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Linton Public Library to offer comic strip seminar

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holy -- make that wholly -- educational experience, Batman!

The Linton Public Library will teach kids how to create their own comic strips during a special seminar at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 29.

Among the lessons: Developing characters, designing pages and layouts, and creating a storyline.

The session, geared toward those in sixth grade through their senior year of high school, will be taught by Angie Stuckey, the young adults' librarian.

"I draw," she said. "I don't want to say I'm an artist of any kind insofar as having done anything professional, but I know enough to teach them a few things."

Stuckey, who expects the session will be limited to 20 participants, said Scholastic Press has provided informational packets for the sessions.

Scholastic Art magazine, a branch of Scholastic Press, a prominent educational publications company, is also hosting a nationwide contest participants in the local seminar can enter.

Ten winners who submit a winning comic strip contained upon a single 8 1/2-by-11-inch page by the Dec. 2 deadline will receive $200 worth of arts supplies from Prismacolor.

The library's also recently added a supply of comic books, Stuckey said, thanks to librarians noting how effective they can be in drawing new readers.

"I was at a seminar recently and they mention that graphic and novels comics can do a lot for children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and dyslexia," Stuckey said. "Incorporating literature with graphics helps them focus, getting them to pay more attention."

The library's selection isn't just limited to children's books, either.

"I've just noticed it's a growing genre that's been very popular," Stuckey said. "A lot of libraries are trying to branch out and reach all kinds of people, especially those we call 'reluctant readers' who might not be as inclined to pick up a book."

Selections aimed at adults -- but suitable for kids, too -- on site include a biography of country music legend Johnny Cash adapted to comics.

Other books are specifically geared toward mature audiences, including "The Walking Dead" by Kentucky's Robert Kirkman, which inspired the popular AMC-TV series of the same name.

Gory scenes and adult themes contained within those books make them specifically for older readers.

Comics can draw new readers from multiple generations, said journalist and professor Troy Brownfield.

"Graphic literature helps because you have pictures and symbols for learning readers to associate with the words. My own children were both very young when they began to associate the whole words 'Batman' and 'Superman' with the characters," he said.

"At first, it was simple set identification, the recognition of a logo in the way that someone might note the arches of McDonald's. Over time, they understood that those letters and those words had meaning apart from something that hangs over the picture, and it propels the process."

Brownfield writes stories in comic books like "Batman," "Buck Rogers," and the web-comic "Sparkshooter" with artist Sarah Vaughn.

He's also an educator and columnist with the comics industry website Newsarama in addition to his work as a journalism professor, most recently at Terre Haute's St.-Mary-of-the-Woods College.

The simplicity of comics and their visual elements encourages the very young to read, Brownfield said.

"In terms of literacy, comics are an incredibly effective tool," Brownfield said.

"When promoting the idea of reading, it's helpful to bring kids and late readers identifiable characters and symbology in an effort to connect them to the language. Kids may be naturally more inclined to look at something with, say, Batman in it. And fortunately, Batman is a character that is available not only in comics, but in picture books and chapter books for young readers. You can bring a number of formats to bear, connected with a through-line that's grounded in comics."

The decision to feature comic books to encourage reading is a dramatic change from how comics were initially treated.

During a first burst of popularity, they were scorned and even banned in the 1950s as Dr. Fredrich Wertham suggested they led to juvenile delinquency in his 1954 psychological study "The Seduction of the Innocent."

Despite that controversy, comics thrived and survived, boosted inprofile by TV shows and movies featuring superheroes like Superman and Batman over the next five decades.

Comics have declined a bit in popularity since their 1990s heyday, when a million copies of Marvel Comics' "X-Men" were sold in specialty shops like the now-defunct "Batter's Boxx" in Linton.

However, the cross-generational appeal and continuing popularity of characters such as Spider-Man and Batman continues across multimedia such as video games, films and cartoons makes them a strong draw for readers.

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James30096: Are you... stereotyping? It seems I will never sell these "She-Hulk vs. Leon Spinks" comics. Worst cross-over ever!

-- Posted by per moenia urbis on Thu, Nov 17, 2011, at 2:08 PM

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