Monday, January 25, 2016

Writing Connections with Marc Tyler Nobleman

The Power of Words.  Students have heard that phrase so often that it sounds like a cliché.  Marc Tyler Nobleman not only brings that phrase to life in two riveting biographies, but he also shows how the biographies themselves helped to right a wrong.  In a Kids Post interview for the Washington Post, Nobleman talks about the research and writing process for Boys of Steel and Bill the Boy Wonder, his biographies, respectively, of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman, and of Bill Finger, who co-created Batman with Bob Kane.  Finger never received credit for his work until recently, thanks in large part to information uncovered by Nobleman.

Nobleman travels frequently to give presentations and writing workshops, and he has found that, from India to Indiana, people know about Superman and Batman.  These superheroes tap into the human hunger for tales of good vs. evil.

Below are a few writing prompts for the classroom or for individual writers ages 8 and up.   Nobleman’s blog is a trove of historic photos, comic book art, quotes and cool stuff.

CREATE YOUR OWN SUPERHERO:  Ask students to read Bill the Boy Wonder and to look at one or two Batman comic books.  

Classroom Discussion: How did Bill Finger help to create Batman?  What traits, nicknames or pieces of costume did Bill add?  Ask students why they think that superheroes and superhero comic books are so popular, around the world.

Fight or Find Peace:  In most comic books, the superheroes use physical force when they fight.  Are there other ways of being powerful besides physical force?  Other ways of fighting back?  As a class, brainstorm a list of people (historic or contemporary) who were powerful without using physical force or violence.

Classroom Writing:  Have students brainstorm attributes for their own superhero.  For example, what is the hero’s super power?  How and when does the hero wield it?  Is there a secret identity or costume?  Who is the hero’s worst enemy and what are the enemy’s attributes?  How and why did the hero become a hero and the bad guy a bad guy?  What makes the superhero weak?  What makes the villain weak?  (Remember, neither hero nor villain need be human.  Either or both can be animals, objects, plants, germs, etc.)

Starting Strong:  Begin a story about how your hero and villain meet for the first time.  Think about who, what, when, where, and how.  What brings them together and when and where? What happens?  How do they fight?  See if students can figure out at least one way that the superhero fights the villain in a non-violent/nonphysical way.  What happens then?

Examining Art:  Choose a panel or two from a comic book and show students how the illustrator showed a close up or an aerial view, for example.   Ask them what makes these different views interesting and why the illustrator may have chosen to show that.  Ask them to do one part of their story as a comic book panel, showing a close-up or an aerial view.  How did that help them to think about their story in a different way?

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