Tuesday 23rd December 2014,
Comic Booked

Comic Confidential #6 – Education Comics With Mike Hall

Raphael Moran 05/18/2012 Reviews

In the last installment of Comic Confidential, I chatted with Michael Hall about his current indie comic Helldorado.   Here’s the second part of the interview.   We talk about his work in educational comics.   Personally I think it’s a great idea that can grab a lot of young kids into the world of comics.   Mike is doing what he loves and doing it his way and is a true inspiration from me as a comic creator.

Sundown at the Library

Raphael Moran

How did you get into the comic business?

Mike Hall

I’ve always made comics. As soon as I started reading them, I started making them.  I took a fairly roundabout path into the business, though; after high school, I lost interest in comics and shifted my focus onto film.  It wasn’t until the late ‘90s that I returned to my roots, self-publishing a comic called The Adventures of Dr. Mystery.  For a small press book, that series really took off.  It was on the strength of those thirteen or fourteen issues (and some unrelated one-shots) that Brent Erwin and David Hedgecock asked me to be a part of Ape Entertainment. I was their first managing editor.  I’m no longer involved with the business end of the company, but I still occasionally write for them on a freelance basis.

These days, the lion’s share of my comics work is in education, custom-creating instructional comic books for libraries and educational institutions.  I was a multi-disciplinarian in college, I’m working on a master’s degree, and I’m a former librarian, so creating these books is a fun and profitable way to combine my passion for comics with my passion for knowledge and learning.  That’s how I make my living as a full-time writer and cartoonist, despite having never worked for Marvel or DC.  Sometimes, you just have to create your own niche where none exists.

Library of the Living Dead

Raphael Moran

Care to talk about the educational courses and lectures you do?   What are the subjects you cover?

Mike Hall

Teaching is another thing about which I’m passionate. It’s an important part of what I do, which makes sense given my educational background and comics work.  When I drew my first educational comic (Library of the Living Dead, co-written by Matt Upson), it became a runaway viral hit… we had over a million downloads in the first month, and almost 2 million in the past year.  That led to me doing some presentations at library conferences, since I was still working as a librarian at the time.  The conference presentations have mutated into a lecture series on the educational power and potential of comics and graphic novels, focusing on how educators can use graphic narrative as a tool for instruction and analysis in the classroom.

I also teach a course in comics and cartooning at a small community college in Southeast Kansas, where I live.  It’s an introductory course, emphasizing the core concepts of visual storytelling and the basics of the cartoonist’s craft, but the art department has expressed an interest in turning it into a whole program.  Back in 2004, I wrote a book called Make Your Own Comics:  The Small Press Primer, which was one of Ape’s early hits and, I believe, the company’s first sold-out title.  This class, along with all the developments in technology and in P.O.D. publishing since ‘04, will likely end up forming the crux of a second edition of that book.

Raphael Moran

Educational comics are a great tool for teachers, parents and children. It’s also a great way to get young readers to fall in love with the comic medium at a young age. My first comic reading experience was the free comic I got in school with Captain America fighting against drug dealers. Do you think publishers should do more of these types of comics for schools? In fact, I think X-Men would make a great comic to teach kids against school bullying. What are your thoughts on all this?

Mike Hall

I get asked that a lot, especially from comics readers from my generation who grew up with educational comics created by mainstream publishers. I’m not sure why the educational comic book as we knew it in the ’70s and ’80s went away. Maybe it’s because the Big Two don’t really think of kids as their audience anymore. Everyone talks about the “graying” of fandom, and I think that phenomenon, coupled with the expense of creating and publishing a comic book–especially one that’s going to be given away at no immediate profit–killed the educational comic book as we knew it in the Bronze Age. That’s too bad. Comics have virtually no newsstand distribution these days, and comics of this nature could be powerful tools not just for education or awareness, but for nabbing new readers. This industry needs new readers, but the Big Two don’t seem that interested in cultivating them…they’re too busy selling the same product to the same readers they hooked back in the 1980s and ’90s. I’m not sure that answers your question, but that’s what happens when you ask for my thoughts on a subject!

Monster Clash

Raphael Moran

Ever had a strange comic con moment or story?

Mike Hall

Very few people in the comics world know who I am, since I don’t do any mainstream comics work and don’t try to get mainstream work; as such, I’m actually better known in educational and academic circles thanks to things like Library of the Living Dead.  The upside is that I’m spared a lot of the weirdness many pros endure at conventions, which I attend as a fan rather than as a professional.  I haven’t “worked” a con since 2005… I don’t even apply for a pro pass anymore.  I have a few stories, but I’m a low-key guy, so they’re low-key moments.  For instance, I once had a 20-minute conversation with Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew, during which Star Wars never even came up…we just made small talk.  It was delightful.

Raphael Moran

Any other comic projects you want to talk about?

Mike Hall

I’m currently contracted to create four more educational comics for college libraries in 2012, with a fifth contract pending administrative approval.  Once these comics are finished, I’ll be linking to their online versions at my website, www.cmichaelhall.com.  I have a couple of digital comics in development right now, one of which is scheduled for release in October by Viper Comics.  That one’s in collaboration with artist/colorist Dustin Evans.  The other, I can’t say much about at the moment.

I also just signed a six-book deal with an educational publisher to produce a series of graphic novels about key battles in American history, a gig I landed as much because of my history degree as my comics work.  So basically, I’m booked well into 2013.  For a freelancer, that’s a nice position to be in!

 

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About The Author

I'm a comic writer who happens to also write about comics. In 2011, Ape Entertainment published my first comic series called, Dream Reavers. Future comic projects will more than likely make your brain melt with enjoyment, so do yourself a favor and check them out. That is all.

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