The complex pages I provide pretty much guarantees students will come up with something interesting – but as they get better at this, they are able to do the same with even the most straightforward composition in rather run-of-the-mill comics. Sometimes we turn this analytical spotlight on their own, relatively novice works. And while initially, they may think their pages will be of little interest, here too, it turns out that the student can bring to light a treasure trove of inspired decisions. To give them additional ideas outside of class, one source I frequently direct students to is Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou‘s brilliant comics analysis on his YouTube channel Strip Panel Naked, which I can’t recommend enough.
I can’t recommend doing this with students (and yourself) strongly enough. Some of them have chosen one of my pages – and they find things I didn’t realize I’d done. On pages that I’ve seen multiple versions over the years, I find they are able to reveal new things to me frequently – and that’s the goal: to bring to light something about the meaning, the construction, the author’s intent that we would never have been aware of without doing this. But now that we have done it – it makes us read the piece in a whole new light.
The instructions as I write them for students (which were further developed after co-teaching with Frederik Køhlert, while we were postdocs at the University of Calgary): For this assignment, you will choose from a set of instructor-supplied comics pages along with another of your choosing to visually annotate and analyze. This means that you will either trace the two pages on tracing paper, redraw in your own hand, or make photocopies. You will then annotate the pages with notes and diagrammatic elements, in which you explain the effect of the various stylistic and other creative elements of the page. In other words, you will need to offer analytical commentary about why certain interesting creative decisions seem to have been made, and what they do to your understanding of the comic. The emphasis here is on observation—how much can you notice?—and what you can deduce from everything you have observed. The assignment is designed to help you think about the construction of a comic—how is it made, why is it made in this way, and what is the effect of it being made this way?
In addition to the samples on this page, there are many more (55 pages worth) and easier to read in the PDF examples. Have a look and then test it out yourself! Feel free to share back what your students produce! And again, way more things on teaching comics on the Education part of my site. Onward! – N