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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Comic Book/Strip Creation Tools

This year’s Summer Reading theme is the perfect opportunity for me to share one of my favorite picture creation apps – Comic Book. But then I started digging a little bit to see if there was something easier (or better to use) and below are my thoughts (some of them incredibly brief) about 5 Comic Book and Comic Strip creation tools that would work well for this year’s superhero themed summer reading program.

Comic Book App

This is one of my favorite Apps of all time. It’s quick and easy to use and perfect for this year’s superhero themed SRC. I spent the last couple of weeks using it to make artwork to decorate my teen area. I have also used it to make blog graphics and a father’s day present for The Mr. Yes, you read that right, a Father’s Day present. We made a comic book page about what a great dad he was, printed it out on regular 8×11 paper, framed it and it is now one of my favorite pictures in my house.

I am also going to be using it for one of my TSRC programs. We’ll take photos and make pages to print and it will be a glorious good time.

To use the app I create the image – and it does give you choices in layout and panels – then I save it to my device. You can then email it, upload it, etc to print it out or incorporate it into your social media or larger designs. Some basic elements come free, but they have a lot of additional elements you can purchase if you would like. I have never purchased any additional elements. There are word bubbles, text boxes, and more that you can add to up the wow factor. I also really love that you can give it a barcode and a price sticker to make it look more authentic. The basic app costs $2.99. You can use it on most Apple devices. I have used it on both my iPhone and an iPad.

Pixton.com

This tool is new to me and I’m not very familiar with it at this point, but I wanted to let you know it was out there. It seems pretty advanced. Mashable says it is for “artists” and they’re not really kidding.

Toondoo.com

I have dabbled a little with Toondoo. One of the bonus of this site is that it lets you save mid creation and come back to it.

Bitstrips.com

Bitstrips is another app that let’s you make little cartoons. If you are on FB, you are probably familiar with Bitstrips because they are popular there. I see at least one a day in my feed. They can be a quick and easy tool to make a little cartoon, but I like the quality of the creations created by Comic Book better. Then again, that’s really a matter of personal taste. It would definitely be quick and fun to make some Bitstrips to share on your social media pages throughout the SRC.

Chogger.com

This online tool comes closer to creating comics strips and panels like I do in the Comic Book app then any of the others. And it was pretty easy for me to just jump in and start designing. I will say, I cheated because I used a picture that was already comicbookified (totally not a real word) by the Comic Book app.

 

Final Thoughts:

I am a huge fan of the ComicBook app and highly recommend it. I also thought Chogger was a pretty good tool. I would really feel more comfortable spending more time with the other tools before I gave them a solid review, but there are some reviews below that you may find helpful. Or, better yet, explore them and decide what works best for you. There are a couple of additional creation tools mentioned in the reviews below that I didn’t get to so you might want to check them out.

More Information and Reviews:

Mashable: http://mashable.com/2010/10/24/create-your-own-comics/

Teachbytes: http://teachbytes.com/2012/02/29/5-online-comic-creators/  

Sunday Reflections: What I Learned While Trying to Put Together a Women’s History Display

I was walking by my YA room when I saw a staff member searching the shelves for something, so I went down and asked what she was looking for. It turned out, she was looking for inspiration for a new display. So after some talking we decided that we would do a Women’s History Month display. And then the conversation got, interesting I would say.

I started grabbing a bunch of great titles off of the shelves and we started making stacks for the display. I pulled the Katherine Longshore titles and Maid of Secrets by Jenn McGowan, A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Lots of great titles about women in historical fiction. After we had some good stacks of books to fill all the display pieces we had, I could tell that something was still bothering this staff member and that she was hesitating.

“But we need some books written by men,” she said to me, “and with boys on the covers.”

I was . . . stunned. “Actually,” I replied, “I’m pretty sure we don’t for a Women’s History Month display. I think books written by women about women fits in perfectly with the theme.”

“But we need some male authors,” she said again.

“I’m pretty sure we don’t,” I replied again.

“But we want boys to read, don’t we? So we need some male authors and books with men on the covers.”

I didn’t hesitate and asked her, “Did you read Shakespeare in high school? Lord of the Flies? Dickens? Hemingway? There is no reason, none, that a boy should not or can’t be expected to read books written by a female author or featuring female characters. Nobody ever blinks at the idea that women will read books written by men or featuring male characters. Books are for readers. All of them.”

“But boys won’t read books with girls on the covers,” she replied.

And this, my friends, is a lie. I have met many teenage boys who read Sara Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson and A. S. King, for example. I once went to a teen book festival where I talked to a teen boy who went to one author and one author only: Sarah Rees Brennan. He had read everything by her.

But the truth is, if we keep feeding into the lie that boys won’t read books with girls on the covers or written by female authors, they’ll keep believing it. Somebody teaches them this lie and that somebody is us. And this lie is dangerous because it tells boys that the lives and thoughts and art of women is somehow less than that of men and they don’t need to be bothered with it. And it tells girls who grow up seeing this lie lived out around them that they are somehow less than their male counterparts. And everyone grows up believing this and it’s a really hard internalized message that is difficult to rewrite. But we have to rewrite it, because it harms us all and it defeats the whole point of reading and art and storytelling; the part where we step into lives that our different than our own, where we develop compassion and empathy and understanding, where we dare to explore other points of view. If you believe the lie that boys can’t read books written by or featuring girls then you don’t understand the purpose and value of storytelling.

So after one final discussion, we agreed to do the display for Women’s History Month with the books we had pulled.

Ironically, the next day I noticed on the other side of the display space was a basketball display for March Madness. Not a single book on it was written by a woman or featured a woman on the cover. Apparently that inclusion doesn’t go both ways, which is just part of the problem.

13 Thoughts Author Carrie Mesrobian Had About The Walking Dead

If you follow author Carrie Mesrobian on Twitter, you know that she is a big fan of The Walking Dead. She is part of the reason that this week became Zombie Week, our shared love of zombies and The Walking Dead. So to round up Zombie Week, Carrie Mesrobian is sharing some thoughts she has about The Walking Dead.

  1. This show is based on a comic book series that isn’t exactly kid-friendly. But it also features prominently a young boy named Carl, who grows up in both worlds. I think Carl learning how to be an adult in the post-apocalypse world is a perfect vehicle next to his father, Rick, who is a sheriff in the old world. Carl must by necessity make new rules for his reality, while his father tries to grip to the old ones that were so deep in his identity.

 

  1. I don’t read the comics. Not yet. I want to have something to savor after the show ends. This is something I love about fandoms. Even if there isn’t source material for a movie or TV series you love, there’s fanfiction. You can always immerse yourself back into that world again in new ways. (Too bad Daryl Dixon’s not in the comics…)

 

  1. The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies, or the disease zombies symbolize. I think The Walking Dead is about survival, which is something all people relate to, even if our current survival may not be a hand-to-mouth one. What makes us human and what makes us inhuman?

 

  1. The Walking Dead has some sexism issues, which vacillate depending on the female character as well as the season’s focus and script writers. The character of Andrea was frustrating to many. The plot used Andrea as a device for its own purposes instead of using her character’s own motivations to drive plot. Character first, then plot, is what I would advise. It’s hard to pull off, of course.

 

  1. A lot of people decry how this show showcases “man pain” vis a vis the deaths of women or male characters of color. I think this is easily arguable. But I remain fascinated with man pain, as a viewer/reader. I don’t see a lot of visible man pain or male tears in my own reality. I think we all want to gawk at what that looks like. Instead we see a lot of male anger and the destruction that wreaks on our world. I’m tired of male anger. Give me the man pain over the male anger any day. The Walking Dead is probably not a great test-case for this dynamic, given its content.

Gratuitous Darl Dixon GIF for Carrie. GIF from PandaWhale.

  1. The Walking Dead has some racism issues. One is that the show likes to kill off characters of color constantly. It’s not that I don’t buy that characters of color wouldn’t die at the same pace as white characters. I get that. What people don’t seem to understand is that in the context of televised entertainment, enduring characters of color, ones we get to love and hate and connect with over the long-term, still remain few and far between. This context is important for television producers to understand; I’m not talking about verisimilitude. Another thing that we don’t often see on TV are long-term love relationships between characters of color, so when Bob died, I just felt like the show missed yet another chance to defy the norm. We’re getting a hefty plate of Sasha’s grief and that’s rich as well, but again: context. Context matters in any medium – I’d like to see TV writers and producers move past the “but we’re just depicting reality” explanation and remember the legacy of their medium every time they create a story arc or new episode.

 

  1. You don’t want to be a cute little kid on this show. You’re going to be a tool of sorrow and gore in short order.

 

  1. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories have great “unlikeable” characters. Is that part of the draw of these tales? We can finally hate people with generous gusto because the stakes are so raised? I don’t give one shit about likeability in general. We see a character like Merle Dixon, an odious person, so far from redemption, someone that makes us think, “ugh.” But this show isn’t presenting Merle Dixon as a babysitting candidate for our children. Merle Dixon is a symbol for cruelty and generational bigotry and horror and macho destruction. Michael Rooker is a very skilled actor who makes this character come alive. You might not want Merle to be your friend or neighbor, but he sure made me sit up straight whenever he came on screen. Unlikeable characters often translate to “electrifying personae” in my view.

 

  1. I don’t watch this show for gore. I don’t care about grossness and blood. It became a joke after season 2 when Daryl dug open the walker looking to see if ate Sophia and learned “this gross fucker had himself a woodchuck for lunch.” I don’t know what to say to people who can’t stand gore. It’s there. I turn away. I watch enough “behind-the-scenes” content that I know exactly how the zombie heads are made to rip away from the fake skulls anyway.

 

  1. The violence in The Walking Dead interests me more than the gore, which might sound counterintuitive. But as I mentioned in point #3, the idea of what makes us human is the constant ethic being pressed up against in this story. That we are animals isn’t something I have trouble with; I can see our needs as animals. What is harder to express is what makes someone inhuman. Being inhuman is not the same as being an animal, I think. There is some other rubric being put in play when we dehumanize ourselves and others. I don’t know what that is but it’s a question that’s constantly being examined in this show and one that I enjoy seeing depicted. So violence is a part of that recipe.

 

  1. The best part of this show is that each character is very well-rounded. That is what brings me back. Every character has a depth and a backstory and a set of motivators that marks him or her. While I want to make out with Daryl Dixon very consistently, he’s not my current favorite character. Last season, Michonne was my favorite. Right now, I’m most intrigued with Glenn. It’s hard to pick a favorite, honestly. They’re all so juicy and good.

 

  1. If this show gives me any kind of anxiety, it’s mainly that we need to stockpile seeds and keep making compost. A global food supply chain is not our friend when the world goes to hell, yall.

 

  1. The Walking Dead helped me to understand the point of fan-fiction. Now I write it and enjoy this very much. When the season ends on March 29th, I will certainly go back to writing more of it as well as reading it. In my view, the best fanfiction has sex in it, because this show is not generous about romance (except with the Governor, eww), so feel free to hit me up with your favorite fic links in the off-season.

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Carrie Mesrobian has worked as a teacher in both public and private schools; my writing has appeared in the StarTribune, Brain, Child magazine, Calyx, and other web and print publications. She teaches teenagers about writing at