Cranium Comics

Stories that get in your head.

Cranium Helps Girl Scout Troop Earn Comic Badge

Having taught students the basics of drawing comics at a summer camp last year, I was recenly invited to speak to another group of kids. This time it was the Girl Scouts. Not only was it an opportunity to have a discussion on creating comics, but also an exercise culminating in them receiving one of their art badges. The requirement was that they speak to someone who is in the industry and my experience seemed to fit the bill nicely.

I started off by introducing myself, my company and what I do. I shared with them some comics I got at the library to give them a sense as to the breadth of comics available. More than just demonstrating what I do, I wanted to challenge their perceptions about the genre. I asked questions such as, “Who thinks you need be a great artist to create great comics?” This set up the next phase of the demonstration, which was Defining Comics. I brought my copy of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” and gave them a very high overview of the concepts of words and pictures over time. We then discussed the types of comics that make up the industry. Everything from Graphics Novels, to Manga, to Web and Digital comics were discussed. I then showed them my iPad, and mentioned a few things that they could do in addition to reading comics on various tablet devices.

Next up was a discussion on tools. While obviously, there are professional tools (e.g. sketchbook, varying weight pencils, t-Square, etc..), I didn’t want them to get distracted by the equipment. I wanted there to be no barrier to entry for them, as many were just getting familiar with the medium. I told the students that comics can be drawn with something as simple as a pencil and a piece of paper and that the ideas were the most important thing. I referred to recent online comics in which the artists only use simple stick figures to get their point across.

I then outlined the specific steps to creating a comic, including writing, sketching (story boards), penciling, inking, and coloring, letting them know that it can be as simple or as complex as they wanted it to be. I also mentioned that comics were a great way to collaborate with other like-minded people and it was okay to share stories and art if they wanted to work in teams.

The real work began when I made the group come up with stories that would later form the basis of their own comic. They needed to define a place, the characters, and a situation. I told them that it could be something from their lives (e.g their brother got a puppy), or something completely fictional. Most went the fictional route, coming up with ideas such as “The Short Giraffe,” babysitting, spotted elephants, etc. After we nailed down the story, I wanted to loosen them up with some drawing exercises. I chose two characters: Hello Kitty and Spider-girl as I wasn’t sure what their tastes were going to be. I went through the process of first drawing basic shapes, then embellishing those shapes. Then finally I moved on to inking and coloring the character. I then had them show one another how they came out. It was great to see the variety and expression when kids are given a chance to explore each others work. Although we never got to Spider-girl, many of the scouts were energized by their new found ability and were eager to dive into the next part of the project.

From here, I used a pre-made comic that I used for a previous class, slightly modifying it for my audience. The kids loved it and began converting their stories over to the comic immediately it was fun to watch them sharing in the excitement of their stories and having a great time. That’s what creating comics should be all about. At the end of the two hour session the kids got their badges and thanked me for my time. I gave my finished Hello Kitty and Spider-girl to two of the kids that were the most interested. I’d like to think that showing them what was possible will help them push forward with their own ideas. That follow-up will be for a later article. Stay tuned!

Leave a Reply