Tuesday, 7 July 2009

8 - Jam comics

I'm tagging this one as a teachers follow-up, even though I usually end a session with it, as it's a fun activity that can be repeated over and over. Teachers might like to introduce genre or topics, or ask participants to demonstrate that they have taken onboard a particular skill or technique (such as contrast, zoom or whatever).

Essentially it's a comic version of consequences (draw a head, fold it over and pass it on, draw a body, fold it over and pass it on, draw some legs), except rather than drawing 'blind', you can see the previous panel. It's called a Jam comic because it's a little like musicians getting together and jamming, not knowing what might come out of it. Not sure who invented this so afraid I can't credit them. I first took part during the summer workshops I attended at CCS, though it seems a popular game with comic artists everywhere, especially at Drink'n'Draw events.

Everyone gets a photocopied sheet with 3 blank panels on it, usually AFTER the game is explained. They are given 10 (sometimes 15) minutes to create the first panel of a story - just the first panel. There's no need to think up a complete story - that's someone else's problem, as after the allotted time the sheet will passed on. I don't tell them which way to pass until the time is up, as otherwise they start plotting to pass across to friends, or influence the progression of the story.

MY OWN IMPORTANT RULES - I had to start being strict on these as kids were copping out, cutting corners or not showing off what I've been trying to force on them all day -
No narration - too many will happily fill a panel with "one day Pippa went for a walk and..." - I want the pictures and speech bubbles to tell the story.
No stick figures or tiny piddling little characters - it's not good enough! Plus the next person needs a decent character to draw from.
No weapons, violence or death. This rule raises dismayed groans from a handful of boys, and it is aimed directly at them. If a 10 year old imagination can come up with something more interesting than a shootout or road fatality, then all is lost.

While they are drawing, I make it very clear that once they've completed the first panel, the story is no longer in their control - it is up to somebody else what will happen next. Quite often there will be one kid who is either devastated by how their story ends up, or are too busy telling the next person what they want to happen that they don't manage to do anything with the new sheet in front of them. One lad was in tears when the girl next to him turned his Star Trek space adventure into a romance.
I'll also stress that I want to see that they've been listening all day, and see some of the basic skills we've covered in action (for example, speech bubbles need to be large and clear, and read in the correct order).

10 minutes up, and I'll tell them pens down and pass to the left, clockwise, around their table or group. Before starting the second panel, I make it clear -
-To study the first panel and see what kind of story is suggested there. you might choose to go with this or subvert it, but just be aware of what has happened so far.
-Don't just copy out the same panel and change the speech bubbles. It's usually the end of the day when I do this one, so some kids might have become tired or lazy with their drawing, and I ask them to try to vary how it might look - should you zoom in? Zoom out? Create some action? Introduce a new character? Jump to a new location? Add an unexpected twist to the story?

Everyone is now drawing characters created by the previous person, and so the clearest and simplest character designs make this much easier. This is a real challenge (for kids or adults), especially as we need to alter poses and expressions.

After 10 more minutes we pass for the final time, and we all now have to see if we can pull the story into some kind of conclusion, punchline or cliffhanger (we usually have a conversation about what these 3 terms mean).
Once complete, the stories are passed around and enjoyed, and time allowing, a few can be shared in front of the class. Once or twice I've collected them in and produced a photocopied and stapled compilation (either by myself or having them do the work).

This is great fun, and a nice way to round up a session. It allows kids to create collaboratively and quickly, and more often than not they are amazed and surprised by how their story has strayed from what they initially imagined might occur.
Teachers might use the simple 3 panel structure to help when discussing narrative - start, middle and end, or scene, action, result.
There's no reason why you can't extend the 3 panels onto further sheets and have longer stories with more contributors. Introduce new rules to make the game more interesting or challenging (e.g. no words allowed, or use only French).

All examples above are using the regular evenly sized panels on A4, though very recently I've decided to alter the format to this on A3 -

Larger paper means kids no longer have any excuse for tiny little people and mumbling speech - now we have to be a bit bolder. Also the different shaped panels allow the first person to set the scene a little more (I'll give a bit more time for this first panel maybe). Finally the space right at the top can be used for the final artist to add an appropriate title, using their bestest bubble or block lettering, and maybe also the 3 contributors names.

Next sessions post - I think I should do something on Connect the Plots.

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