Publication: Wisconsin State Journal
Date: December 7, 2004
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Cartoon Cutups In Class
Third-grade Students Get Lessons From Cartoonist
By Sandy Cullen
You can tell Sylvester the rabbit is always getting into trouble. He’s covered with scars, bandages, even dog bites.
“The dogs use him as a chew toy,” explains Aurora Eggers, 8, who created the Bugs Bunny-inspired cartoon character in her third-grade class at Madison’s Huegel Elementary School.
“He really gets hurt a lot,” she says. “He keeps running into trouble no matter where he is.” Not unlike … “me,” admits Aurora, whose broken foot is proof of the mischief she’s known to get into with her 9-year-old sister, Christian.
“She knocked a computer tower over on my foot,” Aurora explains. In Aurora’s cartoon strip, “Double Trouble With Funny Bunny,” a rabbit named Jackie takes the place of Sylvester to keep him out of trouble.
“It’s a big job for a little rabbit,” Aurora says.
Aurora and other third-grade students of teachers Vicki Hruska, Diane Drives and Jeanne Pitot-Frank spent three classes with Madison cartoonist Jason Kotecki, learning how to create their own comic strips.
Huegel Elementary School third-graders created their own cartoon characters and comic strips based on real-life experiences, under the tutelage of Madison cartoonist Jason Kotecki (Craig Schreiner — State Journal)
Kotecki is the creator of the Kim & Jason comic that runs in about 20 newspapers in the Midwest, including the Monroe Times, and has about 1,000 online subscribers.
Kotecki, who was brought into the classroom by the school’s Parent-Teacher-Child Association, spent one day working with students last year. Students loved it so much they got to spend more time with him this year, developing character profiles and ideas for their comic strips. Their teachers hope to make them into a book.
Inspired by super-hero cartoons, Matt Kaiser, 9, created Toilet Man, a man-eating villain who controls Pluto and attacks by making robotic arms. He sends armies to take over other planets.
Borrowing a bit from the television cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, Jaran Doucette, 8, created the “Adventures of Captain Magma and Shark Muscle” who take on Mushroom Head.
Kotecki taught students how to combine words and drawings to transform their characters and ideas into a multipanel comic strip. He also showed them how to use lettering to create sound effects such as “CRASH” and “BOOM,” and to use an element of surprise or exaggeration for humor, such as having someone’s whole face blow up when they are bit by a mosquito.
Kotecki admits he is surprised by the wittiness of the students, some of whom thought they couldn’t draw or wouldn’t be able to think of anything funny.
“A lot of them are really proud of what they come up with,” he said. “It builds up their confidence.”
In Tess McKenzie’s cartoon, Sidney, a butterfly fairy says, “Hi guys.”
“I’m not a boy,” says a bunny she calls Sasha. “Yae, I’m not a boy either,” echoes Samantha the squirrel. “OK. OK!” Sidney says.
“My grandpa does say, `Hi, boys,'” to her and her sisters, says Tess, 8. “I say, `I’m not a boy.'”
She came up with her cartoon “just to be funny.”
“It just popped right into my head,” she adds.
In Antoneah Armour’s cartoon, Johnson gives some hot sauce to Ramond, who is allergic to it.
“He eats it and he blows up,” Antoneah says of Ramond, who exclaims, “Ahh, not again. Why did you do that?” Johnson replies, “Cause I thought it would be funny. Ha! Ha!! Ha!!! Ha!!!!”
Antoneah, 8, admits that, like Johnson, she likes to play tricks on her younger sister, Tia, who’s 6.
Marissa Herman, who had previously made her own two-page Garfield comic book, came up with a cartoon featuring two girls who set out to get some ice cream.
“I’ll go get some ice,” says one. “I’ll go get some cream,” the other replies.
“It’s not gonna taste like they want it to taste,” says Marissa, 8, who wanted “to come up with something funny.”
“You’re not allowed to blurt out in school, so this is special,” she said of the students’ chance to create cartoons.
“School is so much about language and reading,” Hruska says, and creating cartoons is especially appealing for students who like to draw. “It really gives that other avenue that really doesn’t get tapped.”
Jennifer Neblett, 8, showed promise as an editorial cartoonist, creating the character of a Democratic voting horse who rails against the re-election of President Bush.
Her opinion of Kotecki is positive.
“He’s cool,” Neblett says. “He writes stories, and I saw him on TV once, and he doesn’t get a lot of money.”
©2004 Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wisconsin.