Friday, October 12, 2007


Getting through to the many young boys in my classroom continues to prove extremely difficult. They’re easily distracted, restless, endlessly doodling, and prone to making wisecracks. They make my days at school incredibly difficult.

However, I’m not exactly one to talk. Even at 31 years of age I’m much the same as these boys when forced to sit through a long lecture. At a recent conference of volunteers I was exactly the same. Listening to presentations by Peace Corps my mind wandered, my feet bounced under the table, I made wisecracks, and found myself doodling endlessly. Maturity seems to come slowly. So I’m sympathetic. Still, there must be some way to harness this restless energy...

So let me announce the Comic Book Project.

My plan is to gather together comic books from the America and any I can find in Georgia. Following that I will make a short how-to book showing how to draw a comic, examples of popular comics, and a brief history of the genre. The book will include plenty of blank pages so students can draw their own. The kids can do this at home or in an after-school club.

I tried to have students draw comics during a camp for kids in my training village last summer, but the kids didn’t understand the concept. On the fly, I quickly drew a three-panel comic, detailing the untimely death of a goat at the hands of a bear, the first thing I could think of. I think the text read: “Bear meets goat. Bear fights goat. Goat dies.”

The little light bulb above their heads turned on and they quickly settled down with pens and paper and detailed numerous unfortunate demises of various animals. An eagle killing a rabbit, a cow dying, two dogs fighting and numerous other violent comics that ended in a grisly death. Not what I was intending, but the drawings were good and despite their morbid theme, kind of funny. I will try for less violent themes this time.

Before coming to Georgia, I’d volunteered with 826 Seattle, a center offering instruction and encouragement in creative writing, after-school tutoring, and various workshops for school groups on how-to write short stories. The center is one of a handful throughout the country, originally created by David Eggars, author of “Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius” and head of the publishing firm McSweeney’s. It’s an awesome organization and if you have cash burning a hole in your pocket I suggest you donate to them. To attract kids the front of the center is a space travel supply store. In another city it’s a pirate supply store.

One of the programs 826 Seattle offers is a comic book workshop. I contacted them and they agreed to send me materials so I could do it with my class. These materials never made it, probably because the mail was waylaid in Russia and thanks to their sudden embargo of Georgia the material never arrived. It could still show up, as others have suddenly received packages and mail a year after they were sent. Paige actually received a birthday card from her grandmother that was sent a year ago, arriving coincidently exactly on her birthday this year.

But don’t let the anarchy of the mail system frighten you away from sending comics, pens, or anything that might be useful to this project. Things have been arriving a lot more regularly of late. I have to do a bunch of paperwork with Peace Corps before I can accept donations, but it isn’t too soon to start collecting them. My hope is to make this bigger than just my individual school. I want to make it available to other schools in Georgia as well.

There is no one-way to reach students and I think one that targets the restless and creative youngsters is necessary. Drawing comics is a great way for them to develop focus and express themselves creatively. You might be surprised with what these kids come up with. And once they turn in some finished product I hope to put it on the Internet and you could see just what they developed. So if you’ve got some old comics laying around, or if you happen to be a generous soul who wouldn’t mind purchasing some, or if you’re a creative sort who likes to draw your own, please start collecting them and I’ll soon let you know how to send them to me. Thanks!

And somebody tell Matt Wright because that ludite has abandoned his email account.

Materials can be sent to me at:
Ryan Nickum, PCV
C/O Peace Corps Georgia
PO Box 66,
Tbilisi 1094
Republic of Georgia


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