Comic book camp!

day at camp
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

Moomin’s comic book camp turned out to be pretty good. As foretold, their “outdoor activities” were sitting on the lawn playing checkers and walking to the Stanford bookstore. Maybe I’m projecting my own desires here, but that sounds like more fun than playing sports in 100 degree weather!

The camp was in a giant dorm or frat house on campus, sort of a mansion. The downstairs rooms were set up with folding tables and computers, enlivened greatly by bright green plastic tablecloths on the tables. That made such a difference, they should try it at SuperHappyDevHouse to give it a more festive and less gritty atmosphere. Tablecloths and computers! Ha!

The first day, they talked about comics and drew a storyboard, nothing fancy, just a sketch on a sheet of paper. The counselor asked the kids to think about ordinary stories from daily life, and how they’d draw them in a comic.

Moomin told me later that he thought of Jeffrey Brown’s Cat Getting Out of a Bag as his inspiration. Brown draws little black and white strips, mostly about his cat Misty. I think I heard someone call him “The Chris Ware of the Cat Comics World”, or I might have made it up. Anyway, I thought Moomin showed good taste in his inspiration! It seems a bit tough to narrate your own life observations when you’re only 8. That seems like right on the edge of when people do construct lasting narratives about their experiences.

The kids used Photoshop and several other programs and then Comic Book Creator for their finished comic.

Here’s Moomin’s:

Me and My Cat

The intentionally funny part is where I say “blah blah blah” in a too-long explanation of how the cat didn’t mean anything bad by nipping him during a petting-frenzy.

I love how he put in the blue stripe in his hair, and the accurate color of the blankets on our beds, and the cats’ siamese-blue eyes!

This weekend we set up his computer so that he has Comic Life and Skitch to make his own comics, and a little color printer that we had lying around from a year ago and no one was using.

I spent a while floundering around trying to figure out an easy and useful image editor for kids. Most of what is out there is utter crap. TuxPaint and Pencil didn’t work out well. And KidPix is … well what can I say, it’s crap, it was being used like 15 years ago and has the feel of a cluttered lurking behemoth, it also feels to me like it cuts off pathways of creativity rather than teaching much of anything. Feel free to contradict me.

And Photoshop, well, good luck. That is too much junk for an 8 year old to mess with.

I use Skitch myself for screen caps and LOLcat-making, and it is very simple and usable. So I taught that to Moomin first. It is on my radar to try Doozla since I like every other software product Plasq makes, this one might be good for kids! Comic Life itself was just perfect. It’s amazingly fun to use, including the funny little sound effects that come on when you manipulate images – like a balloon expanding noise when you stretch out or distort text. It’s easy to use – and it’s elegantly designed.

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