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How to build the perfect superhero

Artlink’s comic book class teaches young artists the art of the super hero

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-06-18


Superman, Spiderman, Extra-perceptive Olfaction man… They all started in someone’s imagination, and if in the mind of every child resides a superhero, a faster, braver, stronger version of themselves just waiting to don a flashy outfit and go leaping across cityscapes to battle evil doers, then Dominick Manco is here to help the kids bring that superhero out — or at least get it down on paper.

Manco, an artist and art teacher at Bishop Dwenger high school, will be teaching a specialized class for kids who love comics and want to learn how to create them. Artlink’s Comic Book Class for 5th, 6th and 7th graders will be offered at the University of St. Francis in June. The Artlink class will focus on everything from layout to anatomy and all the techniques that are used to create dynamic action in comic books.

Manco has taught art for 10 years, the last two at Bishop Dwenger. Though he says he wouldn’t describe himself as a comic book artist, comics were hugely influential to him as a kid. He says his first “lessons” came right out of comic legend Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. “I think the beauty (of comics) for me is to capture the human figure in very dynamic poses, in action,” he says. “The excitement of action, the amazing things the human body can do that you wouldn’t see in normal art… Comic books really do that better than a lot of other art forms.”

Manco has always incorporated a little comic book art into his classes; it’s a great way to get the students interested in figure drawing while also giving them some real skills. “They don’t just want to sit there and look at a person standing still the whole time and try to draw them, they want to see something a little more imaginative.“

Of course, there’s more to a comic book than just action, and the Artlink comic book class will delve into as many aspects of comic book creation as possible. “We’re going to start out with the terms and tools you would use, the kinds of pencils and markers that comic book artists use to work,” Manco says. “Storyboarding is very important with comic books. There has to be a story there, a hook that gets people interested, so we’ll be brainstorming, doing some creative thinking about coming up with a really gripping story and not just flashy looking stretch pants and capes.”

One of the biggest hang-ups for any young artist is a fear of not making the figures look right. They want to make their superheroes look exactly like the ones they see in the comic books. While imitation is usually the way many artists start out, Manco says he likes to encourage them to figure out their own style, to let a little bit of themselves show through. “We’re not trying to put them in a mold,” he says. “There’s already great comic books out there, great comic book artists, we’re not trying to replicate those things, we’re trying to help them become their own artists.”

Some students avoid being imitative by tending towards the silly. Manco is surprised by what the students are able to come up with when they bring their own humor to it. The “silly” approach has yielded some memorable creations. “This year, we had a student come up with a guy named Jalapeno Man,” Manco laughs. “Basically, he had a big, huge jalapeno head, and he shot jalapeno juice at people. I thought the silliness and humor was just great. I‘d much rather read a book about Jalapeno Man than a cut-out comic book hero. After all, they’re called comic books. A lot of times people forget that.”

Though the Artlink class is for 5th – 7th graders, the entire art form of comic books and graphic novels has “grown up” in the last decade or so and gained a new level of respect. One of the things that Manco loves about the form is that it seems to have room for both graphic novels like Road to Perdition — a grim, depression-era gangster tale made into a movie with Tom Hanks — and… well, Jalapeno Man. “I think it offers a form for both the writers and artists to create really interesting, creative storylines that normal publishers may not pick up on, or a lot of Hollywood Studios wouldn’t pick up on,” Manco says.


Artlink Comic Book Class with Dominick Manco
June 11-15, 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3:00 p.m.
June 18-22, 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3:00 p.m.

University of Saint Francis, Mimi & Ian Rolland Visual Art Center, 2701 Spring St.

$35/session (M-F, 2-hours daily). Scholarships are available. For a registration form, go to www.artlinkfw.com or call Suzanne at 260-424-7195.

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