So there you are: it’s a Saturday afternoon and it’s raining (or snowing, or really windy or you can fill-in-the-blank-with-the-forces-of-Mother-Nature-of-your-choice). The kids are indoors and boredom is on the brink of kicking in.
All is not lost! Time to break out the paper and pens and get creative! A mini-comic is in the offing and all you (“you” being the parent, grandparent, big brother or otherwise labeled “older person”) to organize a few procedures and you’re off and running.
First of all — you’re asking, “what is a mini-comic?” I’m gonna tell you briefly cuz you asked nicely. But then we’re going to get to work.
A mini-comic is nothing more than a comic that is basically made by hand and has a small print run, It’s not “mini” in the physical sense but come to think of it, mini-comics do seem to be smaller than conventional comics, although that’s not necessarily true either. How about if we leave it at this: a mini-comic is a photocopied comic-book that has a hand-printed cover that’s been folded and stapled by the artist and measures 8.5 x 11.
Don’t get hung up on the size. You’ll learn more about that later! O-k…enough with the definitions! Your kids aren’t going to care about that anyway! Let’s get to work. The easiest way to make a comic-book is by using the size of paper that is typically used in a photo-copier. That means either 8.5×11 or 11x 17. We’re gonna use both but not at the same time.
So gather round the kids and follow these easy-to-follow directions and then stand back! Cuz creative stuff is gonna happen!
1) Hand out the paper! Depending on how many kids there are, I usually divvy up about 10-12 pages of typewriter paper. That would be paper that measures 8.5 x 11 inches. This is the typical size paper for a printer, photocopier and general correspondence. Your kids can use more…they can use less…but it needs to be an even number. You’ll understand why in a second.
2) Have your budding artists take a ruler and make one-inch border on each page. This is technically called the “bleed area.” The artwork needs to stay inside this area. WHY? The one-inch border is for staples, folding and anything else but it ensures that the artwork doesn’t get covered up.
3) Now they each have 10 pages of 8.5 x 11 paper that has a one-inch border ruled on it. From here on out it’s all imagination, baby!
4) The measured space within that one-inch border can be subdivided into panels or left as just one huge panel. Uh oh. You’re asking me what a panel is? It’s the space used for the artwork. It’s a framing device. Each panel big or small contains art and story. A typical page can have one huge panel, two, four, three. However you want to divide up your page. It depends on what the kids want to do.
5) At this point — in the sense of fostering team work, I usually ask the kids to work together writing a story. Ya can’t have a comic book without a story. They need to write up the story…and figure out how it’s going to fit into 10 pages.
6) Along with the story they need to create characters. Who cares if the kids are not artists. It matters not! This is for enjoyment.
7) Now I usually divvy up the 10 pages. Say there’s three kids — then each gets 3 pages plus a bonus page for someone who is really motivated.
8) As a team, the kids will start drawing out their story — someone will take the first three pages, the next will get three more, and so one. They are responsible for drawing and having the characters do whatever it is they are supposed to do in the story they have written. Will it make sense? Who cares! Let ’em have fun!
9) I have noticed that if I set a time-limit it creates a sense of focus and helps prevent against boredom. Two hours after the story has been written usually seems just about right.
Fast-forward two hours and now you have ten pages of artwork and story for “The Further Adventures of Mud-Pie Man and his Steroid-Fed Dog Gonzo.” Now its time to make a quick “mock-up“. The mock-up represents how the pages will be layed out when you print them. Remember, the comic book pages need to be printed just like a regular comic book. That means when you go down to the library you have to have the pages organized so Page One sits along side Page Ten, Page two alongside Page Nine. The mock-up is nothing more than a roadmap to follow so your pages come out in order. You will print out the first page which will have the cover on one side and it will be blank on the other (for the back page). But when that page gets spit out you will turn it over and stick it back in the printer so on the flip side you have page one and page ten printed. Sound confusing? Not really. Not if you make a mock up!
When you have this completed, you may want to turn the kids loose on their own and send them off to the library. If you explain it all to them there is no need to hold their hand. If they are say – under the age of 12 then by all means go with them to supervise. So it’s everyone into the car and off to the library…or Kinko’s or where you decide to go to print this masterpiece up. Last time I checked a photocopy cost 15 cents a page. So do the math — $1.50 for one copy. Each child gets 2 or three copies. Hey — maybe you’ll spend $10.00. Think of it as an investment. You’ll probably spend more than that just going to McDonalds or a movie.
Take all the printed pages back home or maybe if you are at the library you can work off in a corner on a table if you promise not to make any noise. Get a stapler, have the kids fold and staple, fold and staple. Allot maybe another hour for this little bit of fine-tuning.
You’re finished! You now have anywhere between 6 and ten copies. A few copies for each child! Time to go back home where they can enjoy their handiwork. By now the rain has stopped, an afternoon didn’t go to waste just watching DVD’s and your child and his/her friends are happy. Hey maybe they’ll be motivated to do this again and make it even better! Over the years I’ve used this simple method of passing time to help organize comic-book making clubs where the number of kids multiplies faster than copulating rabbits and there never seems to be enough time in the day.
Think this is just for kids? Think again! I still use the same basic premise for my own small-press/small print run comic book projects.
The moral of this story? You don’t have to be working for Marvel Comics to make a comic book!
In case you’re interested here’s some cool links (courtesy of www.treesandhills.org) for you…the kids…or anyone else that is interested! Enjoy:
Jessica Abel’s DIY Tutorials – (www.artbabe.com) – Good lessons on materials and the process of drawing comics.
Comic Script Templates For Microsoft Word – (www.ourworld.compuserve.com) Automates and simplifies script formatting.
Comic Tools (www.comictool.blogspot.com) – “Snooping into cartoonists’ tool boxes. Updated weekdays.” MK Reed posts the results of her survey of artists’ habits – take the survey yourself!
DIY Comix (www.scribble.com) – an instructional pamphlet by Shawn Granton (some assembly required).
John MacLeod’s Small Press Comics FAQ (www.sentex.net) – Info on making comics.
Make Comics Forever!! (www.makecomicsforever.blogspot.com) – Cartoonists share their thoughts and advice on productivity.
Brian Lee O’Malley’s Comics Advice – (www.destroyerzooey.livejournal.com) Posted in response to some questions.
This has got me so excited I think I’m gonna go off and produce something of my very own!