Graphic Novel Project Brings Teaching Artist to the School

(Illustration courtesy of Kevin C. Pyle)

By Kevin Hernandez-Perez, Sports Editor

In most schools, students get in trouble for doodling in language arts class, but in eighth grade here at BBES, you get in trouble if you don’t, according to our resident teaching artist Kevin C. Pyle.

Mr. Pyle is here at BBES to help eighth graders write and illustrate a series of original graphic novels. The project, a collaboration between our art, Spanish, and language arts departments, is being funded by a grant from the Artists in Education Grant, a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania. BBES was one of 11 schools in the state to receive the grant this year.

Students will present their work at an event at the school this spring.

Mr. Pyle, the author of three graphic novels and several docucomics, answered some questions for The Tides.

portrait jpeg

Self-portrait by Kevin C. Pyle

Q: What is the BBES Eighth Grade graphic novel project?

A: Over the course of 2 months, I will be teaching the 8th grade everything I know about creating graphic novels. We are doing exercises and readings designed to build their drawing skills and give them knowledge about visual storytelling. They will take these skills and knowledge and produce a comic that communicates something about their reality.

Q: Have you ever taught graphic novels to another school?

A: Yes, I have taught in many schools, mostly in New Jersey, for seven years. I first started teaching in my own son’s school when he was ten years old.

Q: If you have taught another school about graphic novels, what were the differences?

A: What’s great about teaching in Bradley Beach (besides eating lunch at the beach!) is that I have much more time to work with the students. Also, the teacher, Mrs. Sucato, is having the students read and discuss graphic novels, which often doesn’t happen at other schools I’ve worked with.

Q: How did you learn to draw?

A: Practice, practice, practice. Though I was really into other things, like skateboarding and arcade games, I was always drawing. I used to get in trouble a lot for drawing in class.

Q: How long have you been doing graphic novels?

A: My first book was published seventeen years ago but I drew some comics in middle school. So a really long time!

Q: Can you tell us about your work?

A: I do fictional stories (graphic novels) that are often about growing up. I set them in places I’ve lived and base the characters on people I grew up with. I also do non-fiction books (docucomics) telling people about something I think that is important for them to know. Like a reporter, I do interviews and research to make sure all the facts are correct. My most recent book, Bad For You: Exposing the War on Fun, brings these approaches together. It’s about moments in history when adults freak out about things kids love, like skateboards, video games and comic books. When I was a kid our town passed laws against skateboarding and I also remember parents protesting at the video arcade (before we had video games at home!).

Q: What inspired you to write graphic novels?

A: I was working as a designer at a children’s book company that wanted to do graphic novels for kids. That gave me the idea for Blindspot and once I started writing and drawing it I really wanted it to get published.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: I love so many books that it would be impossible for me to choose one. But the graphic memoir Maus by Art Spiegelman may be one the most important books for me. I might not have started doing comics if I didn’t read it. It showed me you could do comics about very important subjects.

Q: Do you have kids?

A: Yes, I have a son Calvin, who is a senior in high school. He used to draw a lot and do comics but now his favorite thing is to make music.

Q: Do you have any pets?

A: I have dog named Frodo who barks a lot and two cats, Indy and Cleo, who don’t bark at all.

Q: Who is the most famous person you know?

A: Hmmm…. I’ve met some famous people like Steve Carell from the Office and the rock star Iggy Pop but I guess the most famous person I know well is Peter Kuper, who draws “Spy vs. Spy” in Mad Magazine. Or my best friend from 5th grade, Brian Stack, who writes comedy for Stephen Colbert and is on TV a lot. He should be famous because he’s very funny.

Q: What do you want for Christmas?

A: I haven’t made my list yet, but I can definitely say it will have a lot of books on it.

Q: How tall are you?

A: Almost 6 foot and 5 inches but not quite.

Q: Are there any fun facts about you?

A: I’ve gone skydiving. That was fun!

Q: If you had one wish, what would you wish for? (You can’t wish for more wishes.)

A: I would wish for people to care more about other people who are less fortunate than them.

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