Monday, March 05, 2007

Graphic Lit: Kids Love Comics Day

Blogger's note: I was heavily debating posting last Friday's Graphic Lit column since it deals with an event that's now over and done with. But ... well ... I do have some reviews at the end. Plus there's my enormous ego to think of.

Anyway, mea culpa. As penance I'll post pictures from the event tonight. It seemed to go rather well. You can read the official Patriot-News take on the event right here.

If you have a budding artist in your family, you might want to check out downtown Harrisburg tomorrow.

That’s when the Whitaker Center will host Kids Love Comics Day. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a group of professional cartoonists will be on hand to offer interactive workshops, sign books and give tips to grade-schoolers on how to make your own comics.

The event is the brainchild of Jimmy Gownley (creator of the ongoing kids’ series “Amelia Rules!”), who co-founded the 25-member advocacy organization Kids Love Comics in 2004 in an attempt to bring more attention to age-appropriate comics for children.

“I saw a lot of great kids’ comics that weren’t getting attention. ... So much of good comics material of the last 10 to 15 years has come out of small press. I wanted to make sure those titles didn’t get lost in the shuffle,” he said.

“We wanted to do community outreach, including moving things away from just comic book conventions,” Gownley said about tomorrow’s event. “This is the final fruition of that.”

The presentation schedule for the day is as follows:

10-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. — Jane Fisher-Smith, writer for the comic “WJHC,” will show how to translate real-life, personal experiences into comics. Selected submissions will be posted on the Kids Love Comics Web site. Ages 6 and up.
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2-3 p.m. — “Buzzboy” cartoonist John Gallagher will show visitors how to create their own superhero, from thinking up an original idea to writing, drawing and coloring their adventures. Ages 8 and up.
10-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. — Making a comic is only the first step to becoming a professional cartoonist, and Gownley will discuss how to get your work published. Topics include copyright issues and careers in cartooning. Ages 12 and up.
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2-3 p.m. — “Apathy Kat” creator Harold Buchholz will demonstrate “how to create lovable, fun characters with wide appeal.” Ages 8 and up.
12:30-1 p.m. — Where do you get your ideas from? Gownley will talk about where and how to get ideas and then turn them into comics. Ages 8-12.

In addition, Todd Webb, who does the Webcomic “toddbot,” will be doing caricatures throughout the day. Original art also will be on display and books and other merchandise will be available for purchase and signing.

If all that isn’t enough, the group also is sponsoring a contest. Participants should submit a one-page sample consisting of four or more panels of a story idea, along with a one-paragraph description of the rest of the tale, on the day of the event.

Two winners will be chosen, one for ages 12 and under and another for ages 13 and up. Only original material will be accepted and the story cannot exceed eight pages.

Winners will have 100 copies of their comic printed and the opportunity to sell them at the Baltimore Comic-Con in September. They’ll also have the chance to appear in the upcoming cartoonist documentary “Pure Imagination.”

If the day goes well, Gownley hopes to have more Kids Love Comics events in cities like Chicago and Phoenix. Not to mention bringing it back to Harrisburg again next year.

“When you do these things and you see the response from kids, it’s so gratifying. It’s definitely worth doing,” he said.

Speaking of kids comics ...

... the book publisher Scholastic has been jumping into the genre recently with their Graphix imprint. The best-known title in their lineup is Jeff Smith’s “Bone,” which they’ve been reprinting in handsome full-color volumes.

They’ve been publishing other titles as well. Two recent books are “The Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth About Stacey” by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier, and “Breaking Up” by Aimee Friedman and Christine Norrie.

“Stacey,” as you might have guessed, translates the popular series of books into comics form. The latest title focuses on the diabetic Stacey and her struggles to wiggle out from the thumb of her overprotective parents. Meanwhile, a rival baby-sitting group threatens the club’s future.

Telgemeier has a loose, friendly style that keeps the story flowing at a brisk pace. A number of the supporting characters tend to fade into the background, and I’d like to see her attempt to do more with her backgrounds (houses seem particularly empty). But overall, this is a fun book that young fans of the series will enjoy.

“Breaking Up,” which follows the ups and downs of four friends during a turbulent high school year, is less successful. Norrie’s art is polished, but the kids seem like such two-dimensional archetypes that it’s hard to see what any of them have in common with the other. You’re not exactly rooting for the group to stay friends by the end.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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