Sequential Art: Improving Student Storytelling/3 Comic Creation Tools

Improving Student Storytelling Skills

During the past few decades comics, comic strips, and graphic novels have come into their own as a modern literary genre. More recently, educators have begun incorporating graphic storytelling into the classroom using both pre-existing texts and student-created comics. A large body of research suggests that comics can help students foster better:

Reading Skills: This effect is especially powerful for students learning English as a second language and for students encountering complex new material. An example of the complex as illustration can be seen in Marc Ngui’s massive series of drawings that sequentially illustrate Deleuze and Guattari’s complex tome A Thousand Plateaus.

One Thousand Plateaus: Chapter 1, Paragraph 1 by Marc Ngui.

One Thousand Plateaus: Chapter 1, Paragraph 1 by Marc Ngui.

Writing Skills: Comics force creators to sharpen and simplify their messages. After all, sequential art necessarily forces writers/artists to chunk information into small pieces since only so much text and art can fit into a single panel. You can see an example of this below in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

Excerpt from "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel

Excerpt from “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel

Visual Skills: As with writing, the visual framing conventions of comics force creators to work within a bounded space. This space often mimics – and sometimes influences – cinematic techniques in film. The comic artist Seth is a master of visual framing as evidenced below.

Excerpt from "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" by Seth

Excerpt from “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” by Seth

 3 Comic Creation Tools

Comic Life

Comic Life is available for Windows and Mac Download. This is the heavy-hitter of the bunch here with a ton of scripting tools, advanced graphic creation abilities, and editing options. Note: Although Comic Life it isn’t technically free it does offer a 30-day free trial for Mac.

Pixton

Pixton is offered on a ton of platforms including Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebook, Android, and iPad. Pixton has many of the same tools as Comic Life but does not offer the same range of actions within these tools. Notably, Pixton also includes a wide variety of pre-drawn avatars and backgrounds for super-fast comic creation. In addition, Pixton offers 3 different versions: Pixton for Fun, Pixton for Business, and Pixton for Schools.

Caption Distraction

Caption Distraction – available for iOS – is essentially Comic Life Lite. In short, this tool is intended for single panel comics based on user-generated photos or drawings. Caption Distraction is definitely the easiest – but most feature-lite – tool of the three.

Please contact the CII if you’d like more help with any of these tools or in building comics-based assignments. Shout out to Jody Brooks for inspiring this post!

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