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COURSE NAME: "Making Comics as Visual Literacy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Antonio Lopez
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: F 2:00-6:00 PM [Course meets on: Sept. 27, Oct. 18, Oct. 25, and Nov. 22]

Grading: This course will be graded on a PASS/FAIL scale
In this course students will make a mini-comic and in the process develop visual literacy skills. It introduces the basic visual grammar of comics and offers an overview of different visual styles and genres. The core activity of the course involves learning how to go from sketches to final product by developing characters, building a world, constructing panels, sequences, completed stories, and distributing on the Web. Because, comics can visually communicate data and complexity in new and unfamiliar ways, skills developed in this course can be applied to other areas of academic life, such as mathematics, science, information science, literature, history, graphics design, arts, and business education. Learning to make comics will also cultivate entrepreneurial skills, including developing targeted communication, building an audience, developing an identity, and cultivating a public persona.

In this course students will learn how to draw, layout, assemble, and share a completed 8-16-page mini-comic. This is a hands-on course with many in-class activities. Prior experience in drawing is not required, but students must be committed to practicing and developing a project independently. Students are also required to obtain proper supplies (sketchbook, pencils, pens, paper). The course culminates with a final critique of the mini-comics produced during the course.


By this end of this course students will:

•    Learn the basics of comics’ visual grammar

•    Analyse visual conventions of comics and apply them to visual literacy (i.e. color, panel size and position, lines, gestalt theory, etc.)

•    Develop literary skills (point of view, character development, plot, etc.)

•    Create a mini-comics that incorporates visual storytelling and visual literacy skills

•    Learn basic techniques of do-it-yourself (DIY) comics production and distribution

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Making comics: Storytelling secrets of comics, manga and graphic novels.McCloud, ScottHarper780060780944 Please use Almost Corner Books
Cartooning: Philosophy and practiceBrunetti, IvanYale University Press9780300170993 Please use Almost Corner Books

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Drawing words & writing pictures: Making comics: Manga, graphic novels, and beyondAbel, J., & Madden, M.First Second9781596431317 Please use Almost Corner Books
Attend all five sessions P/F
Complete an 8-16 page minicomic P/F
EssaySubmit a 1000-word essay evaluating the final product, including a discussion of what was learned, including aims, strategies, difficulties and successes, and how comic making skills can be applied to other academic or life activities.P/F

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Session 1: Cartooning basics

Defining comics; visual grammar of comics; overview of styles, approaches and genres; review of materials and tools; spontaneous drawing; single panel cartoons.


·      Intros

·      What is comics? Slideshow

·      Drawing activities (3-4 minute doodles, 25 quick doodles of cartoon characters)

·      Brief history of comics slideshow

Due for next session:

·      Look through the Anthology of Graphic Fiction Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (on reserve in the library) and choose five different artists that appeal to you, both in terms of content and look. Photocopy one page from each choice to bring to class for discussion.

·      Quick sketch activities of a cat, castle and self-portrait.

·      A page full of doodles.

Session 2: Panels, words and pictures


·      Review exercizes, show and tell comics pages

·      Drawing activity (random phrases/index cards): Cartooning Exercize 2.1, 2.2

·      Slide show on technical elements (stop at transitions)

·      Five card Nancy

·      Abel and Madden: Story activity

·      Encapsulation: picking up a key

Due for next session:

·      Four panel book review comic based on the concept of Horn! Reviews (http://therumpus.net/sections/comics/kevin-thomas/)

·      Cartooning: Exercize 3.1 (p. 37)

·      Create 5 four-panel strips in your notebook (divide page into four panels)

·      Read: Making Comics: chapter 1; Cartooning: Intro, Weeks 1-4

Session 3: Transitions, characters

Storytelling, subject matter and character development; four panel strips; simple page layout; drawing exercises.


·      Transitions slides

·      Transitions: Nancy panels. Create a story using at least one of the following transition styles:

Moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, scene-to-scene, aspect-to-aspect, non-sequitur

Cartooning Exercize 4.1 Character based on basic shapes:

Create a character out of basic shapes (circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, etc.). Rudimentary limbs OK, clothes can have basic patterns.
Draw it from some different angles (side view, front view), moving, and at rest. Sketch a background
Think of a verb or action. Use four index cards to illustrate this action in sequence.
Add two more cards to illustrate the motivation for the action
Add two more cards to illustrate the consequences of the action.
Put them into a layout.

·      Eyebrows, eyes, mouths: Draw a profile with eye brow, eye and mouth, moving left to right (about 8 per line)

·      Draw several poses of different attitudes (from Making Comics p. 127). Show drawing to class and have them guess the attitude.

Due for next session:

·      Redraw your favorite page from another comic artist

  • Cartooning Homework Assignment 4, 6-9 panel one-page comic (p. 44); Assignment 5, one-page comic about childhood story (p. 46-48); and Assignment 6, one-page story using any number of panels (p. 52).

·       Making Comics: Chapters 2-4

·      Posture

Session 4 Complex Layouts

Read instructions for a four-page story in Cartooning (pp. 65-75) as a guide for putting your final comic together.

Complex page layouts; facial expression and body posture; drawing exercises.


·      Character development—discussion: What comes first, character or story?

·      Handout character options, develop a sketch for the character.

·      Story development (create outline), work on some thumbnails

·      Basic layout of 8-page comic

To be scheduled: Presentations and Final Critique

Presentations and discussion of final projects.

Submit paper and final project. Paper guidelines.