– What was your path to comics?
– I was fond of comics even in the children’s art school, it was the beginning of the 90s. At that time I didn’t even knew what the technique was called, it was unpopular in Russia. But I considered it interesting. My friend and I began to paint, and later I even collected comics. I have very old comics, which today, perhaps, are nowhere to be found. Then I abandoned dealing with comics for 20 years, during the time I managed to get a pedagogical education and start working in the field of additional education – children’s television studio. There was the idea to organize something of my own, and I remembered about the old hobby and started writing a program for teaching children the art of comics. I did it the way I considered to be right as there were no textbooks for the topic. It was 2013, and the studio was formed two years later on the basis of the House of Children’s Art. Today 42 children study there. By the way, girls join us more often than boys and all are big fans of Japanese manga. Manga is Japanese comics, and manhwa is Korean. In these comics mostly black and white drawings, they are readable from right to left.
– Should a comic book writer be able to draw?
– Ability to draw is welcomed. After all, a book is met by its cover, but the main thing is the plot. A story is empty without it. We draw the comics both in traditional technique – with markers or pencils – and based on computer graphics, which today it is extremely popular with comics. Guys perform them on graphics tablets. By the way, it’s a disputable question which technique is easier – after all a draft is drawn by hand with a pencil first, then drawings are scanned, and everything else is drawn on computer. This is a very painstaking job. The essence of our classes is the creation of interesting comics. Our guys compose and paint picures themselves, my task is to give a topic, to give a push. Many have already created their books, each takes the entire educational year on average – taking into account the idea and implementation.
– I know that among the topics that you take for the basis of the books is the history of the city, famous Norilsk people…
– Since I am a teacher, I try to inculcate the interest in the city history into the children. For example, we have already published a documentary comic book – Norilsk. Summer of 1941 – about how our city met the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. There is a book about local policeman Vasily Mikhailichenko whose name was given to a Norilsk street; on the Norilsk case of 1979, when a polar bear came to the Mayak mine and was shot. By the way, we recently wrote a continuation of that story. On the trail of another polar she-bear who lives in the Krasnoyarsk flora and fauna park Royev Ruchey nowadays. We created comics about the adventures of the coronavirus in Norilsk. A relevant topic, giving a great flight of fantasy. For New year celebrating period we take the New Year theme. For the Victory Day – something about war. But the main thing is the history of our city.
– Do you teach theory lessons telling the guys about the history of comics, famous artists?
– Definitely. I am talking about the brightest representatives of this art. Textbooks and methodological books, Russian comics, which are produced today help. Even serious books are published in the form of comics – for example, I have a traffic rules tutorial of that kind. Everything is understandable and easy for children’s perception.
– How do you feel about the opinion that comics prevent children from learning to read?
– I think this is a blatant delusion. Children do not get stupid because of comics. This opinion comes from those times when comics in Russia were unpopular. But comics are not about love or dislike of reading. On the contrary, I think it’s better to start with them. I tried it on my children, and it really works. They are easier to perceive than books: there are no bulky texts, but vivid drawings make it easier to understand the essence. Children are often frightened by the book’s volume, in comics there is a little of text accomplished by drawings, and moving from picture to picture allows you to develop imaginative thinking. I also disagree that comics give little informativeness. No two comics are alike, there is a large number of graphic literature on the most serious topics, for example, a comic book – winner of the MAUS Pulitzer Prize, telling a story about concentration camp prisoners, survivors of the Holocaust. If comics had been an inappropriate format, it would have hardly been possible use them in education, as it is being done in a number of countries, such as Japan and France, where it is supported at the state level.
– Do you draw comics yourself, do you have enough time for this?
– Yes, I do, although not as often as I would like. Not long ago there the ComMission comics festival was held – the only major festival in Russia. I sent one of my work on military topics and was shortlisted 100 participants. But this is not the main thing. It is more important that I got the experience of communicating with artists from all over the country and I will be able to pass this experience on to my students.
Text: Maria Sokolova, Photo: Nikolay Nadezhin’s personal archive