Comics in the classroom: the artists’ perspective

As a writer with the shaky draftsmanship of a toddler on Red Bull, I tend to avoid discussing the visual aspect of comic book literature – this despite holding a Ph.D. which looked at the lives of many 20th century art historians!

I really struggled with art in high school. The only recognition a teacher ever showed for my artistic talents was at the age of 13, when I decorated the interior and exterior covers of my maths book with an epic stick-figure comic depicting the escapades of Jimmy Joe the Spew Surfer as he battled his way to a Ramones gig.

At the bottom of that week’s homework, Mr. O’Grady wrote: ‘7/10, some corrections to be made. Please kindly cover over the adventures of Jimmy Joe et al, or purchase a new exercise book.’ He then made me collect litter from the campus after school.

Jessica Abel, self-portrait
Self-portrait from 2007’s Life Sucks, by Jessica Abel

In this blog post, I want to redress the balance and hear artist-educators’ thoughts on using comics in the classroom. From the USA, we’re joined by acclaimed graphic novelist Jessica Abel, co-creator of the Drawing Words, Writing Pictures comics textbook. In London, Kel Winser works with children and young people creating Egyptian-themed superhero comics at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian archaeology, while Australian writer and illustrator Steve Axelsen runs workshops for young people in Western Sydney via the Westwords programme.

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