Comic Con at James Young High School library

Comics have always been something I’ve loved. Perhaps because of my dyspraxia, I adore illustrations that tell stories. As a kid I devoured Asterix (though I missed a lot of the word jokes) and my Grandad would keep the daily comics from his newspaper for me – Calvin and Hobbes still makes me laugh.  Over my time at the school I’ve found pupils are increasingly requesting comics – usually DC or Marvel. As a result I decided to run a comic club this year (shadowing the Stan Lee Excelsior Award as part of it) and the pupils were keen to have a comic con as one of their activities.

Comic cons cover far more than just comic books, often taking in wider geek culture including anything from The Muppets to Marvel, but we decided that for this first year Scottish comics would be our focus. A team of three pupils, English teacher Stephen Toman and myself hatched a plan - a full day of comic fun in the library for 42 pupils. As we hadn’t been done this type of thing before there were lots of unknowns - would anyone even want to come except us?

As we hadn’t been done this type of thing before there were lots of unknowns - would anyone even want to come except us?

It turns out that pupils did indeed want to come but, as is usual for teenagers, they were worryingly slow signing up. In the end I could have sold another dozen tickets but I didn’t know that until the day before! On the day itself every pupil was given a pass (colour coded to match photo permissions) and I issued a wee information pack beforehand which included the programme, cosplay and general rules - after all rules still apply even if you are dressed as a god.

The pupils organising felt a big part of comic con experience was cosplay so the opportunity was given for dressing up and prizes were awarded for the best costume. This proved to be very popular and nearly all of the pupils attending dressed up.  We also ran a comic book stall at lunch - shopping was also felt to be key - that gave them a chance to pick up some cheap back issue comics that we had ordered from ebay and checked for appropriateness before selling.

Staffing was much easier. Stephen and I were there all day and I pulled in teacher comic book fans to help with various bits including cosplay checks at the start and a Q&A panel. I also got the library monitors to help with set up and staging along with the three comic club members.

Finding speakers wasn’t as hard as I feared as Stephen has a couple of friends working within the comic industry – James McCulloch who writes the comic City of Lost Souls (it’s very adult so he talked about the history of Scottish comics and how he got into it) and Jess Byrne who is an illustrator with her own webcomic, The God Stone. Jess did live a drawing based on pupil suggestions and shared her experiences of illustration. I was also lucky enough to get support from Scottish Book Trust to invite Metaphrog (John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs) who shared their process and influences and got the pupils creating their own characters. The afternoon session then took this further as pupils tried writing their own comic book with Stephen’s help.

The day was a huge success - words like 'epic', 'fantabulous' and 'inspired' were all over our evaluation sheets, as were calls to do it again. One of the S6 helpers even got paid work from the contacts she made. Though I think my favourite bit of feedback was a pupil bemoaning the fact they’d missed it saying ‘they didn’t think it was going to be so good’!


Kateri Wilson

Kateri Wilson is the school librarian at James Young High School in West Lothian.