Reading With Pictures
You may know Christy Blanch from her recent investment, along with her partner Mark Waid, in Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Indiana, her comics education work, or her collaboration with Chris Carr, Chee and Troy Peteri on the Thrillbent series The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood.
While the comic about a college professor in a dangerous partnership for the sake of his family is on hiatus, that’s about to end. Blanch and I discussed all three aspects of her busy career in this interview.
Tim O’Shea: Judging from the store’s Facebook page, it’s pursuing a great deal of community outreach. Are you seeing new faces shopping in the store as a result?
Christy Blanch: Mark, Jason [Pierce, the initial owner] and I are all about creating community. We want to give people a reason to come here to shop. We want them to feel like this is their clubhouse to come in and hang out, talk comics, and just be themselves. We are seeing lots of new faces. The old location was a nice store, but we really were hidden. Downtown we are very visible and we see new people every day which is a great feeling. I love it when I sell someone their first comic book especially if it is a series that I love. I always tell them I envy them because I would love to ‘forget’ the book and be able to read it for the first time again.
Chris Schweizer has a nice post explaining the different premiums he is offering as part of the Graphic Textbook Kickstarter, which reminded me that this Kickstarter is ending in two days. The fund-raising goal is $65,000, which seemed incredibly ambitious to me, but as of this writing it has less than $2,000 to go to reach its goal. As Michael May explained a few weeks ago, the graphic textbook is the work of the nonprofit Reading With Pictures, which promotes the use of comics in classrooms and has already produced one very nice anthology; this book, should it succeed, could lead to a whole line of graphic textbooks. This would have the double benefit of providing children with another way to learn (since different kids have different ways of taking in information, adding the graphic medium will give some students a boost) and providing a lot of creators with paying work, which is always a good thing.
What sets the Graphic Textbook apart from most other educational projects is the quality of the creators, many of whom are already well known in the world of children’s or adult comics: Roger Langridge (Snarked, Popeye), Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (Action Philosophers), Raina Telgemeier (Smile) and a host of others. With creators like that on board, the pledge premiums are pretty good.
Anyway, Schweizer’s post grabbed me because I’m a fan of his Crogan Adventures, a series of graphic novels about members of the same family set in different historical eras, and the short story he is doing for The Graphic Textbook is a Crogan story set during the Revolutionary War. His premiums include original art, a video tutoring session, and sketches of the donor in 18th-century garb, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are still some other nice premiums left, including Langridge sketches, tickets to the Charles Schulz Museum, a script or portfolio review by former DC/Vertigo editor Brandon Montclare, or a personalized action figure.
The comics literacy non-profit, Reading With Pictures is dedicated to getting comics into classrooms. In addition to cultivating research on the role of comics in education, the mostly volunteer organization seeks to produce its own comics for schools to use and would like your help for their second publication. I say “mostly volunteer,” but that doesn’t include the creators of the new book. They’ll be paid for their contributions and that – plus the large print run – is a major reason Reading With Pictures needs $65,000 to complete the project.
The first Reading With Pictures comic was the Harvey-nominated Reading With Pictures Anthology that featured work by Jill Thompson, Fred Van Lente, Raina Telgemeier, Chris Giarrusso, and others. The new compilation, The Graphic Textbook will include Ben Caldwell, Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey, Chris Schweizer, Russell Lissau, Marvin Mann, Amy Reeder, Janet Lee, Katie Cook, Roger Langridge, Josh Elder, Dean Trippe, and others.
The collection will contain 12 short stories (both fiction and non-fiction) that are appropriate for grades 3-6 and include a variety of subjects from Social Studies and Math to Language and Science. There will also be a Teacher’s Guide with “lesson plans customized to each story, research-based justifications for using comics in the classroom, a guide to establishing best classroom practices and a comprehensive listing of additional educational resources.”
It’s a great cause with some great creators and some nifty rewards ranging from copies of the book and original art to being drawn into one of the stories.
In 2010, comic creator Josh Elder (and current Legendary Comics publisher) brought together an array of comics pros and educators to launch the nonprofit group Reading With Pictures. The company kicked it off with a self-titled anthology graphic novel that was among the first comics works funded via Kickstarter, and this year they’re returning to Kickstarter to fund the second wave of their comics literacy mission.
Titled “RWP 2.0: Educational Comics Get An Upgrade,” Elder’s 2012 efforts is two-pronged. The first is to create The Graphic Textbook, a comic-based textbook intended for use by students and teachers that adheres to the strict standards of American education. The second is a more unique project, titled Open Source Comics, whose goal is to accumulate a collection of comics to be available to students, educators and librarians under a Creative Commons license.
In order to prepare for this massive fundraising effort, RWP is looking for donations of rewards to offer once the Kickstarter campaign begins. Their deadline to have it all in is Feb. 20, so if you’re a comic creator or professional and want to help out, let them know!