The Secret Language of Comics

Sketch 9: Recreate a movie scene

Chris Pratt holds the raptors at bay in Jurassic World.

Due: 4/10

Tag: sk9

Choose a single moment from a movie or television episode and recreate that scene as closely as you can in a single photograph. Think about how you can creatively use wardrobe items or props that you already have at your disposal and the landscapes and building spaces available to you in order to create your scene. In fact, you might find that it’s best to begin by thinking about what you might be able to pull off and to work backward from there to choosing a scene.

By definition, you don’t have incredibly powerful movie cameras, cinematographers, a cast and crew, a prop and set design department, and CGI f/x staff for post production; therefore, you are never going to perfectly recreate any scene. However, with a little creativity you can still create a powerful version of a scene even without all that fancy paraphernalia, as in the version of Jurassic World at the top of this post and others seen here.

More than a decade ago, I recreated these scenes above as part of a larger photographic creative project. For my version of Lost in Translation, I rearranged the furniture in my bedroom and borrowed my wife’s bathrobe. I could never quite get the tilt of my head right. For my recreation of Albrecht Dürer’s Self Portrait of 1500, I couldn’t reproduce the proportions because I was required to make all my shots 4×3 landscape photos and my hair wasn’t long enough to quite pull off the portrait. But I bought a black plastic tablecloth for 99 cents for the background and made the sleeve decorations with crayons on paper. I used a fuzzy scarf and an old leather jacket for the clothes. Despite taking numerous shots and studying the painting very, very closely, I could never get my right hand into exactly the correct position.

Literacy Narrative, Part 3

Due: 3/17

Return to your alphabetic narrative and revise, taking into account the further thinking you did as you created your comic. You can (and probably should) really rethink, rearrange, and reenvision the literacy narrative — rather than merely replacing words with other words. You should have a much clearer sense of the ideas or tensions in your literacy narrative now, after having drafted an alphabetic narrative and then a comic narrative, so go back and write it as an essay.


Publish the new version of your literacy narrative as a page on your site. Then publish a reflective post that links to that page and answers the following questions:

  • How has the entire literacy narrative project helped you to meet the Learning Outcomes for this class?
  • How was it to return to the alphabetic literacy narrative after having created your comic? How did you think differently after having worked in the visual medium and now returning to a text narrative?
  • How do you see the story you are trying to tell in different terms now? Was your analytical thinking process any different?

Parts 1 & 2

Literacy Narrative, Part 1

Literacy Narrative, Part 2

Literacy Narrative, Part 2

Parts 1 & 3

Literacy Narrative, Part 1

Literacy Narrative, Part 3


Now that you’ve completed a draft of your alphabetic literacy narrative, gotten feedback from me, and perhaps read some of your peers’ narratives, it’s time for you to make your own comic narrative about your literacy. For your narrative to be a comic, it must include some words and some images. You are free to veer away from your alphabetic narrative in whatever ways you’d like (you are not bound by the draft you already published to your site), and in fact you will need to fundamentally rethink your narrative in at least some ways in order to make it work as a comic instead of just an alphabetic text. Ultimately, your goal is to both tell a nonfiction, autobiographical story about yourself as a writer/reader and to connect your own personal narrative to the experiences of other people as well — to convey what’s at stake in your narrative.

As you develop your comic, you should refer back to Scott McCloud’s Making Comics, which we read earlier in the semester, and especially the “Clarity” diagram. You will need to make choices about moment, frame, image, word, and flow as you draw your comics. You can experiment in order to develop the style that seems appropriate to the story and ideas that you are presenting — your goal is to create a clear narrative that makes your argument in a way that your readers can grasp, and that might entail playing with techniques that are new to you.

You can make your comics by hand or you can use digital methods.

You can incorporate photographs or other media if you’d like.

Turning your alphabetic literacy narrative into a comics comes in two steps:


Due: 2/8 (in class)

Length: 3-4 pages (ballpark)

In class on 2/8 we will workshop the drafts of your narratives, so come to class with a rough sketch of the complete story you are telling. It should actually be rough — stick figures are fine, as are notations that explain what you are aiming for if it doesn’t come through in the rough sketch. You need the storyboard to be just detailed enough that your peers can read it and understand the 5 choices you are making and see what you are doing in the story, so that they can give you productive feedback, but not so detailed that you will feel invested in the storyboard as if it is a final product and won’t make revisions based on that feedback.

You can bring in a hard copy of your storyboard or you can scan it and publish it to your site. (I will eventually ask you to publish the storyboard before you complete the final draft, so if you can go ahead and do that before class on 10/31, but it’s fine for that class if you bring a hard copy.)

Final Comic

Due: 3/1

Length: 3-4 pages (ballpark)

After you’ve gotten feedback on your storyboard, make a final version of your comic. If you have drawn it in an analog space, get a really nice scan or photograph of it (if you are taking pictures with your cellphone, do make a concerted effort to get really good photos) and upload that to your site. It can be published to a single page or across a few separate pages.

Once you have published the page, write and publish a reflection post that links to your comics page.

Literacy Narrative, Part 1

Due: 1/25

Length: 750-1000 words


Before you begin to write your literacy narrative, you should complete the x-pages prewriting assignment described here. Once you’ve finished that prewriting exercise, you can begin drafting the literacy narrative itself. Spend a good 45 minutes to an hour on the prewriting exercise.


Now that you’ve done some brainstorming, write an essay in which you analyze the key experiences that shaped the way you read and write.

Take a step back and reread the freewriting you did, looking for any interesting patterns that you surfaced about your history with reading and writing. You do not need to directly address the questions above or include points from the brainstorming you’ve done, but hopefully in the process of freewriting and thinking about those questions, you’ve recognized some issues or patterns that are interesting enough for you to analyze more carefully.

You’ll have opportunities for revision and later in the term I will ask you to remix the writing you’re doing here into a graphic narrative but for now just focus on drafting this essay.

Nuts and Bolts

Publish your narrative as a page (not a post) on your class website (make certain to add it to the menu, so we can all find it).

As with everything you publish for me this semester, you need more than just words for your narrative — you must have at least one image, video, or audio file with your narrative. You’ll need to provide a caption and give credit to the creator of the image (even if it’s your own). I’ll have some additional resources on Creative Commons and finding CC-licensed images with Flickr (or refer back to the first sketch assignment for more).

Reflection Post

Once you have published the page, you need to also write a separate blog post. That post should link to the page you have published and reflect on the process of writing it. (How to add a link in posts and pages)

Further instructions for the reflection post here.

Parts 2 & 3

Literacy Narrative, Part 2

Literacy Narrative, Part 3