Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - Episode 9 - with creator of Bumble and Snug, Mark Bradley

March 01, 2023 Lucy Starbuck Braidley Season 1 Episode 9
Comic Boom - Episode 9 - with creator of Bumble and Snug, Mark Bradley
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
More Info
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - Episode 9 - with creator of Bumble and Snug, Mark Bradley
Mar 01, 2023 Season 1 Episode 9
Lucy Starbuck Braidley

Lucy chats to comic artist and creator of the Bumble and Snug series of graphic novels, Mark Bradley.

Mark Bradley is a comic artist and writer, and creator of the Bumble & Snug graphic novel series. He grew up reading stories about ghosts and monsters, and promptly decided that he preferred them to humans

 The first of book in the Bumble & Snug graphic novel series was shortlisted for the 2022 Waterstones Children’s Prize. He is passionate about the role comics can play in education and children’s literacy.

 He loves pop music and cherry bakewells, and is currently building an army of Lego crabs, for reasons that remain secret.


Links to everything  discussed, including Mark's recommendations and the comic to accompany this episode can be found on the podcast padlet.

Follow Mark on Twitter at  @MarkBradleyart
Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com


Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Show Notes Transcript

Lucy chats to comic artist and creator of the Bumble and Snug series of graphic novels, Mark Bradley.

Mark Bradley is a comic artist and writer, and creator of the Bumble & Snug graphic novel series. He grew up reading stories about ghosts and monsters, and promptly decided that he preferred them to humans

 The first of book in the Bumble & Snug graphic novel series was shortlisted for the 2022 Waterstones Children’s Prize. He is passionate about the role comics can play in education and children’s literacy.

 He loves pop music and cherry bakewells, and is currently building an army of Lego crabs, for reasons that remain secret.


Links to everything  discussed, including Mark's recommendations and the comic to accompany this episode can be found on the podcast padlet.

Follow Mark on Twitter at  @MarkBradleyart
Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com


Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Lucy:

Hello Mark. Welcome to Comic Boom.

Mark:

Hello Lucy.

Lucy:

Lovely to have you here. We always like to start the podcast by asking for a little bit of a background information. If you can cast your mind back, when did your love of comics start for you?

Mark:

so I've been reading comics. I don't recall not reading comics or having them read to me or anything like that. Sometimes people ask me this question. I always find it a weird question because I can't imagine. A life without comics in them. They're so integral to everything. So, uh, like a lot of people in England and the uk I grew up sort of reading the Beano and things like that. And then, reading newspaper strips from my grandma's comics as well. Particularly like obviously the eighties with the prolific Garfield. That was, I don't think you could move for cars, having Garfield stuck in the back of them and Calvin and Hobbs and things like that. And, So when it got to the age of about 12, Batman, the animated series came on TV over here, which made me look into the American comics and sort of really there's that point in England where you kind of moved from the Beano onto, you either move into 2000 ad At that point I kind of dropped off them a bit, but the American comics were the other, the other way of going with that sort of statutory reading, Batman. And sort of fell in love with the American comics and then that went onto vertigo with like Sandman, and things like that, and basically cemented. It's practically fused with my DNA n a at that point, that this is gonna be with you for the rest of your life. So, yeah, I, like I said, I just find it weird when you, I occasionally speak to people who didn't read comics growing up, and I, I find that really very str. I can't imagine what your childhood looks like without comics in, it's so integral, like reading comics, making your own comics. It's just always been part of my life. I don't recall it ever not being part of my life Comics.

Lucy:

Now, I think you're the first person. I can't believe it. But you're the, I think you're the first person to mention Calvin and Hobbs on the podcast. I love Calvin and Hobbs.

Mark:

Calvin and Hobbs is, yeah, and I think it's one of the greatest works of, fiction of the 20th century. There's fascinating stuff that newspaper strips do about teaching us how to read comics and particularly something with like Garfield, back in the eighties where it's a very straightforward strip teaches you sort to read through. But Calvin Hobbs what it does with the page and it, Watterson's ambition it is the most influential work of fiction in my life. I've, I've read it when I was pre about eight, nine. That more than anything else that cemented. You are going to love comics forever. It's such a beautiful, beautiful body of work. Calvin

Lucy:

I just love the way that it can go from being quite flippant and funny and silly. And then the next second, it's just knocking the wind out of you with some really profound, a bit like Moomins, really that kind of flipping between, between the two, which I love.

Mark:

Watterson's writing. The It's writing is incredible. His art is absolutely mind blowing. The way that he plays with the form, and like I say, it's just. It's so, so, so funny and so so profound. Like the fact that you can do all of these things, it's incredible. Calvin and Hobbes blows my mind that exists. And to produce that body of work yourself over a 10 year period, that quality consistently, it is, it is amazing. It's amazing.

Lucy:

And what sort of things are you reading now? Are you still reading Calvin and Hobbs? You still dipping into that? Have you? What's on your reading pile at the moment?

Mark:

At the moment, I'm sort of mid deadlines with books, so my reading pile is just shoved to the corner. I, I'm not reading right much at the moment, but, uh, I have the lovely hardback editions of Calvin and Hobbs, the, the luxury edition that's got like alls strips, which I found I never read because they're so big that I can't really hold them. So currently I'm going back and buying all my childhood editions of Calvin and Hobbes. Uh, I'm going through those again, which is perpetual. I'm constantly reading Calvin and Hobbs, right at the minute. I've got, there's a, comic creator called Adrian to, or Tomi, I've, I've always mispronounce his name. he did a comic called Optic Nerve. Back in the nineties and does graphic novels now is now best known for his latest comics for the New Yorker, magazine. And they've just released a lovely sort of boxed edition of his original stories from a comic called Optic Nerve in the nineties, which I'm looking forward to rereading those and there's lot. I've just got stacks and stacks of graphic novels to get to, like monstrous, once in future, just tons and tons of comics. I'm reading everything and everything.

Lucy:

And I'm really interested also to know a little bit about how you became a comics creator, a published graphic novelist. What was, how did that journey happen? Was it straightforward, or was it something that happened over time?

Mark:

I've had a fairly weird journey cause it's all happened by accident. So I've been, I've been drawing comics my whole life and so when I got to my twenties, I started putting out web comics, none of which. anyone will have heard of, because I didn't really promote them. And most of them weren't worth reading anyway. And none of them stuck ground long enough to build a following as well. Like, so just jumping from different ones, different one, because I, get bored of things very quickly, so I've made loads of different ones over the years and then, I've been drawing the characters of Bumble and Snug for nearly 20 years now. I was first Drew Bumble, in the, in the borders of another comic, just as a random little doodle during the night, and then I just kept drawing them and snug sort of followed soon after. Just as a little when you've, when you're drawing comics and you're just like, oh, my mind's getting bad. Just something to doodle in the margins that it's just like, how fun to draw These two have just been doodling, doodling combined with my love of ghosts and monsters and everything like that, I eventually started drawing more of these little monster things I eventually create names in the types of little monsters called bug bops. They didn't get names for about 15 years after I doodle in them in the margins of Bumble and Snug. Uh, and eventually I was like, you know what? I'm gonna make something for these characters. And at first I was thinking about Picture book and I did some riffs of that and it's like, uh, I love comics. Comics is a natural place for me to go with them. So I started a web comic called Bug Bots after the type of little monster that they. The first strip went up and did pretty well for that. The second strip went semi viral, about three quarters of a million people. Ended up seeing that on Twitter, and one of those people was the fiction designer, at Hachette, Samuel, who, soon after ended up emailing me about, have you ever thought about making these into a longer form thing in, into a graphic novel for children? To which the answer was no. I've never thought of doing them as a long form. So I had a meeting with them about making a children's graphic novel, about them and had to learn how to write a long form story, and. Completely changed the art style at the last minute on the book, learn how, had to learn how to write, in that way had to, its have a steepest learning curve of, my life with it all. But yes, purely by accident, I had no intention of any of it. I was just intended to put the web comic out and enjoyed doing that for a long time. So, yeah, it's purely been by accident,

Lucy:

And whilst that was going on, you were working, you had another job, a day job, and we're doing this on the side.

Mark:

Yeah, I, yeah, I still have a, a job on the side at the moment. I was working, during all of that as well and I actually got the email from Samuel about, do you want to adapt these? Whilst I was sort of helping run a conference and there was like 300 people there and I got the email and burst into tears. 300 people, which was, uh, yeah. Lovely. So yeah. I've been working as a civil servant most of my life, in different, different departments and third sector jobs and things like that, hopping from place to.

Lucy:

So when you first got to that point where you you had your web comic, and then you were thinking about how to transition what you'd started in your web comic into the books as they are now. What were your main aims? What, what was your kind of lead idea of, of how to make that that transition work?

Mark:

When I had the initial meeting at Hachette, they knew that they'd loved the characters of Bumble and Snug from the web comics. And it was the, it was discussions around what sort of stories did they encompass and we had a long conversation about sort of what. Been doing over the years and one of the big things I've spent, over a decade working just as an administrator in the probation service, in the courts there and a lot of the stuff that comes through there about emotional literacy, like I've spent so much of my life reading pre-sentencing reports there. Time and time and time. The most common theme is the environment that people grow up in and their relationship to emotional literacy, understanding their emotions, understanding crucially parental figures or grownup figures, emotions. And that's a real passion area for me. Emotional literacy. So that form the crux of each book we're gonna be, it's gonna be like, so each book we're gonna. A central emotion that we're gonna have bumble and snug, come to an understanding about in each one we're gonna have a new sort of fantasy setting or fancy character for each book to introduce those emotions. And crucially, they, they're just big fun adventures because for all the emotional literacy stuff, I never, ever wanted the books to be preachy. I want, if you're gonna, it's as a spoonful of sugar, helps some medicine go down. so embed all those in these. Bright, bold, loud adventures that are funny. It's never preachy. All of that is sort of under the surface or when it is very consciously talked about in the books, it's brief and often. For instance, the scene I'm drawing today where they're talking about the emotions for the latest book takes place on a rollercoaster. So make sure that there's always fun stuff going on during.

Lucy:

I have to say, when I first read my first Bumble and Snug, I was surprised. I didn't, I didn't know what to expect. I came at it completely cold. And yeah, I was, I was really, It had that messaging around emotional literacy. But it was brilliant

Mark:

something the publishers were very, very keen on that they, cuz emotional literacy is a big thing in publishing anyway. And obviously seeing that from coming through probation it's such, it's such an underappreciated thing. Emotional literacy and something we should be focusing a lot more on, as a society.

Lucy:

Yeah. And I think that there's a real goldmine resource within the books for teachers, to dip into. And we were always looking for, Ways into those conversations that, like you say, isn't like, and now we're going to talk about anger, but where it's got, you know, it's packaged in afar or an interesting way and it, but it allows you to have non-threatening conversations about those kinds of things. So I think that they're brilliant for that.

Mark:

At the start of each book I have a friend who's a child psychologist, so at the start of each book, I have a conversation with her, about how children process each emotion to try. Sometimes we don't, I don't get to use all of the stuff that I learn often during that, but it helps set the tone of the book and where it's gonna go from there. So I always, that's fascinating. Child psychology's such a fascinating area.

Lucy:

How important to you is the role of humor in the books? I find them, obviously they're supposed to be funny and I find them very funny, particularly. Just the, the physicality of Bumble makes me laugh a lot. And I also really love, we'll dip into this maybe a bit later, when we talk about the kind of layout and things like that, but, I've never had labels that made me laugh so much. The label labels really make me laugh in your books. The way that, like the layouts and flat layers of things that would, that are labeled build up the characters I love. But, um, I sometimes feel that sort of funny books. It sounds, it sounds like a, a silly thing to say, but that funny books aren't taken seriously. Um, but, but sometimes humorous books can be undervalued what are your thoughts on that?

Mark:

Again, if it's the spoonful of sugar thing, without them being funny. I can't imagine how dull the books would be if without that. I mean, Bumble and Snug themselves is, I'm, I'm a massive fan of early comedies, silent comedies, things like that. Grew, uh, a particular group. Watching Buster Keaton and, and Laurel and Hardy, and Laurel and Hardy, obviously a really big influence on Bumble and snug to, I mean, to the point where like Bumble looks like an exclamation mark and snug looks if you, when you abstract them, they look like question marks and exclamation marks, which direct their character like humor. I don't know that the books would function all without that. There's something, uh, read by one of the directors of film recently, uh, everything everywhere, all at one, uh, fantastic film where, which is to do with maximalist filmmaking and how we often attribute sophistication to sort of minimalist or dramatic. Dramatic narratives and not funny ones. And don't pretend that they're not profound, but they're incredibly, incredibly profound. Again, a film, like the Lego movie, which I maintain is one of the most profound movies of the 21st century, about how you relate to play and everything like that is in this maximalist fun, like big, bold brush. It's got this. Deep stuff in there. And that's just how my brain works. Like my brain pings from thing to thing I like big, bold, I love pop music, like dance music and everything like that. And how much you can bed. Fascinating stuff into those. Like, it, I love it. It's like the, the, the like, yeah. Beautiful little artifacts. When you manage to pull off something doing that, it's fantastic.

Lucy:

And you spoke a little earlier about. The visual look of the books, changing as you were making them. To me, there really, there's a real sort of appeal and accessibility to the, to the image and the style. Bold colors, simple shapes. It's one of those things that I imagine it's deceptively simple. It's actually quite hard to create. Was that motivated? Purely stylistic choice, or was it motivated by thinking about sort of the age and target audience? How did you land on that?

Mark:

There's a few different, like, so with the characters of Bumble and Snug, I, I really love, there's another illustrate called Ed Emberley who makes, books about how to draw using really basic shapes. I adore his work and. So that's really influential on how I draw little monsters, and things like that. And obviously people like, uh, Roger Hargreaves who do the Mr. Men Books massive influence as well. Uh, but particularly Ed Emberley. So his work really informs that. Cause I really like basic shapes and colors. And how do you combine those together to. Something that reflects your emotions. so that, that informs the creation of the monsters in terms of the visuals of the books themselves, and them as comics. I, again, I love bright colors. I love everything to be big and bold and like outgoing and comics are an amazing medium for stuff like that in particular. In terms of the overall look of the comic, I've tried to, because my comics are aimed at sort of younger readers, as well, I tried to use basically basic six panel and four panel grids as comics. So it makes it very structured in terms of how a child reads it. So it makes it very obvious where they need to go for each page. And that means that I can occasionally let loose with the, obviously I do the spreads where Bumble and Snug are on them, multiple times. And that particular technique is called the DeLuca effect, where your characters appear multiple times without panels

Lucy:

Ooh. I never knew the, the name for that. That's good.

Mark:

yeah. It's wonderful when, like, you, amazing examples out of there. So like, you know, having that structural, that strict format to the book for younger readers allows me to occasionally break loose with it and then do the bigger stuff because it's an easy read. So it's kind of like, it, it essentially, it's kind of like, putting a complicated word in the middle of a fairly simple sentence, for a new reader. So they've got that safety there of knowing exactly where they need to go, the rest of the pages, so that then you can branch out and then pull back from there. So, That's, a massive part of how I write the books. In terms of making sure that they're very accessible for new readers, but also do the stuff with De Luca Effect effect and where I can burst out of panels and stuff like that. That's part of the. Part of the reason comics is such an incredible medium, and part of the reason why I think kids connect with them so much is they can play with the reality of the medium and the form of the medium more than any other medium Cap film can't certainly change the say size of the screen. Prose fiction can't suddenly expand the page or contract. You can do that to a certain degree with a paragraph, maybe like contracted, but you won't be playing with the, the sense of space in the book, particularly, in a prose book. Whereas comics can just. Burst out the page, burst out the panels. They can do tons of fascinating stuff and I think that's why children connect with them so much cuz there's an inherent sense of play to the reality of the media, in a way that kids get that adults don't necessarily get as well.

Lucy:

Yeah, I, I completely agree. I think the more you read widely, across different types of comics, the more you realize just how varied and just how many different approaches and, and ways of, of playing with the form that there are.

Mark:

We've talked about this, but I'm aware for your podcast you've, interviewed Neil Cohen, um, who talks a lot. His work is fascinating, on that particular subject, and essentially understanding comics as a language. and that's fascinating. Fascinating stuff.

Lucy:

In terms of your process, the concept of the books were created in collaboration with your publisher, but then how do you actually end up with a final book? Do you write a script? Do you work digitally? What's your kind of.

Mark:

Speaking of the publisher, we came up with South Farm and then I sort of pitched to them at that point with story outlines for the, three books. And so at that point, went through the usual pitching process at the publisher where they've got the story outlined. They've got some rough samples. The, that actually got bounced back originally because, uh, the original format changed. It was originally gonna be more than one story per book. And then we came, it came back and I was asked to pitch again, but with a single story per book. So we agree on a, short outline for each book. I then go write a very detailed pros outline, which is multiple pages long, which goes into specifics of like conversations that might have in there, about the emotion, but also detailing like big things that'll happen, like the action beats, and things like that. So that, that sort of ends up nowadays. It ends up being sort of four to five pages. so once I've written that outline and that's been approved, I then go on to, I write and rough at the same time because my comics are so structured for the audience using these sort of four and six panel grids or variations thereof. I always try to have, it's a bit hard to, it is a bit hard to explain without visuals, but I try to have left to right conversations in each panel. So say for instance you've got a six panel grid on a page, if Bumble is talking to Snug on panel one, so Bumble's looking left out of her panel and the Snugs looking right out of her panel on panel two that I'll never break that flow of left to right. So that Snugs not looking off the page, Bumble isn't looking off the page, so it makes. Easy for reader. So that means that I have to be very structured in terms of how I write the script. So it sticks to panel formats. It makes editing an absolute nightmare, because. As soon as you want to change the flow or expand a speech bubble or do something like that, it becomes quite complicated to fit it within the jigsaw of the book. So yeah, I rough and write at the same time. that goes into the, publishers for. Editorial process. I come back and make amendments on those roofs. Then I get onto the final artwork, which I do entirely digitally on an iPad. And in a program called procreate.

Lucy:

Ooh. I love, I love procreate.

Mark:

ah, procreate.

Lucy:

good. That's why I make my comics in.

Mark:

It's so incredible what it does it is so simple, yet what it can do is brilliant. And the great thing about procreate making comics is it forces you to be very economical. It's really boring point there. Sorry. But it's like forces you really economical with your layer

Lucy:

Yeah, Yeah. You get to a certain point and it's like, no more layers. What? I'll have to go back and streamline.

Mark:

when you're doing a, a double page spreads, like that's like really complex and you've only got. 80 layers, which might sound like to a lots of people, but I've done pictures before I, in Photoshop where it's like one and a half thousand layers. Yeah, it's really boring point. But layer structure's interesting in this job,

Lucy:

I'm here for it. I'm here for this content. Don't worry. Mark I wanted to move on a little bit. I mean, One of the reasons that I thought it would be so interesting to talk to you is that you have a real wealth of knowledge around, specifically around comics and education, and you've spoken to lots of teachers and I'm just interested in firstly, where. Specific interests started for you, and also what you found out, around comics in the classroom from speaking to education professionals.

Mark:

It's fascinating, fascinating subject. Part of the reason I'm just interested is I love comic history. Basically as soon as I started reading American comics, started reading about history of them. And I find that fascinating because comics have their own weird little self-contained history because they've sort of, as a medium, they've been forced to be self-reliant because of a lot of, stuff that happened in the US to do with. Censorship over there during the, during the mid 20th century. So I found that fascinating. So I've always be loved all that side. And then the boom in children's graphic novel that's, that's particularly happened over the last sort of 13 years ever since Raina Telgemeier put out smile. It's really brought out the roots of some really fascinating studies and research in America. There's been stuff going on for decades about that, but it's really starting to sort of ramp up a little bit over there and we're starting to see it over here cause we're a bit behind the US so that's just fascinating just because I love comics. Also because I'm making children's comics in particular, I find that especially interesting finding out about how children connect to it. The real sort of explosion for me though was, as I said before, you've mentioned, that you were speaking to Neil Cohen, who is an academic and reading his stuff was, it was like a light going off in my brain. I was just like, this is the research we've been needing in. English language comics for decade. It gives us a framework to talk about how we as children develop our understanding of comics. Just I'm super quickly gonna summarize Neil's work. Here's overall thesis, which is that we have three ways of communicating speech, GE audio gestural and sequential. And that's across the whole of us as a species to human beings. We've got those two modes of communications and sequential art in particular i e comics. The, those have regional variations, so they're like a spoken language or a written language. So that's the overall sort of satellite view of what Neil's work saying. Obviously, grossly over oversimplifying everything there, reading his work is like, oh my gosh, we've got an, we've got a framework for talking about. how comics work here and how they can be useful in education and teaching and children. Also, on a personal level, like growing up, I loved English literature. I was a really great student in English literature, did all, did well all the way through, but I loved comics and there was no, growing up in the eighties and nineties, there was no place for that to go. As you remember writing. Essays, about, graphic novels, like Sandman and things like that in, general studies because I had no other outlet to talk about them in any other subject. And I was trying to cram them in everywhere, so, I, I loved reading as a kid. I did well in those subjects. I, I always keep thinking about like what would've happened to my life if I'd have, if there was an outlet for that particular understanding. And like children have a brilliant understanding of images that we just don't particularly lean into in other walks of life. Like illustrated pros. Sort of gets pushed to the wayside as they go out. Not consciously, like publishing just doesn't illustrate pros books, partially because it's, it costs more to print a pros book with illustrations to pay the illustrator. Partially because. I think there's a societal assumption that images are a sort of childlike thing. It's like, no, we, we've got these incredible in inbuilt abilities to read images as children that we kind of don't really use much in educational settings. to me, it's like a child stop school and they can speak fluent. Spanish, and then we're just like, all right, that's great. Anyway. Uh, and we kind of just drop it. It's like this, a potential goldmine of stuff here that we could use. Especially like, say this, the work that Neil Cohn's done around this because we're very, the very early days of early starting to see this wave of children's graphic novels and enthusiasm particularly coming out the US with it. Where can this lead to? What more could we do is could we be increasing literacy rates? There's evidence that each seems to engage it. Information retention, it might, we just increase overall enthusiasm around reading the studies and research indicates that's the way. So there's tons of stuff and, there's children out there who I think aren't engaged. With, reading who might be naturally very good readers, but it's just because we're fostering them all. We're, we're, we're trying to get them to read pros constantly. It's like maybe these children, maybe their natural home is comics. Maybe they could be doing incredibly well. So there's those. I think there's so much stuff to be excited about. Speaking with a lot of teachers about this from research, something I've done recently, teachers seem to me, all the teachers I've spoken to be it the, it's proof, the bias set of questions there. Cause I'm a comics creator when I've spoken to them. All seem to be enthusiastic about it. Would be quite happy to find ways to integrate comics But teachers are overworked and it's a whole new thing that I'm hoping that they get interested in. And that takes time, which teachers don't have a lot of Um, so, um, and making the resources freely available. And one of the things that I come across is a lot of the resources for teacher. About comics are written in prose, and I'm always having mind like, well, if comics are gonna make a case for themselves, all of these things should be done in the format of comics. So we need to make comic resources about comics freely and easily available for teachers. Overcoming barriers for stuff quite a lot of teachers said they're, they're a bit worried about drawing their drawing abilities, so trying to find ways to make. More comfortable and easier for them to do. So I'm hearing a lot of enthusiasm out there for them, and particularly within literacy. Albeit, the other thing I, that I, I'm really enthusiastic about is broadening the scope of comics and education and moving it just beyond the realms of English and. I won't see'em in history, geography, sciences. but also they then will need the publishers to be doing those books, and if they're coming out in America, making sure that they're affordably available over here. So yeah, I'm hearing all, I'm hearing the enthusiasm for them. and seeing that they've seen the effects. Most of them that I've spoken to seen the effects in their own classroom of children's enthusiasm for them, but it we're at a point now where we need resources to be made available to teachers and librarians and teaching assistance so that they can actually. Carry on that sort of, that momentum with it. And making sure that those things are easily accessible. Cause again, we all know time is like the one thing teachers don't have much of as, uh, as much as anything else. So making sure that they get that to them.

Lucy:

Yeah, I agree that access to high quality. Resources that can be, you know, easily adapted to suit, suit your class is really important. That shift, in perspective, you still do hear things like librarians being, being told not to buy graphic novels cause they're expensive. Or, you know, maybe they're undervalued in terms of their, their value. For developing reading skills. In reality, because they're taking out so they're so popular in the library, even if they're slightly more expensive per borough cost of, of a graphic novel collection is very, very low because they're, they're constantly out of the library. They're never, you know, there's, they're, they're being taken out by so many different children. And so there's a lot of of work still to be done. Although just from, from this podcast, you know, there's, there's no shortage of people who are passionate about, about comics out in the education, sector, but it's just getting the word out wider.

Mark:

It's one of those things like, because comics are sort of forced to be self-reliant for so long. There's the people that love them, love them, and you. We, we are not short of people who are passionate about comics and the potential for them over here. So it's like to say about the, the loan rates, the studies out America graphic novels, the most cost effective book per loan a library can have. So yeah, the enthusiasm's there, I know for a fact there's still reluctance there from some people, that's just gonna take time to overcome. We'll get there with it. One of the things we've gotta focus on is we're, we're at the early days of this, so America's still only really 10 years into this massive wave of children's graphic novels and really not even 10 years, really. Dave Pilkey in 2016. Kicks off another massive wave of them, after Telegmeier So we, this is still new territory, but the children who are enthusiastic about comics aren't going away. It that, the genie out the bottle on of that now in the best possible way. So now it's up to us as creators, publishers, to find ways to enable. That to grow and flourish.

Lucy:

Yeah, there's something about collective voice there as well. Cause quite often if you are the person that's, passionate about comics in your setting, You are quite often the only one. And it can feel like you are, you are a lone voice when actually, oh no, there's someone in the school down the road, there's someone in the school, across the country. There's, there's creators, there's, it's, it's part of building that network and, and have, and creating that sort of movement I think is really important.

Mark:

It's wonderful seeing the endless source of like, inspiration, enthusiasm, seeing teachers on Twitter who, discuss, graphic novels, it's wonderful to see out there and them connecting and the work that they're doing out there about, uh, preaching the gospel of comics. So yeah. There's amazing teachers out there in this country doing work with a really, really inspiring work that I think will will be seeing the payoff of the work that they're doing for years and years to come with us.

Lucy:

And I would just like to say on that note, if you are listening to this and you're a teacher who is doing a lot of work using comics in your classroom and you would like to come and share, everything that you've been doing on the podcast, then please do, drop me an email, contact me on Twitter, because I would love to, to have teachers on sharing their experiences aswell. We are coming to the end now. It's gone really quickly. This last section is deceptive, though. It does take a lot longer to go through than people, expect it to. so I just wondered, you've spoken on so many topics. If you had a couple of sort of key points that you wanted to really highlight on the things that we've discussed or maybe bring in some, some additional points, what would your three takeouts be to leave listeners with today?

Mark:

So firstly, I'd say. is there, look at, is there an enthusiasm there for comics in your classroom? And if there is, start asking the children. Why there's that enthusiasm beyond just like, oh, you like Dogman. Great. Like what is it about the actual, what is it about comics that they enjoy reading? Because we're, like I say, we're still early days with this understanding of what comic. can do in the classrooms. So understanding why children are connecting them with them. Do they like reading images? Why do I keep reading images? What is it they understand about reading images? Do they help them remember stuff long? So speak to their children about, ask them what the takeaway is from comics beyond just that they enjoy comics. then if you're wanting to integrate comics into your. Classrooms look beyond just English, including, I mean, getting to make a comic about historical figures or scientific processes, things like that. It'll, the evidence seems to pointer that it helps increase information retention. So that could be massively, massively helpful. The third one, there's a book called Understanding Comics by Scott McLeod. That's one of the key textbooks of comics. It's about 30 years old at this point, and it's a book about the medium of comics. and what comics are now, I don't agree with everything in there. There's certain key concepts in there that have been proved particularly by people like Neil Cohen. There's words to be wrong, but it will give you the sense of what comics can be and what they can do, and what are incredible possibilities they are with them. So I think that that's really great at showing what the medium is all about. If you're able to borrow that book from your library or pick up a.

Lucy:

That is a great book. And I would say as well that it's really good to give you some starting points on the sorts of things that you could structure conversations around. Like if you were going more into like an analysis of wanting to use comics in your literacy lessons and do a bit more in analysis of actually what's going on in the page. Like how I was delighted to. The term DeLuca effect. Have I got that right? DeLuca, effect, uh, this new vocabulary I need to, need to practice use it. Um, but when you have the vocabulary to be able to explain what it is that you're observing, that's, that's really confidence boosting. And I think that that's a good book to start introducing some of that with that vocabulary as well. If, if teachers are unsure,

Mark:

Definitely. It's a, it's an absolutely amazing. It is, parts of it will blow your mind, about how comics functions. It's fascinating, fascinating book.

Lucy:

Thank you so much for those. They're perfect. Absolutely brilliant. And really clear things to take away. The last question is always a bit of a challenge. If we were to, to just add one comic or graphic novel. Could be an academic text, could be, reading for pleasure to our to be read piles today. What book would you recommend? It's sort of your Desert Island book, if you will.

Mark:

You did warn me in advance. Gonna ask this question. I've cheated slightly because I've actually got, like, I've, got four. Um,

Lucy:

Okay. We'll allow it.

Mark:

Because when we always ask films, we just presume we want ones for adults. So I've, I've included naturally, I'm a children's comment creator, so, Couple of children here, young children, fantastic graphic novel, called Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli, which is a brilliant introduction to comics. Got color coded characters and speech bubbles that makes it easy for children to interpret. How to read the comics. Absolutely wonderful. Really funny and charming book Middle Grade book series, Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi um,

Lucy:

amulet.

Mark:

Oh, it's amazing, isn't it? It's such a good series. I know teachers that I see on Twitter say that they can't keep that book in the classroom, or the libraries cause it's constantly going out. It's fantastic, fantastic series for adults. I've really struggled with this cuz my favorite graphic novel of all times for adults is called Phonogram volume two, the Singles Club, which is by Kerry Gillen and Jamie mc Kelvin. I think that the colorist was Matt Wilson. Um, and uh, that's a brilliant self-contained volume about very much at its time, about the mid noughties people in the club and what if they can, what if music was magic, but using the form of comics to represent the magic. It's brilliant. It's very much of its time, but I love it so much and as an academic text, Any of Neil Cohen's books who you have previously heard about from Lucy's fabulous podcast, they're just the mind blowing what he's talking about in there, so yeah.

Lucy:

Yeah, I would second that. They are quite academic, but, once you get into them, it's really eye-opening, the sort of things that you're learning.

Mark:

I've been a lifelong comic reader and it fundamentally changed what I thought about comics. Reading that a few years back. It's, it's incredible.

Lucy:

Brilliant. Thank you so much Mark. Thank I know you are busy. You are on deadlines and it's really, really appreciate coming to you. Said manically laughs. really appreciate you taking the time out to speak to us. It, it, we really value everything you've been sharing. Thank you.

Mark:

Thank you so much, Lucy. Bye.

Lucy:

and there you have it. There are so many interesting points covered there by Mark who was really interested to hear everything he had to say, especially the different perspective he's picked up through his research and talking to so many teachers for various projects. That was really interesting. I wasn't aware previously of the work of Ed Embery. I've since researched it and I definitely feel that someone that I should have been aware of. so I'm gonna look forward to exploring that particular can of worms. Definitely looks. Absolute treasure trove if you're interested in exploring, illustration and how that can be built up through the combination of simple shapes and colors. Some hugely useful resources there. I was gonna make a recommendation as is my recent habit. And this week a colleague actually asked me, what as an adult reader of comics, they had read Persepolis and they'd also read, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. And they wondered, uh, what should they read next? And I thought that I would, use this opportunity to share that more widely in my own humble opinion about, what they could possibly. Next. there's so many different ways to go, but, as both of those texts are auto graphics, autobiographical texts, and also written by female comics creators, I thought I would use it as a way to segue into the work of one of my absolute favorite comic artists, Tillie Walden and. Tilly has written one autobiographical text spinning, I would, recommend, exploring her fiction work. I particularly love a comic called, I Love This Part, which is a love story between two girls. And it's just absolutely stunning, really beautiful landscapes, just really po. Dialogue, and a lot of, a lot of sort of silence, which is what I really enjoy in comics. I think it's absolutely stunning. I love her artwork and I'm always a little bit sad when my own artwork does not look anything like that. So yeah, I would recommend Tillie Walden's work. If you're interested, you can also find a link on Tilly's website, which I'll linked to in the show notes where you can find one of her comics on a sunbeam. to read online for free, and there's a link there on her website. So if you're interested in just finding more about about her work, you can do that without having to buy a book, which is always useful in these times. All that it remains to say now is thanks to the listeners. I wanted to particularly thank anyone who has connected on Twitter. There's been some really lovely appreciation posts. I know that, Mark Smith, and library mice have really engaged in the Neil Cone discussions from. Week. And also I saw that HESTA Harrington had tweeted saying that she had found the episode three with Meher Shiblee. Really, really interesting and useful resources from that. So thank you for tagging me in their tweets, and sharing that they've enjoyed the podcast and they found it really helpful. Please do so if you, if you'd like to, tag me in, I always like to hear some feedback on the podcast. My Twitter handle is at Lucy underscore Braidley. Next week's episode will be the final episode of the season. I'll be coming back in the summer term I'm looking forward to sharing that with you. You've got some really fantastic interviews with some great people lined up and, Lots of different things, planned for season two, so please keep your eyes peeled, on your podcasting platform for when the next episodes come available, and you can also keep in touch on Twitter to make sure that you do not miss the start of season two. that's all for now. Thanks very much. You've been listening to Comic Boom.