I'm Shawn Bowman, writer and artist. On and off for the last 20 years I've worked with kid artists, writers and filmmakers, helping them create and promote their own work and dig deeper into the crafts they are passionate about. My kids and I are part of an amazing comic club which has met every Friday afternoon for the last seven years, over half the lives of some of the kids who've been regulars. Our club is pretty evenly split between boy and girls, wildly talented people, funny and engaged- some of these kids will be making the comics we read ten years from now and their stories are already amazing. We will actively continue to support our fellow artists and creative medium which gives us super powers and secret lairs. We will paint and draw and write, we will read and buy comics written by and about people of all genders and races, we are comics now we are the faces of comics to come.
In our continuing explorations of story development- this Friday we took our favorite character and placed them in different eras of time. By shaking things up a bit we discovered that changing the context of action our comics are able to draw on key events in history for plot and subplot themes, cool new costume and prop ideas and even changes in character dialect.
The other big exorcise we tried out for the afternoon was creating an alternate time line for the world. As per usual this was hilarious and any one of the key events would make for an excellent comic or comic series. The following is not a comprehensive list but our favorite moments in time that you may not have noticed...
400 AD- Angles and Saxons come to England, Hadrian builds a wall
500 AD- Cthulu begins plans on making you a sandwich, since he invented the sandwich, it should be called Cthulu
600 AD- The alien race we now call humans came to this planet and colonized
793 AD- Some people start dying off, other people get mad
1066 AD- Race of different aliens take over world and make humans slaves
1067 AD- Space becomes cool
1200 AD- Farts invented
1201 AD- Legos invented
1300 AD- A herd of kraken take over the world
1337 AD- Jerry met an alien and was sadly not historically recognized
1400 AD- Annika is recognized as a god
1450 AD- An artist made a painting or something
1492 AD- Columbus comes to America
1500 AD- Cavemen live again
1501 AD- They die
1502 AD- Due to dimensional rift a million vampires invade
1600 AD- Sudden skip in time it is now 5,000 AD
5001 AD- Time works out the kinks
1562 AD- Earl of Sandwich steals Cthulu's idea
1865 AD- Lincoln assassinated by Plague Doctor
6000 AD- It was all just a dream, nothing ever happened
Our 1st meet up of the year and we dove right into the deep end of the pool with a character and story building session based on a DIY game called 1000 Blank White Cards . We started out by cutting 5 index cards in half so each player starts with 10 blank cards, we added crazy titles to these, illustrations underneath and then the amount of blessings or damage each card could do. Easy peasy, also hilarious. Miles had one card where the player had to demand apple juice until someone gave them apple juice and all of Lucy's cards started out with a sneeze. I've enclosed a few of our favorite cards in the gallery below. We'll start next week out with playing a couple rounds of the game and adding more cards if we'd like then draw comics based on the game play. It should be a great exercise since the characters will be facing odd challenges and some even being brought back from the dead. Along with our drawing and comic creation over the last few weeks we've been having more serious conversations about the lack of diversity in comics and how characters of color and sexual orientation are portrayed. A heavy subject for kids but something they've brought up themselves talking about quite a bit in other classes and ideas of justice in larger society which they are beginning to wrap their heads around. We've invited a couple guest speakers in the comic industry to come in and visit with us in the next few weeks as this conversation continues. I'm enclosing links to a couple great articles which I'll be sharing with the kids as well looking at approaches to promoting equity.
Tom Heintjes wrote a fantastic article last year about Charles Schutz's introduction of Franklin, an African American boy to the cast of Peanuts characters and how he was motivated to include based on conversations with an impassioned school teacher. It's a great read and I'm looking forward to sharing it with the club. Our future guest speaker, David Walker blogged a great story yesterday about one of the most important ways to affect change, financially. It truly is something every industry understands, the power of the dollar, if we want to see a diverse group of artists creating our content, then we need to support them by buying and promoting their work.
How comics are addressing sexual orientation also came up in our discussions. Since our club has kids in a wide range of ages I tended to steer our conversations around sexuality into smaller group discussions. Our middle-school girls are very eager to chat and the elementary boys are still really focused on blowing up alien planets. How people are portrayed in comics is a pretty important subject though since mainstream comics continue to depict women in hyper fantasized proportions with very little clothing, not to say men get off easy and their body shapes are also fantastical but the culture of misogyny within the history of comics is hard to sweep under the table. Rather than getting weighed down by examining all the injustices within our medium, I'd love to point out places where comics are doing it right. Raina Telgemeir's Drama is a beautiful coming of age story perfect for our middle school kids. With a very diverse set of characters and a spunky young heroine a number of vingettes are interwoven including characters who are gay which help drive the plot forward into a very rich teen story. The New York Times has a glowing review of the comic here.
Hey Friends- A hearty WELCOME BACK! Can you believe we've been at this for three years- that's half a lifetime for some of you, amazing! So great to be getting back to the hard work of drawing funny pictures and writing funny stories! Just a few quick updates and then we'll get to a re-cap of this week's session-
We'll be meeting in Logan's classroom from here on out- there is a bit more room to spread out and it won't cut into the valuable snack time portion of Comic Club- all great artists need to eat!
We've got lots of big plans this year... We'll be making a personal comic, hopefully a group comic, build a comic city diorama, cause a ruckus at the Stumptown Comic Fest in April, make some costumes and have another tummy assaulting Comic Feast! Can it all be done, maybe, hope so, we're just the kids to do it!
This year as we expand our comic creating horizions, you may want to make a few personal investments... A blank page spiral notebook- it's a great place to keep work you're developing over time, a nice set of pencils of various degrees of hardness, a couple sharpies both thick and ultra thin point and something to color with either pencils or crayons- we'll still have things for the club to use but many of us are creating at home too and it's always nice to have supplies handy.
Well we're off to a great start- This week we started playing with names- Why we name things or personify them and how funny names make great fodder (subjects) for comic illustration: For our 1st exercise we scanned through the newspaper and hit upon the Restaurant Guide- we decided to illustrate the names of some of Portland's favorite culinary hot spots...
There were a bunch of great places to choose from, but by far the most popular was Sushi Land- Imagine if you will an entire building made of Sushi...
We also browsed through an encyclopedia of famous Americans looking for names which might be fun to illustrate just based on how they sound not on the person themselves. Why the heck would we do that? Well, take our 20th president for example, he had only 200 days in office, we don't remember much about where he stood on policy
...and he is really remembered most for being the 1st left handed president, having the uncanny ability to write with both hands at once- Latin with one hand and Greek with the other, supposedly he discovered a "novel proof of the Pythagorean Theorem using a trapezoid" and he juggled "Indian Clubs to build his muscles" and what do we actually associate him with? A cat...
So, which famous Americans did we choose to draw? Well we picked a few who's names weren't completely familiar:
Fanny Lou Hamer, for one! Who we really ought to be reading up on since her civil rights activism would make a great comic novel.
We also picked the name...
Althea Gibson, which makes a great visual for a cat goddess or medieval maiden as Simone drew her, while in actuality she smashed through racial and gender barriers using her tennis racket, being the 1st African American woman to win a Grand Slam Title in 1956 and was the #1 ranked tennis player in the world in 1956 and '57. You know what, she'd make a great comic hero too!
We had some great drawings of Woodie Guthrie and Dizzy Gillespie too. Gabe went a bit free form and did a drawing of "Woodie Gillespie fighting the Jedi" which is at the top of this blog post and perhaps the greatest comic mash-up of all time! Great work club, can't wait to see what you throw down this week!
Stumptown Comics Fest:
Whoo hoo! The fest opens up tomorrow morning at 10am and the kid's workshop begins at 10:30 in the Idaho Room. The Stumptown organizers have been kind enough to reserve 10 spaces for us, but I'd recommend showing up early (like as soon as the main doors open!) just to make sure we all get in- I expect the workshop will fill up entirely! The workshop ends at 11:45, I know we'll all want to do a bit of looking around, but thought it might be fun to meet up for lunch afterward, and compare our day. If you can make it, we'll meet up at the food court on the 3rd floor of the Lloyd Center Mall at 1pm. Make sure to bring parents with you tomorrow as it's a pretty big crowd and I'd hate to lose track of anyone.
Tickets to get into Stumptown are $6, I'd recommend bringing cash to pay, I'm not sure that they offer a kid discount, but the workshop is free. The Stumptown Website is www.stumptowncomics.com
Thanks for your comic drawings our poster is on display along with the work of other fantastic Portland comic artists at the PCPA building 1111 SW Broadway, so you should head over and check it out especially if you're heading over to the main library, art museum or historical society! The exhibit will run through the end of the month
Free Comic Day:
One of the best days of the year is coming up quick, May 2nd, where local shops are giving out treats to you and publishers are making special books to celebrate... check out the link... http://www.freecomicbookday.com/
The Sequential Arts Gallery on Broadway is putting on weekend kid workshops, Sundays this month then returning to a Saturday schedule- the classes are very reasonably priced and are coming from the very awesome folks who put together the Stumptown Fest, here's a link to their site, though the workshop info isn't listed at the moment...http://sequentialartgallery.com/wordpress/