Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Creating Comics with Professor Garfield

If you're a regular reader of The Book Chook, you've probably noticed that I love to find ways to encourage kids to do some writing. I especially love free websites that allow us to use their editors to create comics and other stories. Websites like Professor Garfield are such fun to play with, yet I think they're much more educational than some of the screen time we're involved in. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Professor Garfield is a large and somewhat confusing website. It's taken me several visits to get to know the range of activities offered to kids here. I have another two articles about aspects of it coming next week, the Toon Books Comic Maker and the Professor Garfield Character Builder. But today I'll focus on the Comics Lab and Comics Lab Extreme, both places where kids can play with story.

Comics Lab wants you to log in so you can save your work, but any nickname will do, no need to register. It offers lessons and videos to support kids, and also the comic maker. The actual comic maker presents you with a simple three-panel comic. Clicking any panel allows you to edit that comic, by changing characters, backgrounds, props and speech balloons. This means it's great for younger kids, allowing them to make small changes and learn as they go.

Click done when one panel is finished and you're ready to try the next one, but you can come back and re-edit by clicking on any panel if you change your mind. Quite often kids won't develop a story in a linear way, so this is an excellent feature. The comic can be saved to your computer as a jpg or png file, or it can be printed out.

Comics Lab Extreme offers more. Kids can create their own comic books. There are detailed instructions in the Getting Started panel and a tutorial for support. They can choose from comic strips, manga, graphic novels, presentations and comic books.

I found the tutorial very slow to load, but totally worth reading. And Comics Lab Extreme itself took a while to work for me. Once it did, I could see the characters, props, scenery etc and choose from those options to drag and drop onto my template. If children start with Comics Lab, much of the process will be familiar. If you're registered with them, you can save your work, and export it as a pdf file to your own computer.

Kids will enjoy creating stories via Professor Garfield's two editors. The fact they can be printed out might lead your children to want to build up a collection. If they're interested in the comic format as a way of expressing themselves, they might also like some of the other comic creators I've mentioned:
Comic Master, Stripcreator, Beanotown, Creaza's Cartoonist, Story Maker, StoryJumper, Make Beliefs Comix, ToonDoo, DomoAnimate, Write Comics and Myths and Legends.
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