Monday, 22 December 2014

Comics by schoolkids - the best of the year

That's right Dennis, you give us a drumroll as we have a look at a tiny selection of the comics I've produced with kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses in 2014.

I have done an astounding 120 days working in schools, libraries and art centres delivering my Comic Art Masterclasses to kids, and occasionally families. Usually I do two classes in a day, working with up to 30 pupils at a time, by the end of which they go away with an A5 photocopied comic containing a strip by every single one of them and an individual caricature by me, and they've learned how easy it is to write and draw comics for fun. Increasingly I'm finding my class begins with them learning what a comic is (fewer and fewer pupils have ever seen or read a comic in their life).

So, of the 240-odd comics that have churned out of photocopiers across the country this year, which have been of note? Let's start at the beginning of the year.

Floating Cactus Of Doom. This selection includes examples of me working at Carrongrange, a school in Falkirk for pupils which special needs, with actual grown up art students in Cardiff, and with my usual range of primary and early secondary school kids, from Devon to Birmingham. The year's excessive travel started as it meant to go on. FCOD itself was then used by schools in Cumbria as a story-writing challenge, the winners of which got me for a visit later in the year.

We Was Chased By The Moon. Among this selection we see a rare cover full of Beano characters. The first half of the year saw me writing and drawing more for The Beano than I had done for some years, with my weekly Bananaman scripts being some of the favourite stuff I've done in ages. Here I've captured Jamie Smart's Roger The Dodger, which was easily my favourite strip in the comic. So naturally he got sacked a month later.

The Curse Of The Singing Go Compare Man. Contender for title of the year there, and in the same montage we see a rare example of me drawing Bananaman on a cover. I was very  full of my Bananaman stories at this time and was determined the kids would remember them too. Whether they did I will never know. Also around this time we had the Bob & Dave's Adventures collection.

The Marshmallow That Suffocated A Bee and The Search For Ghandibraham Lincoln, two pretty memorable titles from an impressive selection. Cannibal Woman was suggested by pupils in Glasgow, enabling me to dig out the "I cannibalieve it" gag first heard in Lobey Dosser's newspaper strip in the late 1940s.

Psycho Bunnies and Pizza - the French comics. I spent a week in April teaching English speaking kids in Colomiers, near Toulouse, how to draw comics. Despite being in the home of the bandes dessinees - where the art centre has a whole floor devoted to them - these kids were no more familiar with the art form than their contemporaries back home. But I soon clued them in, and they produced some good ones. With a preponderence of junk food references, as you can see. Also at this time we had collections including The Twerking Geek, and the inexplicable PLFghiilOZX YJAKmmrh SPJEAC.

OMG It's A Unicorn and Sam's The Man Who Killed Crazy Dozy Then Changed Into A Cow. The latter wins the prize for longest title of the year (I can imagine a psychedelic album from 1969 with that title) and the rest of the batch is pretty zeitgeisty. We see Pansy Potter, who I'd just started drawing for The Beano, and Keyhole Kate, who I'd written but had rejected. Miley Cyrus, hamsters and unicorns being amongst the most popular things with kids these days. See also Soggy Chicken Riding On The Back Of A Dead Pig.

Gorgeous Granny & The Gruesome Grape sees quite the range of ideas kids will surprise you with. Marshmallows are popular, you might have noticed. Old mens' trousers falling down, thankfully less so. Also at this time: Sushimi Tastes Like Books, and Dubbel Trubbel.

Help! My Mum Is A Cyclops is part of a nifty selection, from the posh year 7 boys who came up with Banterbury Tales (is there a word more middle class and laddish than "banter"?) to Macka Packa Boo Boo, a title guaranteed to get a laugh when shown to any primary school class anywhere anytime. See also O! Poopy Poopy Dippy Doo!

Captain Cute Does A Boom Boom. Another title guaranteed to get a laugh from the kids, from a collection where I've tried to vary the artwork slightly. More success with the snake than the alpaca I'd say. Also at this time: Black Exorcist.

Never Touch Another Girl's Weave. These comics are from older and more urban kids than most of my classes, and they demonstrate a lot of things year 8s and 9s come up with. We'll have rejected a lot of LOLs and YOLOs, and I Don't Knows and Your Mums, to come up with these. Action Man Gets Some Action? Sigh. Also at this time: Pick Up This Comic Or I Will Bomb Your House and Mum There's A Zombie Apocalypse (worth checking out for one of this year's more glaring spelling mistakes).

Ow! A Cobra Bit My Bum. The autumn term began with some crowd pleasers. At time of writing I have still not seen Frozen, so had no idea who "Oluv" was supposed to be when it was suggested (it's Olaf, I believe). Also at this time, Elvis Ate My Homework, and Mr Smarty Pants.

Giant Flaming Rainbow Beaver and the unforgettable Bort Hat Chubuw Iteus, the latter being a thing that happens with Year 3 classes: the poor kid has done his or her best to write down the idea in their head, and it uses words they have no idea how to spell. In instances like this, the pupil will never, but never, recognise their handwriting or be able to tell you what they meant to write. And, invariably, the rest of the class find this random suggestion to be the funniest thing ever. Also at this time we have Machine Gun Monkey.

When Cheesestrings Rule The World and the rest are the fruits of a week at just one primary school in Thackley near Bradford. All human life is here, from this year's most popular kids TV show, Adventure Time, via a year 3's undecipherable suggestion - But Simson Resi Dasey Uck Ever A Invincible Ha Ha Ha - to two comics name-dropping their teachers, which is sweet. Also at this time: How To Train Your Pumpkin (featuring Renee Zellweger losing her face).

Adventures Of The World That Nobody Thought Was Real. From my first visit to Dublin this year, we have a Minecraft themed comic (MC is the enemy of comics, being made entirely out of simple rectangles which, when they're not moving, don't look like anything on earth. But somehow we made it work), to the first drugs reference of the year (it was originally Tupac Has An E), and the title that nearly started a fight (it was initially The Adventures Of Lee & Charli, before I tweaked it to steer it clear of cyber bullying. Yes they were year 8s and 9s, how could you tell?). Also at this time, the much more innocent Faththth.

Suddenly Pineapples. As the year has progressed, I've had all the more fun adding a touch of colour to these covers. The kids are only taking home a black and white item, but I've found it easy and restful to just slap a bit of something on to liven them up at the end of a week. If I remember to email these back to the school, all the better.

Captain Irish and 6 Nuns Fight A Fiery Inferno - the Ireland collection. Quite possibly my favourite montage of the year, covering every cliche from unicorns to "yer mam", with originality galore, and the chance for me to lavish more detail on the covers, stuck as I was in various hotels from Dungarvan to Naas for a week.

Fancy Girls Loving Boys, a delightful selection, mostly from the valleys of South Wales. I've been pleased with the quality of cover design I've been able to rattle off, given the few minutes available to me during a class. So it's always frustrating when I end up with one I wish I could start again because it just isn't working. Eg I'm Not Bossy I Just have Better Ideas.

Killer Clown. The final collection of the year, and one of my favourite covers. I've also managed to squeeze in a drawing of Samson, who I've adapted as a short strip for Bible Society this year. I also love the title The Story Of Story Story Story Story, which is the sort of genius idea only kids can come up with. I look forward to them coming up with even more in 2015. And, you never know, I might come up with a few myself.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing Pansy Potter, Bananaman, Biffo The Bear et al in The Beano, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's been writing and drawing comics for 25 years, he must know something.  

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