment.”

Jason’s favorite part of the class was “drawing and writing my graphic novels,” he said.

With his impressive command of the complicated rules and techniques, I expect to see a published work by Jason any time now. 

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