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Article: "Comic(s) Relief" (Keene Sentinel)

Comic(s) Relief 

Kids’ imaginations are left to run wild at this unique campSteve Hooper Photo = 2005-1

S. Marek Bennett, right, of Marlow works with Vicki Walker, 10, of Acworth at Comics Camp at the Orchard School in Alstead. Bennett, a local comic artist whose work appears in The Sentinel, runs the camp, where kids are encouraged to explore their creativity through telling stories with comics… (Photo by Steve Hooper, Sentinel Staff)

By Peter J. Cleary, Sentinel Staff

Saturday, 23 July, 2005

ALSTEAD – Imagine a tiny, almost invisible boy, with the power to stop fleeing criminals by clenching them in his powerful grasp.

And imagine the boy’s partner, a gigantic dog able to make ciminals see double with his bite.

Put them together and you have “Super Kody and Tiny Michael.” The two could be seen in action one day last week stopping a bank robbery in Alstead.

The duo’s adventures are the topic of a comic Michael H. Cubitt created this week during comics camp at the Orchard School.

And while there weren’t really any bank robberies in Alstead last week, the adventure’s characters are based in reality.

In real life Michael is a 10-year-old boy from Aistead, and Kody is a 15-year-old terrier with nappy, golden fur and a hobbled walk.

Both spent the week immersed in comics at a camp run by S. Marek Bennett, Kody’s owner and a local comics artist.

Comics camp, Bennett said, isn’t an arts camp. Rather, it’s a place kids can go to explore their creativity through telling stories with comics.

“In doing our comics, we’re creating truthful fictions about the world around us,” Bennett said.

When it comes to “Super Kody and Tiny Michael” Bennett’s assessment is fairly accurate.

The real-life Michael has a squeeze similar to that of “Tiny Michael,” which he uses to keep evil at bay in his own life.

Michael wasn’t focusing on his comic Thursday morning, and camp counselor Catesby 0. Taliaferro told him she didn’t want to see his pencil leave his hand. Michael didn’t like that, so he leaned over, put his arms around Taliaferro and gave her the squeeze.

Comics are a great medium for kids to tell stories with, Bennett said, because the art form allows kids to explore and express what’s in their heads rather than just passively taking in a story from television or a video game.

“It’s pretty much like an emotional release,” said Ben Davis, 13, of Fitzwilliam. Davis made a comic at camp depicting a battle between gerbils and teddy bears. At the beginning of the week Bennett said he asks the kids what type of stories they want to tell, and then the campers set out to do that with words and pictures.

“There’s usually ‘The Adventures of’ and then some crazy character,” said Bennett, who draws the strip “Mimi’s Doughnuts.”

This year’s work included the tales of “Supper Tiger,” “Detective Tardy Turtle,” and a piece called “How Katie Survived.” Katie’s story is about a girl dealing with her annoying younger brother. The creator of that comic said that, just like Katie, she has an annoying younger brother .

The kids, who are ages 7 to 13, each created a small comic book, which they put together Friday. They also contributed to compilation comic books made throughout the week.

When the kids left camp Friday afternoon each took home a box of comics created at camp.

And comics aren’t just for kids, Bennett said.

They’re also a great way for people living in the Monadnock Region to communicate with each other, he said.

Since comics don’t require a lot of equipment to produce — all that’s needed is a pen, paper and copy machine — they’re accessible to most people. Even people without an artistic bent can draw them, Bennett said, as some comics just require stick figures to illustrate the action.

Creating comics encourages people to take a new look at the world around them and find the stories inside the buildings and towns they pass by or through everyday, he said.

“I think that’s really vital for small community because it forces you to look at the world around you,” Bennett said.

Colin A. Tedford agrees, and his Keene Comics Group works to get more Monadnock Region residents interested in making comics.

The art form, he said, is intuitive for many people and easy for them to quickly pick up.

The comics group holds comics jams, Tedford said, during which members pass around a blank book and take turns drawing a panel.

While the quality of panels throughout the books varies, the exercise helps build the skills of area comic artists, he said. And it provides some interaction and collaboration during what Tedford said is often a solitary task.

Bennett himself is working on a series of comics that capture the history of the Monadnock Region, and he said the comics should put a face on local history. To find material he’s been looking through books from the library and he said he’s keeping his ear open for interesting tales.

“The land we live on is totally crawling with stories,” he said.

Peter J. Cleary can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pcleary@keenesentinel.com.

Posted with permission of The Keene Sentinel.

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