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Creative Play with Kid-Created Comic Books

by Susan Quilty, author of The Insistence of Memory

Before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby grew up to become comic book legends, they were kids. Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, Sarah Pichelli, and Greg Capullo were all kids once upon a time. Now I’m not saying that sitting your kid down with some drawing supplies will necessarily turn him or her into the next Jim Lee, but there are a lot of benefits to fostering creativity in kids.

By creating their own comic books, kids do so much more than practice their drawing and writing skills. This is a project that can teach them how to organize their thoughts, express their emotions, share their own unique perspectives, and build confidence in their own voice. Plus, it’s fun!

Creating comic books may be a logical fit for your artist-minded child, but it really is something any kid can do. Start with stick figures. Add some props, like a cape, a crown, or a sword and shield. Facial expressions can be simple smiles and frowns, or more exaggerated reactions with huge eyes, open-mouths, fat tears, or angrily slanted brows.

The trick is to get them drawing anything at all. Let it be silly. Let it be simple. The art can progress later with help from classes, videos, and books. Or it can stay simple! The real point is self-expression, not professional artwork.

Kids are natural storytellers. They watch the world around them, learning where they fit in and imagining endless possibilities for fun and adventure. But writing those stories down with words can often be challenging or feel too much like homework.

Drawing a comic book can lessen that stress by using pictures to carry the story. Words will begin to fit in naturally as the book develops. Just as you encourage simple stick figure drawings, try adding in the easier words like dialogue, short descriptions, or some tried-and-true sound effects. Bam! Pow! Zzzzziiipp! Ka-Boom!

If starting with a blank paper is daunting, there are dozens of comic template books you can buy that will get your kids started. Some, like this Blank Comic Book Notebook are completely blank, except for various sized panels. Others, like this Create Your Own Comic Book, have more structured panels that include speech and thoughts bubbles along the way.

There are also lots of themed drawing books that skip the traditional comic book panels, but still give inspiration with fun backgrounds and suggestions on what to draw. Doodle Book has several fun themes, like Marvel Doodles or Star Wars Doodles.

Teach your kids that there’s no right or wrong when they’re creating their own art. (Outside of house rules like drawing on paper instead of walls!) Let your kids have control over their own stories and drawings, and you’ll be amazed by what develops!

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