Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Chicago Comic Books: "Reading With Pictures"

Kind of busy around the old blog here. Not wanting to neglect my reviews of comics I picked up in Chicago this summer here are my thoughts on the anthology Reading With Pictures.

I should say that, like a lot of kids, I read comic books growing up. Mostly Marvel's Star Wars but also Archie and some occasional Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman stuff among other titles. In my day and age comic books were bought off the spinner racks or magazine racks at grocery stores or convenience stores and they were usually a treat. Some of the comics I even still have in my collection -- dog-eared and spine rolled with age. But comics were part of my childhood. Part of my growing up.

When my nephew came on the scene I wanted him to have a similar experience. I wanted him to have comic books as part of his growing up even if he ended up dropping them as he got older and so, even before he could really read, I bought him comic books figuring he could at least follow the story in the sequential panels and then I or his mom and dad could read the dialogue to him. He took to them like gangbusters and when he was still fairly young one day his mother told me that he wanted to show me something. He went and got one of his comic books, opened it up and read it to me instead of me reading it to him. He even got a lot of the really big words! We were all really proud of him.

That's what the group Reading With Pictures is all about. They're message is that comic books' unique blend of words and sequential images can help young people learn to read and have fun doing it. They also believe that comics can encourage young people to explore art as well. And so the group acts as a bridge between educators and comics creators -- encouraging educators to use comic books in the classroom and encouraging comic book creators to write stories which can be used in classrooms.

Reading With Pictures the anthology was designed as a way of raising funds for the project while at the same time promoting it and also being something which teachers can use in the classroom. The book contains 37 short comics; some are only a page or so in length others run for several pages but all are All Ages compliant. Each story brings something appropriate and understandable to the younger set while at the same time appealing to the older set set and the genres run the gamut. There are some autobiographical and semi-autobiographical stories here, there is fantasy, humor, superhero, sci-fi and everything in between and despite the fact that all the stories revolve around themes of learning, school, reading and education they are never preachy or boring.

And don't go thinking this is all just stories by people you've never heard of either. Chris Giarrusso contributes a story featuring his G-Man character (found at Image comics), Jim Gownley adds an Amelia Rules short, Josh Elder and Tim Smith throw in a Mail Order Ninja tale, Raina Telgemeier produces a semi-autobiographical story, Scott Christian Sava contributes an original Chronicles of Dreamland tale, Chris Eliopoulos of the critically acclaimed Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius specials tells an all-original story and hot and getting hotter Marvel writer Fred Van Lente finishes the whole thing off with creations of his own. In between, of course, are many independent writers and artists whose love for comic books began when they first started Reading with Pictures.

The whole book is really delightful and has high production values all around. The art is printed nice and clean and each artist's individual style is well represented. The colors are gorgeous even with each piece having a different color palette and shading, and even the cover puts you in mind of every comic book you've ever read over the years and reminds you of just how diverse the medium can be when you look around.

Bravo to all who contributed and managed to capture the essence of what makes comic books great. Who took their own love of comic books and poured it into stories about creating stories and finding creative ways of looking at the world around you.

To learn more about the group Reading With Pictures you can visit their website HERE

To learn more about the anthology book look HERE

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