Friday, 24 July 2015

Dinosaurs, Vampires and Robots at Oxford Central Library

Hands up if you want to make awesome comics.

Regular readers of this blog will know I do a lot of comics workshops at schools, libraries, literary festivals and such, all over the place really. However, I almost never manage to get any pictures from such events, due to the fact that I always have my hands full of Sharpies and anyway am generally a bit busy drawing giant mutant Cornish pasties, or whatever it may be that day. Anyway, I recently did a session at Oxford Central Library, to help launch the Summer Reading Challenge there, and to celebrate The Pirates of Pangaea's inclusion in said scheme. A great fun time was had, and some of the library's marvellous staff managed to snap a few pics, so I thought I'd share them here!

Who wants to learn to draw T-Rexes?

That is me demonstrating Tyrannosaur's underdeveloped arms? I think?
Teaching important lessons to the youth.

Dinosaurs were drawn, records broken, and a good time had by all. (I hope?) Many thanks to Joanna Morris and all at the library for having me, and for passing on these photos!

Lots more events upcoming! Next weekend I'll be at Camp Bestival for three solid days of comics workshops with Gary Northfield and the Phoenix comic gang. And tomorrow I'll be spending the day in the Illustrator Zoo at the Story Museum, drawing comics while members of the public come along and watch the process and ask questions and possibly join in? Come along, it should be fun! And keep an eye on my Upcoming Events page for more! 

Friday, 17 July 2015

InstaComics, everyone!


Summer holidays start today! For families across the land the appalling prospect looms of suddenly having a house filled with children alternately complaining that they don't know what to do, or making you feel guilty by staring at minecraft-filled screens for long, endless hours. What CAN they do? What is a fun, creative activity to keep them occupied, or at least when it's too rainy to go out and kick rocks up and down the street?

Why COMICS of course!

(You probably knew I was going to say that.)

Anyway, I've been meaning to blog these for a while - a fun comics-making activity that everyone can try! For one session of my Saturday Morning Comics Club at the Story Museum I thought we'd try mixing things up a bit and making some photo comics using whatever toys and props I had available. I've been alternately calling these 'InstaComics' or 'Semi-Fumetti', the latter being more fun to say. They're pretty simple to make, and are kind of a halfway house between comics and stop-motion animation, the process being:







It's that simple! And if you then quickly upload the pictures to twitter, or as a tumblr photoset or such, you get a really nice instant-completion sense, of making something and putting it out into the real world within minutes. Instant webcomics!
So simple that a child could do it, and indeed they have. Here are some results from my excellent and most talented pupils at comics club; first an amazing multidimensional experiment by Ruari...

No lego? No problem! Here's an excellent effort by Eliza, using a CORK instead.


And one by Hector which is possibly my favourite LUKE CAGE: POWER MAN comic of all time:



...and you can find lots more examples on the @ComicsClubSM twitter feed! I mean, seriously, lots.

I found it a really fascinating exercise, which both levelled the playing field in terms of drawing ability and also encouraged the kids to think about panel composition and storytelling in completely different ways. I would particularly recommend this as an exercise to anyone with kids who are determined Can't Draw Won't Draw-ers, as it kind of sucks you in to drawing a bit of background here, a few speed lines there, and before you know it, hey, you're making comics so I guess you can draw after all? Also particularly recommended to kids obsessed with Lego, or Minecraft, or Frozen, or Star Wars, because it's a way of playing with your favourite toys and making up stories in those worlds and with those characters even if you haven't quite got the hang of drawing all the webs on spider-man's costume or whatever.


Look, you can even have a go at the CLASSICS:



Anyway, have a go! See what you come up with over the summer, and please do feel free to tweet at me on @neillcameron or @ComicsClubSM with any results, I'd love to see them.

And if the kids need something else to do after that, move them onto the ADVANCED CLASS - make and publish their own comic by the time they go back to school! (With today's ease of access to reprographic technology this is, honestly, a way more achievable goal than it may possibly seem at first glance. Look, here are a few we made earlier!




For lots of further activities and ideas and pointers on how to make awesome comics, HEY! I actually made a whole book about this stuff?


Available from good bookshops and libraries nationwide! And do check out the How To Make Awesome Comics page on my website for more info and examples, and lots more activities and resources to use in making your own comics!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Summer Reading Challenge


I'm delighted to report that The Pirates of Pangaea has been included in the list of titles for this year's Summer Reading Challenge! Hot-foot it to your local library and spend your summer holiday in a hazy sun-drenched land of bloodthirsty pirates and magnificent prehistoric giants.  

To kick things off I'll be doing a free Piratey Dinosaury Comics Workshop at our local library, specifically:

Oxford Central Library 
Saturday 11th July
2-3pm


More info on the library's Facebook page.

It's a FREE event, so come along and sign up for the reading challenge, draw some dinosaurs, and help set a new world record for awesomeness!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Mega Robo Update


Last week's Phoenix saw the last episode in the current run of my series Mega Robo Bros and I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who's said such nice things about the series lately. You know who you are, and it means a lot, and I'm beyond delighted that my little robot dudes seem to have connected with people. Anyway, Alex and Freddy are going to be taking a short holiday now, but they will be BACK SOON. Soon, and often. We've been having some very exciting conversations about these little guys lately, and, basically, they're going to be around for a while, touch wood. I got me some plans for these guys.

Anyway! By way of something completely different, this week's Phoenix features a thing I'm very excited about; I had a chance to collaborate with one of my favourite cartoonists, James Turner of Star Cat fame, and I grabbed that chance and drew muscular barbarians all over it.



What else? Tamsin! Kate is currently putting together the Tamsin and the Deep collection, and oh my word it is looking glorious. So excited for this book, I can't begin to tell you. In the mean time, I'm starting to write the next volume, Tamsin and the Dark, which I'm afraid I really can't tell you anything about yet. Well I could, but then I'd have to push you down an abandoned mineshaft in rural Cornwall. And I don't think either of us want that.

Comics Club update: I've had a few enquiries asking if we're running the weeklong comics course at the Story Museum again this summer, and I'm afraid not - it's a huge amount of work, and I'm afraid I just couldn't fit it in with other commitments this year. I am doing a few one-off events here and there in Oxford over the summer - check out my Upcoming Events page for details. More to be announced there soon!

Okay, that's pretty much what I'm doing! I had better go and get on with it all.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Hellboy to the power of Hellboy


I was excited to recently read of the discovery of a new dinosaur, Regaliceratops peterhewsi, which has the enjoyable distinction of being a bit like a Triceratops but a bit different, and thus very likely qualifies as the coolest thing to happen in 2015 so far. Also enjoyable is the fact that it's discoverers nicknamed the fossil 'Hellboy' - not in fact for anything to do with the horns, but because of some peculiar difficulties in the excavation. 

Anyway, once I became acquainted with these two pieces of information, a course of action pretty much immediately presented itself.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mega Robo Bros LIVE!

This weekend saw the third annual Phoenix Children's Comics Festival - or #PHOENIXFEST15, to hashtag it all up in here - at the Story Museum in Oxford, and an amazing fun time it was too. I was there on the Saturday and it was just stunning to be surrounded by such enthusiasm, creativity and sheer bursting-at-the-seams excitement for comics. And for OUR comics! Honestly, it's hard to put into words how great it was to see.

ANYWAY! As is my usual form, I was far too busy drawing robots for people to remember to take any photos of it all. But fortunately, some of my robots came to life and came along, so I could take photos of them! Look who I bumped into:


Which, obviously, rather completely made my day. And allowed us to quickly create the following:

MEGA ROBO BROS LIVE!





You'll notice that the kid who came cosplaying as Freddy was also SIMULTANEOUSLY COSPLAYING AS EVIL EMPEROR PENGUIN, and as such holds a pretty solid claim to being the most awesome person in the country.

Here for good measure is the Alex version:






Just so much fun. I made those panels last week, volunteering on a Sunday and being filled with a  nagging worry that I really should have just taken a much-needed day off instead. I really hoped they would be a fun little bonus thing for kids and parents at the festival, and anyway, these pictures alone make it all pretty much worthwhile from my perspective. Thanks so much, Mega Robo Family!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Comics for Kids: A Big Awesome List Thereof



Regular readers of this blog will know I've talked a lot here about the importance of comics for kids, the role they can play in developing literacy skills and inspiring a love of reading and, y'know, all that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I've also talked a lot about how difficult it can be for parents, educators, and indeed kids themselves to know where to start with comics; to find exciting and age-appropriate titles. I've attempted to recommend a few titles from time to time, with my apparently now-annual series of posts Comics For 6-Year-Olds and Comics For 7-Year-Olds (coming this year! Comic-For-8-Year Olds! I guess?), but I'm well aware how brief and incomplete they are. I can't begin to tell you the number of times over the last few years that I've been off doing workshops, talking to teachers and librarians who're interested in using comics but need some pointers where to start, and wished I had just a big LIST to give them. A Big List Of Awesome Comics For Kids.

Well, the good news is, someone made that list! That someone(s) being Melanie McGilloway and Zoe Toft of the Federation of Children's Book Groups, who have put together a new booklist entitled 'Inside The Box: A Selection of Comics And Graphic Novels For All Ages', which... well, which is basically the thing I've been wishing existed for the last five or so years. To quote Melanie and Zoe's introduction:

"The Federation's primary aim is to encourage reading for pleasure and we are sure the books and magazines on this list will do just that. Although comics and graphic novels are sometimes resisted by (adult) gatekeepers, we are great believers in this format and hope that this list shows comics are not just for boys or reluctant readers but for anyone who enjoys great storytelling."

And it really is an impressive list - wide-ranging and thoughtfully curated, with an eminently useful focus on titles that are in print and widely available in the UK. Again, making it easy for teachers, librarians, parents and kids, which I think is so important.

(In the interests of FULL DISCLOSURE I should mention that I was consulted during the making of the list, but I really barely helped at all - I'm quite sure Melanie and Zoe were already familiar with all the titles I suggested, and a whole lot more besides. There's stuff in here that I'd never heard of previously, and which I'm already looking forward to checking out.)

Any teachers, librarians, or just anyone with an interest who'd like to get hold of the booklist, please contact the Federation to request copies - just e-mail info@fcbg.org.uk with your name and address. More info on the FCBG's blog, here. I personally have a thick wedge of copies that I shall be liberally strewing in my wake pretty much wherever I go from now on. Thanks again, Zoe and Melanie!