Comic Rewriting – Teaching Words through Pictures

Take a single page of comics you love and rewrite it as a prose narrative.

This is a simple activity but one that you’ll find draws together myriad skills involving literature analysis, image to word synthesis, and great language exploration. It’s also crazy fun to do.

You can do this with a class [I’ve done it successfully with kids aged about 8 and up] and you can also do it yourself for fun or to hone your writing craft.

All you need is a quality page of comics. Be sure to pick something you know will translate well to prose [and easily depending on the class you are instructing]. Also try to pick something moody, something rife to describe. The idea is that in writing the prose you describe the scene in detail [using figurative language and turns of phrase for effect] and you also get into the characters’ heads.

This can be done in books, on printed line sheets, and the example I’ll give below uses Google Drive for the classroom.

HAWKEYE AND THOSE DESPICABLE A.I.M. GOONS

I selected a page from SECRET AVENGERS #1 with art by Michael Walsh and colours by Jordie Bellaire.

Secret Avengers - Hawkeye AIM

I picked this page because it’s got pace, it’s relatively simple [yet with room to take it places], and it has a start [in media res] and an end moment [cliffhanger].

I had each student type their prose version of this page in a shared folder so I could easily access them all, and they could access each others’.

Once typed, I had the students use the Texthelp Study Skills add on and start highlighting the text with the following factors in mind:

Screenshot 2015-10-12 22.21.55

Once done, I then copy-pasted all the prose pieces into one file [though I could have the students do this themselves in the future with nearly as little fuss] and I put together a front page for it:

Screenshot 2015-10-12 22.24.41

From there, a quick check to ensure that every prose piece has the student’s name on it, and that it fits one page each like Goldilocks [not to little, not too big – and just select what you want and resize the fonts to make this happen], you can export it from Drive as a PDF – and PDFs are wonderful because you can print them in booklet form, which automatically prints it to A4 so you can fold it and the final product is A5 in size. [Hint: if the total pages count doesn’t equal a multiple of 4 then you’ll have blank white pages at the end – if you want, fill these pages with Curriculum links, or any other kind of stuff you might like, maybe a class ‘printing house’ logo for the back page]

You can then print your booklet off and fold it. I staple it with a special turning stapler that can do book spines a mate of mine located in Japan for me. And once this is done, you have a resource for your classroom, and your kids will feel ‘published’ [and they’ll be paid like they are too – #womp]. But it’s something they can share, cherish, learn from, and it looks great in the spinner rack up the back of the room.

IMG_3125

You can also set this as a writing warm up gig for yourself by getting a warchest of quality comic pages that suit your writing style [or don’t, if you feel like growing] and you set yourself 5 minutes to rewrite one. Maybe do one a week and at the end of a year put them into a booklet like this – comic page on the left, your prose reinterpretation on the right – and see what comes of it. Anything that gets you writing, stretches your brain out, makes you push, has a deadline, and you enjoy is always going to help whether you are a tween student exploring language and its practical and emotional uses or a thirty-something writer climbing the sheer cliff face of writing one precarious handhold at a time.

For clarity, I put my own rewrite in with the students, and it was a blast to do. Here it is:

THIS LOOKS BAD

by Mr Lindsay

This looks bad. I know.

Lasers whistle by like broken radios and Clint Barton sprints like he can beat them.

Hint: he can’t. He never can.

Clint is the world’s unluckiest man. Or the world’s worst superhero. Ask him once a day for a week and get seven different answers, with twenty one varied [though universally lame] excuses.

He sails over the gap between buildings – because he’s always been good at doing recklessly silly things. Usually for fun, sometimes to save the world.

It’s a Sunday morning and the sun is rising. Most people are on the street buying bagels and reading the latest Calvin & Hobbes. They have no idea what’s about to transpire above them.

A slew of underpaid and over-important henchmen from A.I.M. [Advanced Idea Mechanics] float, preen, and posture behind Clint. They might be fools but that uniform still looks good today. Clint thinks about Kate on the West Coast and then stops. He’s got things to do right now.

He momentarily pauses, an itch on his ear, and one of the henchman coughs. Clint is mostly certain the boomerang arrow is the third one in the quiver.

I know this looks bad. But trust me, it’s worse for them. I’ve got them right where I want them, stupid A.I.M. goons…

And that’s the comic rewriting activity. I hope it finds you well. I’ll try to collate and share some sample comic pages on here soon.