Super Dweeb and the Pencil of Destiny by Jess Bradley

Creating Comics For Children!

Comics and graphic novels are becoming increasingly popular in schools as a way to engage struggling and reluctant readers and also because they’re just awesome in general! I’ve been an illustrator for ten years now and seven of those have been focussed on creating comics. I’m a writer and artist for The Phoenix, a writer for the Beano, am currently working on the third graphic novel of the Agent Moose series and am really excited for the release of my new series, Super Dweeb!

Super Dweeb is hopefully a book series that combines the best of both worlds in that it’s a mixture of prose and comics, which was very fun to work on. Much like working on any kind of book for children, making a good comic relies on making a relatable character for the reader. You’re also going to be drawing this character hundreds of times so I’m happy that Andy, Super Dweeb himself, was such a fun character to draw! Unlike a novel, comics rely on being able to convey the feelings of the characters visually. One thing I love about books like Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the amazing range of emotion that’s brought forth in such simple drawings.

In terms of creating comics, there’s a lot of freedom there and every writer/artist has their own way of going about it. Most write a script first similar to a screenplay, with a blow-by-blow description of action, dialogue etc. I work better visually so every comic I create starts as a doodle, with the dialogue written as I go. I’m lucky that most of my editors are happy for me to work this way, and it also gives them an instant visual of what the finished product will roughly look like. Comics are all about the visuals so I’m happy to jump straight in and then edit at a later stage.

Comics are such a great thing for young readers as not only can they strengthen reading comprehension, but they can also act as a fantastic visual example of how a narrative moves and works. We’re all watching the story progress in real time with a comic and how all of these smaller pictures create a longer narrative. There are so many technicalities in comics that can be learned without even realising that you’re learning them!

Comics are showing a lot of mainstream publishers that there are so many possibilities in terms of character, art and demand for younger readers and just how popular this medium can be. As a creator of comics I can’t shout about this enough. Combining comics with prose pages (and spot illustrations) for Super Dweeb was so much fun and myself, my editor and art director all had so many great ideas to make this work and look as appealing as possible, while also being an enjoyable reading experience!

Comics also allow so much creative control as an artist. We’re essentially the writer, director, director of photography, best boy and producer! It’s hard work but very rewarding, especially when getting feedback from readers. The Phoenix cultivates a very strong relationship with its reader base and we’re all very lucky as artists and writers that we get to see this too. The readers are as much a part of what we create, if not the most important part.

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