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  • Stephen D'Agostino

RES Students Form a Comic Book Club

When I was young, I read comic books. What kid didn't? Every month, my younger brother and I walked to the convenience store that sold them, and we bought and shared the latest of Captain America and Spiderman issues. That went on for probably three or four years. Never once in that time was I inspired to actually write one.

Last week, I spoke with Addi Blanchard, age 9, whose interaction with a comic book had a very different effect on her. If this story of my meeting with her were itself a comic book, called “My Adventures With the Comic Book Club,” the first frame would show Addi getting out of a car on a rainy Thursday morning at the Reading Elementary School. Her speech bubble reads, "Hello, Stephen." The frame also shows me smiling, because I am so impressed with her openness and confidence.

Subsequent frames follow our journey, along with her sister Jessi, who is wearing a winter cap in June (for funny hat day in her grade, Addi explains), and her mother Darci, doing her best to control Addi’s two-year-old brother, AJ, who wants to run up the sidewalk. The next frame shows the five of us being let into the school by one of the teachers, and then there is a big frame of us sitting on the bench by the door eating powdered donuts as we begin to talk.

Addi tells me that she read a comic book during her Spanish lesson and she thought she could make one of her own. While we talk, a bunch of students shows up for school, and the lobby becomes crazy with activity as both kids and teachers get ready for the day of learning that lies ahead. Darci suggests we go up to the library, so the next frame in this comic book shows us sitting around a large table. Darci continues to handle her son while Addi and Jessi and I are joined by cousins Mataya Gibson and Mikayla Gibson. The conversation switches from the comic books to what I really want to talk to them about.

Addi didn’t want her fascination with comic books to be hers alone, so she started the Comic Book Club along with Kelton Maxham, who is unable to join us that morning. They scheduled three meetings at the library, lasting through August. Their first meeting was in May. Darci shows me a photo of the group in the club around the table at the library: beside Addi and Kelton, the aspiring artists include Calvin Seman, Macey Wasilinski, Jessi Blanchard, and Mari Maxham. The table is cluttered with their works in progress, markers, crayons, and examples of comic strips from the Valley News. Addi says that the club is open to everyone who wants to come and make books with them.

In the comic book of my morning with these young ladies, the next frames are frenetic and full of speech bubbles, some layered over others to capture the energy and excitement of these creative kids. We go around the table, and each explains their comic books to me. Every one of these authors and artists has developed a superhero and a cast of characters. Addi’s protagonist is called Ninja Kitty, a very cute cat whose fur is white. She wears all black and a mask to hide her cuteness. She and her sidekicks, a T-Rex named Tiny, and Ninja Puppy, go on crazy adventures to save the world. In the comics that Addi has already written, Ninja Kitty has been to outer space and the Blanchard house. The latest installment takes Ninja Kitty to the Bermuda Triangle. Flipping through the pages, I see that she has drawn out in pencil all the action and dialog in the frames. The next step is to add color. Darci tells me that Addi spends four to five hours working on each one.

Mataya’s adventures involve Super G, a German shepherd modeled after her own dog. In her book, the hero is out to save a princess from Señor Skunk. Makayla's superhero is Karate Wolf, and the villain is Big Bad Rat. They didn’t have any of their pages to share, but I imagine they were as involved, exciting, and creative as the pages Addi showed me.

The last pages of the "My Adventures With the Comic Book Club" show frames where the kids realize that their school day is about to start. They pack up their things, say their goodbyes, and head downstairs.

The Comic Book Club meets again on Saturday, June 29, at 10am at the library. The club will bring the supplies to make new books, and kids can bring whatever they want to work with. The meetings usually last for about one hour, and they are open to every young, aspiring comic book artist.

Another fun event for kids (and adults) is Outdoor Game Night. It’s happening on a very special day this month—June 21, the summer solstice. So come join the fun, which will include a variety of outdoor games from horseshoes to wiffle ball to kickball to who knows whatever the weather will inspire. Don’t forget to bring food to grill and food to share. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the longest day of the year! As usual, Game Night kicks off at 6:30pm at Bartley Field.

Happy birthday to Caroline Sluka (June 13), and Lynn Reichert (June 17). Happy anniversary to Bill and Virginia Springer (June 16). And Happy Father’s Day to all the Reading dads!

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on June 13, 2019.

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