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It’s not unusual for a comics creator to visit a classroom, but the program that Eben Burgoon led for the Sacramento, California, nonprofit 916 Ink was much more than that: a six-week workshop in which elementary school students learned to write comics, then pitched their stories to professional artists who worked with them on the finished product. The workshop included a variety of exercises and techniques, including the “Marvel Method” — Burgoon gave the students pages of finished art and had them fill in the word balloons — and making up the backstory for a random LEGO Minifig.
916 Ink promotes literacy by encouraging young people to write their own stories and poems, and it has published more than 25 books of student work. Its comics program is new and was spurred by demand from both parents and students; the finished work, released this week, will be available in local comics shops, through the 916 Ink website, and eventually through other channels.
We spoke with Burgoon about what he did with the students, how they worked with the artists, and why he thinks comics are a good medium for a literacy program.
John Rozum lets readers take an in-depth look at his process in a recent post on his experiment at writing a comic script using the Marvel Method. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Marvel Method is the approach developed by Stan Lee during the early days of Marvel in which Lee would provide brief outlines of the events in a comic book issue (as opposed to a full script), let the artist draw the whole thing, and then come back and add dialogue over the finished panels. The advantages of that format include letting the artist have a lot of creative input, while also requiring less time from the writer (meaning that someone like Lee could write a ton of books at the same time).