Putting Pen to Panel: Graphic Novel Course Teaches the Basics

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Wallace Ryan has been called the “Godfather of Newfoundland Comics,” but “I can’t remember who came up with that,” he joked. 

He has a long history with comics: he started reading them in high school and he soon began making them. And for more than 20 years he’s been instructing others about the medium. This March he’ll once again be teaching Graphic Novels: An Introduction at the Anna Templeton Centre. It runs from March 13 to April 17, from 7:00-9:30 p.m.

During the 6 week course, Ryan will take students from the very beginning of putting a comic together to the business side. Students don’t have to walk into class with an idea for a comic ready to go, either. The course starts with the idea, to rough sketches, penciling, inking, lettering, and creating the cover.

Ryan will also describe the entrepreneurial aspects of comics, “The quiet machine behind it, the distribution.” Talking about how comics are consumed is an integral part of the industry. So while painters have art galleries and musicians have auditoriums, Ryan explained, comic book artists and graphic novelists also have a space: the comic book store.

In the final class Ryan takes students to Downtown Comics. The students also bring a page of whatever they created during the course and the store’s owner judges the best. The winner gets a free comic.

“The great thing with the comic course is that it helps us funnel new people into art.” Ryan’s long-term goal is to cultivate local talent and interest. He’s also the co-founder of the Breakdown Comic Jam that meets at the Anna Templeton Centre the first Friday of every month.

“We’re slowly building a community for ourselves here,”’ he said. In the coming years Ryan expects there will be more locally produced graphic novels and comic books.

In previous years, the people who’ve signed up for this courses have ranged from hobbyists to aspiring artists. “It’s a mixture of all of them. There’s some who are like comic book fans all their lives and have thought of a story and thought ‘Geez, I’ll give that a try.’ And some artists who just draw regular art and they want to try their hand at comics, because it’s more than just the drawing, it’s the storytelling part of it… So they want to learn all that part of it.”

“In comics, as I say to the students, don’t worry about the drawing. The drawing can always come later. The most important thing in comics is the storytelling aspect of it. It’s just like … If the writing’s excellent, it really doesn’t matter about the drawing. You could have a comic that has the best drawing in it, but the story is lousy and it just sucks” he laughed.

“The story’s got to be good to be interesting, because that’s the very basis of the art form.”

About Author

Elizabeth Whitten

Elizabeth had an MA in Anthropology before she decided journalism school would lead to a far more lucrative deal. So now she has another degree and writes in St. John's. Web: elizabethlwhitten.com; Twitter: @elwhitten

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