It may be fashionable these days to take shots at movies based on comic books, but contrary to popular belief, comic books are not a single genre. Rather, they are a visual storytelling medium that has evolved over hundreds of years. Today, comics are used to tell all kinds of stories—everything from coming-of-age dramas like Craig Thompson’s Blankets to the wartime journalism of Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde.
Thanks to ACX Teens, high school students now have an opportunity to create their own comic book in the program’s 10-week Comic Book Illustration class and one-week Comic Book Illustration and Storytelling Summer Workshop.
Co-taught by ArtCenter alumni Tom Broersma (BFA 04) and Jeff McMillan (BFA 04), who both majored in Illustration at the College, the classes will cover character development, page design, inking, collaboration, and also present students with tricks and secrets of the trade. Weekly assignments—using basic shapes to drive a narrative forward, shifting perspective as a storytelling device, and surprising readers with an “ugly truth” twist ending—are all designed to help students explore the art of dynamic storytelling.
“The individual assignments force them to work within certain restraints which, paradoxically, lead them to be more creative,” says Broersma, an artist and illustrator whose clients include Mattel, SpinMaster and Hasbro, who adds that the projects can also lead to narratives developing organically. “Even if they don’t necessarily have a game plan, they can at least put the ingredients together and get something rolling.”
And students shouldn’t worry if they can’t draw “the Marvel way,” says McMillan, an artist and illustrator whose clients include Nike, Microsoft and Mountain Dew. “We don’t limit by style or by drawing abilities. What’s important to us is clarity of storytelling, developing a personal voice, and an enthusiasm for pushing their ideas forward.”
But one thing Broersma and McMillan are adamant about is having their students reproduce their books on the last day of class. “We want them to see their comic book as a living thing,” says Broersma. “You need to put your name on it, give a copy to somebody else, and really claim ownership.”
Designed for students in grades 9 through 12, ACX Teens offers classes for all experience levels and in a variety of areas—from Advertising and 3D Modeling for Gaming to Fashion Sketching and Introduction to Transportation Design.