This will be the landing page for a look at my spring 2017 Making Comics course at SFSU. I’m in the process of updating it to include syllabus, week-by-week breakdown of what we did, example student work…

Making Comics Syllabus

OVERVIEW: Introduction to the hands-on making of comics. Students will engage in numerous in-class exercises and small projects in making comics alongside analysis of comics, in order to grow their understanding of how to communicate in comics and discover working methods that best work for them.

What we did

Day 1: Before class started… Write a brief reflection of what your interest in in comics/what brought you to this class; then list three favorite comics authors (and maybe what comics you’re reading now if any); next – say a few words about what you hope to get from this course; finally – say a bit about your experience (if any) making comics and drawing. If you’re feeling ambitious, I’d like you to post a sample or two of something you’ve made along these lines and from one of your favorite authors.

Day 2: Grids & Gestures. Intro and grids & gestures in class.

Exercise: Grids & Gestures as diary exercise over the week.

Day 3: Cutouts & Cartoons. I spoke on how cartoons work (referencing Peppa Pig!), McCloud’s triangle, more… We did cutout exercises based on Molly Bang’s “Picture This: How Pictures Work.”

Exercise: Tell the story of how you got here – this class (Interpreted however you feel like…) in a 3 Panel strip and then again in a 2 page comic.

DAY 4: Form & Structure. Talked time, space, and simultaneity in comics, and looked at Moore & Veitch “How Things Work Out,” McGuire “Here”, excerpts from Thierry Groensteen “The System of Comics,” and examples of panel-breaking in comics.

Exercise: Partner-Share Comic – Share a brief vignette/story of something that happened to you with your partner via email. Each person then makes a comic representing their partner’s story and their own story – so TWO comics in total created by each person. Beyond the initial textual exchange of stories, there should be no further collaboration as to how the stories are constructed until finished. (If you need clarification on a story point, that is acceptable.) Post each story here labeled as to who you’re working with.

DAY 5: Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story. Played some oubapo/constraint games – Matt’s tic-tac-toe-jam comics and more. 3 person collaborative comics.

Matt Madden’s blogpost on Tic Tac Toe Jam Comics making game; Matt’s list of other comics-making constraint games

Exercise: After exploring Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story, pretend that you are adding one more page to it. Take his original concept page – the base one – and make your own variation in a way that he didn’t already do in the book. Post here with any comments you might have.

Playing off of Matt Madden’s 99 Ways book, make a one page comic of your own run of the mill story. Then, do THREE more versions of it (for FOUR in total), 1) where you play with STYLE 2) play with STORYTELLING (sequence, structure, etc.), and 3) distort FORM (things that may no longer even be comics by our definition). Push yourself to be inventive and really question the very structure of conveying a narrative. Excited to see what you all come up with! Post here and explain your constraints briefly.

DAY 6: Wordless Comics. Looked at lots of wordless comics and tried our own…

Some online readings: on Masereel and Wordless Comics; Laura Sneddon on Wordless Comics; David Berona on the System; David Berona on Woodcut Novels

Exercises: Create a short wordless comic and post here and bring to class. Think about the different ways wordless comics can be done. All with no dialogue or captions, but some with textual elements in the background, symbols, etc., and some completely devoid of words of any sort. Look forward to what you come up with…

DAY 7: Word Image, Poetry Comics. wsg Alexander Rothman of InkBrick

We’ll be joined this week (virtually) by Alexander Rothman of InkBrick comics poetry anthology. Have a look in advance!

Exercises: Create a piece of comics poetry. This can be an adaptation of your poem, an existing poem (or song lyrics), something you created entirely for this assignment. I somewhat guess the latter is most productive, but it will be interesting to see the directions each of you go with this. Emphasis here is on something where the form, the interdependency of text and image create the piece – rather than providing illustrations to text. There is no page limit on it – do as much as you need to do to make your comic work. Upload here and share a few reflections on the process of making it – what you learned, struggles, whatever.

You can see inkbrick examples on their site or better yet, their archive – where you can more easily cut past all the entries for their recent kickstarter Thinking you’ll find some inspiration in there.

DAY 8: Scripts & Telephone. We looked at scripts from Moore, Gaiman, and more. Tried interpreting them with no knowledge of the visuals and compared. Also, wrote script from looking at comics pages, shared with partner who drew them and compared.

Exercises: script-to-page translations that we did in class…..

DAY 9: Telephone & Timing.

Ok, so in class we looked at how comics scripts become comics pages – textual description translated into visual depiction. For this assignment, I want you to try a piece where words and images co-generate one another. First, have a look at “This is Information” by Moore and Gebbie that we read a while back and I’ve posted on iLearn again. Then look at the following comics or pages by me:

Show of Hands

The Rabbit Page:

Maxine Says:

Seeing Red/Feeling Blue and

the Rose page from Unflattening:

You are to make a one page multi-panel comic where you select a single thematic element (along the lines of what I’ve done in the examples) to use literally/metaphorically throughout as a way of linking the piece together. A short way to think about is to talk about one thing in terms of another (i.e. talk about games by talking about rabbits, talk about democracy by talking about hands, comics as roses, etc.) Keep your metaphor running in some way for each beat of your narrative. Take this in whatever direction you need to – and have fun with it!

DAY 10: Architecture & Experimental Comics.

In which we’ll talk architecture, diagrams, Chris Ware, Kevin Huizenga, and have a look at some experimental comics from Polystyrene and others…

Paul Gravett on Chris Ware & Building Stories

In regards to your Visual Analysis/Annotation Assignment – some info to Help you prep: Check out the Videos at Strip Panel Naked – comics analysis site – very cool, should give you ideas on some sorts of things to pay attention to: My earlier essay in comics “The Shape of Our Thoughts” Online here. More on The Shape of Our Thoughts as Ch3 of Unflattening Online here

For this assignment, choose BOTH a page from some comic you like that does something you find interesting along with a comics-page of your own creation, both of which you will visually annotate and analyze as discussed in class. This means that you will either trace the pages on tracing paper, redraw in your own hand, or make photocopies or something of that sort. 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. (This is far more important than explaining the narrative for our purposes.) 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?

I suggest doing the page you find first – go crazy with it, and then try to apply your analysis to your own. I suspect, however simple you think your own page is, you will start to discover more about it than you imagined. Also, you are the creator of it, so you know more about what went into its creation (and what didn’t make it in) than anyone so you can draw on that as well. Have fun with both explorations and see what you uncover that will in turn help inform you as a maker going forward… 

Exercise: House Project – Make a comic about the place you live that deals with time in some particular way – as we witnessed in Building Stories, Here, and the other experimental comics we looked at Monday…

DAY 11: Shape and Form.

READ (or at least skim): my comic “bi(blip)ography

READ: about R Sikoryak’s iTunes Terms & Conditions adaptation

READ some pages from Sikoryak’s Terms & Conditions by scrolling here:\

Exercises: Make a short comic about yourself by using at least three instances where you reference the style from 3 different artists (comics or other) as a way to tell your narrative. Play with it, see if it gives you any ideas about your own drawing process, your style, composition ideas. It’s a chance to learn a bit about your own comics making by adopting the look of others. See my example “bi(bli)ography” and R.Sikoryak’s “iTunes Terms & Conditions” adaptation – all of which i linked to above… Have fun with it!

DAY 12: 22 Panels that Always Work.

Exercise: remake of Wally Wood’s 22 Panels that Work and 2nd, upload the single page comic you made based on randomly selecting a sequence of those 22 panels as we did in class.

DAY 13: Recipe Books!

Making Comics Recipe Book: Imagine that as a group we are creating our own Making Comics Textbook, for which each class member contributes a short, single chapter highlighting some element of comics creation that you feel is particularly important, is unique to your own way of working, was helpful to you in learning to make comics – something that stands out and you’d like to explore a bit in depth in terms of organizing it in such a way to benefit others from your experience. This can include visual examples, process artifacts, the sorts of things you would want to see to learn for yourself. We’ll discuss the form and specifics together over the term, but in addition to book-like formats, we can try other formats – doing it as a video, in comics form, and something online – that provides links to related resources.

DAY 14: Editing and

Legendary editor Diana Schutz joins us virtually to talk her career in comics and the ins and outs of the life an editor. Have a look at this long form interview with Diana here from The Comics Journal. And this brief piece upon her retirement.

DAY 15: Mini-Comics & Odds n Ends

Mini-comics resources: Mini-comic construction from Abel & Madden; No-staple version from Cartoonists League; A slick instruction set from Austin Kleon; Mini-comics instructions with sample; Nifty accordion book example from Grant Thomas; Weirdly, one of the most helpful from craftsy; From Hello Lydia Wysocki with an example (PDF); Advice on different kinds of mini-comics from Big Time Attic; Lots of advice on mini-comics from Comics Reporter; Not mini-comic advice, but silly advice and helpful from Matt Boyce; Tons of advice from International Cartoon Conspiracy; Advice and then some from Jessica Abel; General advice on comics from Alec Longstreth; Neill Cameron’s instacomics (have a look!); Heider & Simmel Animation, Norton Juster The Dot & The Line

DAY 16: Airline Safety Manuals & more

FINAL – Projects