CHILDHOOD: Mothers and Classmates



  1. Today in your composition book we will be working in What It Is. We will do the exercises on pages 151-154.
  2. Next we will do the exercises on pages 159-162.
  3. Now, make a comic of one or more pages, based on 1 or 2 above.
  4. Retell a scene from your fairytale in the form of a “mash-up.” Put your superhero in your tale and see how that changes the story.

MASH-UP: Slang. a creative combination or mixing of content from different sources.



  • On April 8, 12, and 14, I’d like us to discuss some of the comics in your D & Q Anthology. So I’d like each person today to choose an author and a comic to talk about. We’ll do it as a round table discussion. I’d like it if no more than two people choose the same author/comic. As soon as you’ve made your choice today, please write your name and your choice on the board.
  • Talk about why you were drawn to this author/comic. What do you see in the art and the story? What techniques can you learn from? What does the comic give us? Make us feel? Why is it great that this comic exists? What does it add to the conversation about being truly alive?
  • During the last two weeks of class, you will be presenting your final project to us. You can do this by putting your work on a blog, using Power Point, or just bringing in your original art and displaying them. We want to know all about your project. Why you chose to do this project. What you hoped to convey with the project. Where you think you succeeded. Where you think you could have done better. What the challenges were. What the rewards were. Where you will take the idea from here. And so on.

Tellings and Retellings


kafka meta

  1. IN YOUR COMPOSITION BOOK: Read and do the exercises in What It Is, pages 139-147.
  2. From your D & Q Anthology, read “Callisto” (95), “The Hymn of the Pearl” (138) “Jane Eyre” (602) and “Freyfaxi” (627). ON WHITE PAPER: Create a 2-page (or more) comic based on another source. Don’t ask questions: just do it.


This assignment comes from page 164 in Lynda Barry’s What It Is. Please don’t look at this page until after you have finished the assignment.

On page 164, Barry makes a series of statements about memory. She provides images to go along with the statements. I want you to use the same statements and provide YOUR OWN images. You will make 12 panels of all the same size.

Note how she repeats certain words for emphasis. 

Pay attention to your lettering! Be neat and think about how you want to situate your lettering on the page. Think about how the lettering and images work together.


Title your piece “Memory. A Comic based on the thoughts of Lynda Barry.”

  1. What is it? The ordinary is extraordinary.
  2. The ordinary is extraordinary (repeated)
  3. The ordinary is something we want back when someone we love dies.
  4. When someone dies or leaves or falls out of love with us (note the repetition)
  5. We call it “little things.”
  6. We say, “It’s the little things I miss the most.” The ordinary things. (note the repetition)
  7. It’s the little thing that brings them back to us unexpectedly. We say “reminds us.” But it is more than reminding. (note the repetition)
  8. It’s a conflagration.
  9. It’s an inundation…
  10. Both fire and flood is memory.
  11. It’s spark and breach so ordinary, we do not question it…
  12. The atom split. The little thing. (note the repetition)

Week after Spring Break

spring break copy

For the week after Spring Break, we’re doing creative exercises. You’ll be generating drawings and text and creating narratives from them. The preliminary work is done on notecards and the finished work is done on 8 1/2 x 11 paper.


  • Take 10 index cards and divide them into stacks of 5. Cut one stack in half. On these half-cards, write down something you overheard in a public place x 2; something you said to someone earlier in the day x 2; A catch phrase or slogan x 2; a question x 2; an interjection x 2. So that’s five prompts, two responses for each.

  • Now on the other five cards: draw the following images (no words allowed): the funniest thing you can think of; the saddest thing in the world; something sexy; something scary; something boring or mundane. Spend no more than 3 or 4 minutes on each card.
  • Now match the images with text from the half-cards. Choose the best two and recreate them on 8 1/2 x 11 paper.


  • Label the index cards A-O. Draw the following images (no words allowed). I will tell you later what to do with the images. Don’t want to ruin things by giving it away. Spend no more than 3 or 4 minutes on each card: A. The beginning of the world; B. The end of the world; C. A self portrait (entire body) D. Something that happened at your last meal E. An image from a recent dream F. Something that happened in the middle of the world’s existence G. What happened after “F”? H. Something that happened early this morning; I. Something that has yet to happen; J. Choose any panel and draw what happened immediately afterward K. Repeat panel “J” but from a different perspective; L. An intense closeup of something you drew in A-K; M. Something that you wish would happen; N. Something you wish hadn’t happened; O. Anything unrelated to A-N.
  • Arrange cards until you find a narrative. Use at least 8 cards. Recreate the narrative on 8 1/2 x 11 paper.

Stretching Story, Stretching Time

comics panel repetition2

Silent panels

“In a myth or fairytale, one doesn’t restore the kingdom by passivity, nor can it be done by force. It can’t be done by logic or thought. So how can it be done? Monsters and dangerous tasks seem to be part of it. Courage and terror and failure or what seems like failure, and then hopelessness and the approach of death convincingly. The happy ending is hardly important, though we may be glad it’s there. The real joy is knowing that if you felt the trouble in the story, your kingdom isn’t dead” –Lynda Barry, What It Is, page 54


By now you have chosen a lesser-known story from Anderson or Grimm. You have read your story and you know the plot. What we are going to do tonight is to work at stretching the story so that we aren’t simply illustrating it, so that we are bringing something new to it. Your assignment is in three parts:

  1. First, in your composition book, draw a portrait of your main character. Create a brief profile of your character. Then answer: What does he/she want? What are his/her obstacles? Who is the monster or villain? Does your main character have special tasks to perform? If so, what are they? What is the outcome of each task? Does your main character fail or seem to fail? Is there a sense of hopelessness? How does your character transform by the end of the story? Did you feel “the trouble in the story”? How can you portray the story in such a way as to let the reader feel “the trouble in the story” and know that his/her kingdom isn’t dead? (Isn’t that one reason why we create, after all? So that our own kingdom doesn’t die? So that we can move others so that they have the experience of being alive?)
  2. Second, on 8 1/2 x 11 paper,  in 4 or 6 panels, set up a preface to your story. The panels must be wordless and they must NOT convey any part of the plot. You may include objects, setting, or other characters from your story, but NOT anything that actually happens in the story.
  3. Finally, look at your plot and find a place in the plot where you can create four silent panels that stretch time. Create these panels.
  4. You’ll be doing several exercises with your fairytale. Please label this assignment on the back: “Stretching Story, Stretching Time” and put the date on it.
comics panel repetition

From Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Remember: Panel repetition is a way of stretching time.

Another way to stretch time is to alter the panel shape:

understanding comics

From Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

5. On 8 1/2 x 11 paper, redo #3 by altering the panel shape.

6. On 8 1/2 x 11 paper, redo #3 by going borderless:



understanding comics 002

From Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

7. Gutter Crossing. On a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, Create a series of panels(at least 2) based on a scene in your fairytale in which you cross the gutter(s). Crossing gutters drives the eye–and the action–forward.

crossing gutter


Artwork by Lydia Munnell, class of 2015

Retellings: Repetition


birth of suburbia Rosaleen Ryan

The Birth of Suburbia. Photograph by Rosaleen Ryan.

Another way to tell a story is as a retelling of an old story. We have already established that an image, all by itself, can tell a story. Consider the photograph above by Rosaleen Ryan. It is a modern version of The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.

birth of venus

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

This type of story works by CONTRAST. A tension exists between the high and the low. A great and profound myth about creation vs the limitations of suburbia.

  1. First, copy both images in your composition book, the Ryan and the Botticelli.
    • Repetition in the visual arts can be thought of as a recurring shape, color, object, motif, or other element within a work of art.

    You are going to repeat the same object (the woman in Ryan’s photograph). First, on a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, make four panels, all the same size. Draw the Ryan image four times, each time making some change, however dramatic or slight, to the background elements or to the object itself. The last panel should be an “aha” moment, where your story comes together. You may create more than four panels, if necessary.

  3. Somewhere in your first panel, you should include your name and the statement, “Based on a photograph by Rosaleen Ryan.”
  4. Turn this work in at the end of class.

Stories: Using Other Sources

2016 Eyes Closed 091

Image by David Dunten, class of 2016

The poet does not see the world differently, and everything in it. He does not deliberately go into training to sharpen his senses; he is a poet because his senses are naturally open and vitally sensitive. But what the poet sees with his always new vision is not what is ‘imaginary’; he sees what others have forgotten how to see. The poet is always stripping away the veils and showing us his reality. –Karl Shapiro

We have already seen in the interview with Seth that poetry and comics are related in terms of condensed language and rhythm. Here’s another way: When you make comics, you are showing “what others have forgotten to see.”

So your panels have to do more than illustrate the words. The illustrations should become part of language. What you choose to include in each panel is important.

Tonight, you’re going to create a strip of at least 12 panels about “The Man-Moth.”

“The Man-Moth” is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. We’re going to use parts of her poem to create a wordless strip. Because you won’t use words, your readers can either find a copy of Bishop’s poem and try to match the images with the words or make up their own story using your images. The brain is hardwired to make sense out of what it sees. People will create stories from the images you provide. 


  • Use your image of the Man-Moth that you created last week. Make any changes you think are necessary but try not to lose the eccentricity of your character.
  • Your first panel must have the title of your story and your name. Somewhere in this panel, you must say: Based on the poem “The Man-Moth” by Elizabeth Bishop. This is the ONLY panel that should contain words, although you may include “sound” words, like “boom, pfffft, pow,” etc.
  • When producing strips of more than one page, ALWAYS include a header on each page. See example below.
  • Keep all pages oriented the same way, portrait or landscape.


  • For this assignment I want you to experiment with different size panels and different placements on the page. Each page template must have gutters between the panels. Here are some different orientations. For this assignment, use only rectangles or squares for your panels. Panels = Time. If you want to create a sense of a lot of time passing, use wide panels. The more narrow the panel, the more quickly the panel tends to be read.

Here are the parts of the poem you will use:

  • He emerges from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
  • and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
  • He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky, proving the sky quite useless for protection.
  • He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.
  • Here, above, cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
  • The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
  • what the Man-Moth fears most he must do
  • although he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.
  • Then he returns to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
  • The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed.
  • Each night he must be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
  • If you catch him, hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil, an entire night itself
  • Then from the lids one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
  • Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over, cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.