A Great Syllabus

English 3150 Graphic Novel Workshop

Always bring this syllabus with you

Instructor:       Theresa Williams

Email:              terria@bgsu.edu (Also on Facebook)

Lab:                 theresawilliamscomicslab.wordpress.com

Office:             419 East Hall

Office Hrs:      Wednesdays 2:30-4:00


  1. This is not a class about the comics industry. It’s a class about how to be an independent comics artist. Comics in this class are to be hand-drawn and hand-lettered, not done on a computer. The only exception is the final project, which may be hand drawn or done on a computer. Work done on a computer must be printed out.
  2. I will scan a few of your completed assignments and post them to the blog, Theresa Williams’s Comics Lab. YOU WILL NEED TO DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO USE YOUR REAL NAME OR A PEN-NAME.
  • Alternative comics, Independent comics, or Indie comics: American comics that have appeared since the 1980s. They followed the underground comix movement of the 1960s-70s. They are an alternative to mainstream comics which have dominated the American comic book industry, offering a wide range of genres, styles, and subjects. In Alternative/Indie comics, more emphasis is placed on the individuality of the artist’s style and experiences and storytelling. Stories tend to be subtler and more complex than Industry-driven or underground comics. Publishers of alternative comics include: Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, and Last Gasp.


  • Syllabus, Lynda Barry
  • Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels, Tom Devlin, Ed.

SUPPLEMENTAL TEXTS : Comics are expensive. Therefore, four times during the semester, I will bring in a collection of my own comics for you to read. You will be required to fill out a form to answer questions about each text. Each form is worth five points.


This course provides students with a means for creative self-discovery and the exploration of complex ideas. Students will record their observations, experiences, and memories in a composition book and then translate this material into various pictographic narratives of varying lengths. We will explore the rhythms of storytelling, practice the formal elements of comics, and compose comics pages using this iconic visual language, all the while experimenting with a variety of tools, media, and approaches.


  1. To provide students with a means for creative self-discovery and the exploration of complex ideas.
  2. To work toward an individual vision and style.
  3. To learn strategies for visual and textual analysis.


By the end of the course, students will have demonstrated basic illustration techniques. They will have:

  1. Explored their own personal style of storytelling
  2. Created a series of pages of sequential narrative (minimum of 30 panels)
  3. Told stories, clearly and in an effective manner using both words and pictures
  4. Written observations of 4 graphic novels (on reserve)


  1. Students will fill one composition book (100 PAGES, FRONT AND BACK) with thoughts, observations, class work, and preliminary studies for class assignments. If one book is completely filled, students will start another.
  2. Students will spend class time reading, discussing, and/or practicing writing and drawing techniques.
  3. Students will fill out four forms on graphic novels supplied in class.
  4. Students will do a final project consisting of at least 30 panels on Fanboy paper.
  5. At the beginning of each class, students will produce one 2-minute self-portrait on an index card.


  1. Students should not miss more than 3 classes. Each class absence past 3 will cost students five points from their attendance grade.
  2. All creative work should show a good faith effort. Work that is shoddily constructed, not well thought out, or late will receive a deduction of points.
  3. Students must work with required course materials, special pens and papers.
  4. Students’ papers must be focused, organized, perceptive, and free of errors.


Art Supply Depo in Bowling Green
435 East Wooster Street
Bowling Green, Ohio 43402
(419) 352-9501

Open every day:
10:00am – 7:00pm  |  Monday – Thursday
10:00am – 6:00pm  |  Friday + Saturday
12:00pm – 5:00pm  |  Sunday



*Pack of blank 3 x 5 notecards (for self-portraits)

*Plain white typing paper (for some classwork)

* Bristol Board (9 x 12)

*A cheapo composition book

**Fanboy comic book art boards, 11 x 17*

*Always bring note cards, typing paper, appropriate text, and the composition book you are currently working on with you to class.

**Final project must be done on Fanboy paper, unless it is done on computer and then printed out. There will be homework and class assignments requiring the Fanboy paper, also.

Ink, Pencil, Eraser, and Color

  • Acid Free, Permanent, Waterproof Ink Markers:  Micron Pens, black, size 08, 05, 03, and one with a chisel tip and one with a brush tip. NO SHARPIES!
  • Non-Photo blue pencil
  • 6H drawing pencil
  • Polymer Eraser
  • Watercolor pencils (24 pack).
  • Small inexpensive brushes, one flat, one round.


  • Rubber Cement
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • 4- Inch brayer
  • Magazines (for collage work)
  • Clear ruler (at least 15 inch)
  • Tote for carrying supplies
  • Accordion folder for class work and homework.

 *always bring your accordion folder and its contents to class.


As with any university-level creative writing class, I expect you to avoid any type of hackneyed story with predetermined elements in predictable combinations.


Attendance/participation:       20-points

*4 short papers (forms)           20-points (5-points each)

*Homework                            30-points

**Final project                        20-points

Final Exam                              10-points

*Deduction of 2 1/2 points per day for late work.

**Deduction of 10 points for late final project.


Attendance is very important. This is a hands-on class. We will be doing lots of creative work, both writing and drawing, in class. You are required to make up any work that you miss. Participation means that you will put all of your electronic devices away (unless you are using them to view the blog) and work diligently on assignments in class.


You will produce a number of short creative pieces for homework. They must be turned in on time. Some homework assignments will be scanned and posted at the Comics Lab. You must save ALL creative work and all handouts. Place the 8 ½ x 11 size homework and handouts in your accordion folder. You will need to present your folder to me on the last day of the semester. It will be returned to you on final exam day. Put your name (and pen-name if you are using one) each homework assignment.


You must fill up one 100 page composition book with class assignments, obsessions, and explorations. Use both sides of the paper. You should work in your composition booksevery day, filling it with research, drafts, and ideas. If you fill up one composition book, begin another.


Students will make progress toward completion of a graphic novel. Unless you create your final project on a computer, it must be done on Fanboy paper.  At least 30 completed panels (of any size) are required. The sequence presented should have a beginning, middle, and end. It should be able to stand on its own.  For your final project you may:

1) Do a series of Autobiographical strips

2) Do a series of Haiku strips

3) Do a scene from a fairytale or myth (or the whole fairytale or myth)

4) Create your own story


The exam will be open-book and open-note. You WILL need to bring BOTH texts with you. Your accordion will be returned on that day, so you will be able to use your handouts and composition books as well. You may only use your own books and notes. You may do the exam on your laptop or in a bluebook (handwritten).


Cartooning:                 the process of creating words and pictures as an art form

*Cartoons:                   the things a cartoonist creates

*Comics:                     a language/art form using any combination of words and pictures

Strip:                           a short sequence of panels in any configuration

Graphic Novel:           a physical object (a book containing comics)

*You have probably noticed that “cartoons” and “comics” are often used as pejorative terms. We won’t be doing that. As with any art form, there are good and bad examples of cartoons/comics.