Wednesday, August 27, 2014

4 Panels, 4 Scenes Assignment

Create a narrative sequence in just 4 panels with a different scene in each panel. The actions, thoughts and emotions of your characters should be communicating clearly without using any words. Think about the different types of panel-to-panel transitions covered in chapter 3 and pay close attention to the type or types you choose for your sequence.

Read pages 70-72 of Chapter 3 for definitions of the different types of panel transitions. The definition for scene-to-scene is in there. It would be super-awesome, however, if you read Chapter 2 AND Chapter 3 since you have a long weekend.

4 Panels, 4 Scenes due 9/3 for critique on 9/8

4 Panels, 4 Scenes Critique

Name of the critter:
Name of the critiqued:

Does the sequence look finished?

Can you tell what is being shown? What is the subject of this sequence?

Can you follow the action?  What is the complete action or story arc?

Is the art clear? Can you easily discern foreground from background? Is the mark making descriptive? Is any of the imagery confusing?

Is the art compelling?  Be specific.

Does the work avoid using words?

Is there ever confusion as to what order in which to read the panels?

Is the page well-organized?  Does the layout of the panels add to the communication of the story or detract from it?

How is the “acting” in the strip?  Are character’s facial expressions and body language clear?

Is the strip interesting?  Would you want to read more?  Elaborate.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Comic Assignment Submission Guidelines

It is recommended that comics be created at 125 to 150% of their print size whether working digitally or traditionally, but it is a relatively free country and you may work at whatever size you prefer.

All printed comics submitted for critique must be printed on 8.5 x 11 paper. Print two copies for me, and one copy for each of the thirteen students in the class for a total of fifteen copies. Do not wait until the morning due date to print copies of your comic because there is no guarantee that the printers will be available or that you will have enough time.

Comics submitted digitally are to be emailed to the entire class by 9 am on the morning that they are due. Do not email PSD files. Send jpg files. You may also post the comic to a blog and email a link to the class. You are still required to submit two printed copies to the instructor by 9 am on the morning the comics are due.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Instructional Comic Critique

Instructional Comic Critique

Name of the critter:
Name of the critiqued:

Does the sequence look finished?

What is the subject of this sequence?  What is the author teaching us?

Is the art clear?  Can you tell what is going on at each stage?  Be specific:  what parts do you find to be clearly readable and what parts seem less so?

Does the work avoid using words?

Is a complete action, as described by Uri Shulevitz, depicted?

Can you follow the action?  Can you tell what is being shown?

Do you feel that you could follow these directions?

Are there enough panels or too many?

Is there ever confusion in which to read the panels?

What visual conceits does the work use to make complex actions clear?  Or, if the work is not clear, what sorts of conceits would help clarify it?

Is the art compelling?  Be specific.

Beyond clarity of instruction, is the sequence interesting?  Would you want to read a second strip similar to this one?  A collection of hundreds of similar strips?  Explain why and why not.

Instructional Comic

Comics 1

Instructional Comic

Read through the handout from Uri Schulevitz’s Writing with Pictures. The notion of the “completed action” is very important for conveying coherent narrative information.

Research some instructional picture sequences. Find at least three examples, even if they are only two or three panels long. Examples might include airplane safety cards, instruction manuals, cook books and assembly diagrams. Include a copy of each of your examples in your sketchbook. Write briefly about your observations of these instructional comics. Do some strike you as more successful than others? If so, what qualities separate the good from the bad? In which ways are they similar? Which ones use words as well as images, and which rely on images alone? What can you learn from these examples to use in your own instructional comic? What could you use in more conventionally narrative comics? Bring the examples to class on 8/25

Now, teach us how to do something. You may use as many panels as you need to, but do not use words.  These actions may be simple or complex, but it should be easily understood and followed by someone who has never encountered this action before. The completed sequence is due in class on 8/25 and will be critiqued on 8/27.

Class Schedule

Comics 1
Fall 2014

Class Schedule

8/18        In Class: Intro to Shane. Intro to Comics 1 Exquisite Comic Exercise. Vote Digital or Print.
Homework: Read Understanding Comics Chapter 1 handout. Write “Why Comics” statement.

8/20        In Class: Turn in “Why Comics” statement. Discuss Chapter 1 handout.
Begin Instructional Comic – “Tying Your Shoe”

Homework: Read the Uri Schulevitz handout. Finish the “Tying Your Shoe” exercise
 and “Instructional Comic”.

8/25        In Class: Critique “Tying Your Shoe”. Switch Instructional Comics for critique on 8/27.
Homework: Complete critique form for Instructional Comic.

8/27        In Class: Critique Instructional Comic. Assign Four Panels Four Scenes Comic.
                Homework: Read Chapter 2. Complete Four Panels Four Scenes Comic.

9/1          No Class. Labor Day.

9/3          In Class: Review Chapter 2. Switch Four Panels Four Scenes Comic for critique on 9/8.
Begin Four Panels Four Scenes Expanded Exercise.

Homework: Complete critique form for Four Panels Four Scenes Comic. Read Chapter 3.
Complete Four Panels Expanded Comic.

9/8          In Class: Review Chapter 3. Critique Four Panels Four Scenes Comic. Switch Four Panels Expanded Comic for critique on 9/10.

                Homework: Complete critique form for Four Panels Expanded Comic.

9/10        In Class:                Critique Four Panels Expanded Comic. Assign Pacing Comic.
                Homework: Read Chapter 4. Complete Pacing Comic.

9/15        In Class: Review Chapter 4. Switch Pacing Comic.
                Homework: Complete critique form for Pacing Comic.

9/17        In Class: Critique Pacing Comic. Assign Hurry Up and Wait Comic.
                Homework: Complete Hurry UP and Wait Comic. Read Chapter 5

9/22        In Class: Switch Hurry Up and Wait Comic. Review Chapter 5. Inking Techniques Presentation.
                Homework: Complete critique form for Hurry Up and Wait Comic.

9/24        In Class: Critique Hurry Up and Wait Comic. Assign Seven Silent Deadly Sins Comic.
                Homework: Complete Seven Silent Deadly Sins Comic.

9/29        In Class: Switch Ten Phylacteries Comic. Lettering Demo and Exercises.
                Homework: Complete critique form for Seven Silent Deadly Sins Comic.

10/1        In Class: Critique Seven Silent Deadly Sins Comic. Cartoonist Research  is due.
Homework: Read Chapter 6.
10/6        In Class: Review Chapter 6. Lettering Demo and Exercises.
                Homework: NO HOMEWORK.

10/8        In Class: Continue Lettering Demo and Exercises. Assign Twenty Phylacteries Comic.
                Homework: Complete Twenty Phylacteries Comic.

10/13     No Class. Fall Break!

10/15     In Class:                Critique Twenty Phylacteries. (No switching) Cartoonist Research Paper is due.
                Homework: Read Chapter 7 and Microfiction selections. Thumbnail one Microfiction selection.

10/20     In Class: Review Chapter 7. Review thumbnails and begin penciling.
                Homework: Continue penciling.

10/22     In Class: Review pencils. Continue penciling.
                Homework: Finish pencils and begin inking.

10/27     In Class: Review inks in progress.
                Homework: Finish inking and lettering.

10/29     In Class: Switch Microfiction Adaptation Comic. Vote for Personal Project or Class Anthology Project. (choose theme for class anthology project)

                Homework: Complete critique form for  Microfiction Adaptation Comic.

11/3        In Class: Critique Microfiction Adaptation Comic.
                Homework: Complete thumbnails for final project.

11/5        In Class: Review thumbnails for final project.
                Homework: Revise thumbnails and begin penciling.

11/10     In Class:                Work in class on final project.
                Homework: Keep working!

11/12     In Class: Review pencils for final project.
                Homework: Finish pencils and/or begin inking.

11/17     In Class: Cartoonist Research Presentations.
                Homework: Keep Working!

11/19     In Class: Cartoonist Research Presentations.
                Homework: Keep working!

11/24     In Class: Working Critique!
Homework: Complete final revisions!

11/26     No Class. Thanksgiving Holiday begins.

12/1        In Class: Switch Final Project. Dummy Book demonstration. Review Understanding Comics Test.
                Homework: Complete critique form for final project.

12/3        In Class: Critique final project.
                Homework: Study for Understanding Comics Test.

12/8        In Class: Understanding Comics Test.

Comics 1 Syllabus!

Instructor: Shane McDermott       
Office: Gibson Hall # 156                  Hours: MWF 3:35 – 4:35

IL220 Illustrated Story 1: Cartoons & Sequential Art (COMICS 1) MW 9am-11:35

Course Objectives
This course explores the formal language of storytelling with multiple images, including comics, cartoon strips, and children’s picture books.  This course is writing and drawing intensive.

Course OutcomesThe successful student will achieve the following course outcomes:

• Students will strengthen their formal understanding of Comics Theory and vocabulary.
• Students will explore various storytelling methods through specialized collaborative exercises
• Students will develop an individual approach to storytelling through specialized assignments.

Program OutcomesThe successful student will achieve the following course outcomes:

• Students will learn to create engaging stories.

• Students will produce narratives in various formats, including short-form, long-form, and serialized.
• Students will demonstrate knowledge of the formal aspects of comics as a medium.
• Students will be able to competently craft representational images.
• Students will demonstrate capability with media and techniques.
• Students will produce evidence of an understanding of the methods of comics production.

P2 Outcomes
The successful student will achieve the following course outcomes:
• Students will demonstrate the ability to document their work.
• Students will demonstrate the ability to exhibit their work beyond the classroom.
• Students will demonstrate the ability to research to stay current in their field.
• Students will demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively.


Comics Projects (out of class) Including Participation (50%)
This course involves both in-class and out-of-class assignments. Out-of-class comics will be graded on creativity (is the story original and compelling), visual storytelling (clarity of content), draftsmanship (are the characters and environments thoughtfully and effectively rendered), and lastly, technique (the professional design and presentation of the comic).

  • Incomplete work is work that is not completed according to project specifications and not completed for critique.  Incomplete work is lowered by 15 points, but can be raised 10 points upon completion.

  • Late work is any work not presented at all at the scheduled time for review or critique.  Late work receives zero points, but can be turned in before the next class with an irreversible 10 point penalty.  The project is lowered an additional 10 points for each week it is late.  It is the student’s responsibility to present late work.  The instructor will not ask for it.
  • Projects are deducted 10 points when they do not adhere to assignment guidelines.  This is eligible for, but not guaranteed a 10 point increase upon rework.

  • Additional points may be deducted for imagery that is unclear, compositional oversights, misspellings, or an unprofessional presentation.

  • Every student is expected to participate in critique and to offer objective feedback ( both positive and negative reactions) for a balanced and constructive critique.

Execution and Presentation of Comics
See separate handout for specific instructions on print and digital output.

Comics Projects (in class -25%)
There are several in-class Comics Projects, and participation is required.  These assignments are not designed to produce beautiful, completed comics, but rather for the student to engage in editing and collaborative efforts that reinforce different story building methods.

Cartoonist Research Project (25%)
See the attached assignment!


  • There is no penalty for 3 or 4 absences in a MW class.
  • The fifth absence reduces the final grade by 10 points (this can be a tardy-absence)
  • The sixth absence results in automatic failure of the class.
  • Absences during critique irreversibly lower the project grade 5 points unless it is turned in before 9am on the morning of critique.

  • Arriving late to class or leaving early can be marked as a tardy.
  • Three tardies equal one absence.
  • Being tardy for critique irreversibly lowers the project grade by 10 points
  • When possible and as soon as possible, notify your instructor of impending tardies or absences.   

Classroom Etiquette

Cell phones:
Make sure that your cell phones are turned off during class.  You may set your phone to vibrate if you have an ongoing emergency (meaning birth, death, or catastrophic illness).  DO NOT answer your phone in class.  It’s rude.  In the event of an emergency call you may exit class and then answer or return the call. 

Headphones are permitted, but ONLY during in-class work when I am not instructing and ONLY if low enough that you can still hear me if I address you.  Do not play music through the speakers.

I don’t care if you occasionally check your email or watch someone’s bulldog skateboard on YouTube, but it MUST NOT interfere with your work and it should never be through the speakers.
The best way to contact me is at  Please give your email a clear, descriptive subject line because I’m old and easily confused.  In turn, be sure to check your MCA email account regularly because I will contact you if there are any last minute changes to an assignment.

Class materials
1.)     A sketchbook!  (it can contain work for other classes, but in a separate section)
2.)     Good quality paper for penciling and inking
3.)     Pencils, pens, brushes, sharpies
4.)     A pack of  index cards and post-it notes
5.)     Pushpins
6.)     18 inch metal ruler (cork back)
7.)     Ames lettering guide (suggested)

Materials Binder
Maintain a notebook or binder in which you will keep any handouts presented in class (including this syllabus), in-class exercises, and visual research from each project.  Bring this binder to each critique and plan on maintaining it through subsequent classes.

Required Texts
  Understanding Comics Scott McCLoud

Recommended Texts
  Writing with Pictures  Uri Shulevitz
  Graphic Storytelling  Will Eisner
  Sequential Art  Will Eisner
  On Directing Film  David Mamet
  Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers  Marcos Mateu-Mestre
  Picture This: How Pictures Work  Molly Bang

Class Blog
The syllabus, schedule, and first assignments are posted to the class blog at Future assignments will be posted as they are distributed.  NEVER TELL ME YOU DIDN’T HAVE THE ASSIGNMENT!  I will also post instructions here in the event of a class cancellation. 

Health and Safety
All students must comply with health and safety regulations.  Of particular relevance to this class will be disposal of art materials.  The classroom is provided with a sink, but only water should be poured down the sink’s drain.  All other materials should be collected for appropriate processing.  You will be required to have an MSDS (material safety data sheet) with any and all materials you bring to class.  MSDS sheets can be found online at  Keep the sheets with your materials when you bring them to class.  Some materials require latex gloves, goggles, or even masks.  When using such materials you will be required to take the necessary safety measures in class.  If you have turned in MSDS for materials used in a previous semester then you need only update existing supplies and record any new materials you use in class this semester.

Cartoonist Research Project

Image Research:  Research each of the listed artists.  Collect at least five of their images in your sketchbook and record who they were, when they worked and what sort of work they did.

David Beauchard                                
Lynda Barry                                         
Alison Bechdel                                   
Milton Caniff                                       
Daniel Clowes                                    
Roy Crane                                            
Robert Crumb                                      
Nell Brinkley                                        
Jessica Abel                                         
Diane DiMassa                                    
Julie Doucet                                         
Edwinna Dumm                                    
Becky Cloonan                                    
Sherry Flenniken                                 
Will Eisner                                           
Lionel Feininger                                   
Chester Gould                                      
Roberta Gregory                                 
Gilbert Hernandez                                
Jaime Hernandez                                 
David Mazzucceli                               
George Herriman                                 
Ben Katchor                                        
Walt Kelly                                            
Lucy Knisley
Jack Kirby
Aline Kominsky
Harvey Kurtzman
 June Mills
Kate Beaton
Winsor McKay
Moebius (Jean Giraud)
Jackie Ormes
Diane Nomn
Gary Panter
Wendy and Richard Pini
Hugo Pratt
Trina Robbins
Marjane Satrapi
Dale Messick
Hilda Terry
Maurice Sendak
Charles M Shulz
E.C. Segar
Art Spiegelman
Osamu Tezuka
Rudolphe Topffer
Chris Ware
Jim Woodring

Image Research due:  10/1

Research Paper:  Choose the artist who interests you most.  Research this artist for your presentation.  At least four sources must be cited in your bibliography.  Use at least two non-internet sources.  If your chosen cartoonist is still alive, it is highly recommended that you contact them for an interview.  Write a 2000 word paper about the artist:  who they were, who their influences were, what their training was like, when they worked, what sort of work they did and what sort of techniques they used.  Examine at least one of their works in terms of the formal language of sequential art: what sort of panel-to-panel transitions does this artist favor?  Word-to-picture relationships?  Page layouts?  Must have a cover sheet!

The paper must be delivered to me by 9am on 10/15 in print and also delivered digitally at

Presentation:  Prepare a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation based on your paper.  It should include at least twenty images of your artist’s work, and at least five of an artist who influenced them.  You may wish to also include images that set the time and place in which your artist lived and worked.

Presentations given on11/17 and 11/19.