These are the youngest comic book creators at Comic-Con 2018 – Orange County Register

Educators face challenges when trying to ignite a passion for reading and writing in young people.

“There are games and electronics,” said Stephanie Jones, a teacher at Loma Verde Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. “It’s always difficult to find a way to reach these students, to make them more interested and passionate about learning to read and write. “

Izzy Fergus, 11, left, Stephanie Jones, Danita Mia Valle, 12, Aaron Felix, 14, and Alex Macias, 14, all from Chula Vista at their BLAST Graphic Novel Project booth on the last day of the Comic- Con de San Diego in San Diego on Sunday, July 22, 2018 (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

Then a year while attending Comic-Con International, Jones and her friend, Deidre Romero, also a teacher at Loma Verde Elementary School, had an idea. With the popularity of comic book heroes and graphic novels, why not teach kids to make their own books? That’s when BLAST – Blazing Literacy Artists Super Team – Graphic Novel Project was born.

Over the past seven years, the Friends have created a program that is currently in about four schools.

“I think it’s a really good idea to involve little kids in reading, writing and drawing – that way they can enjoy writing,” said Izzy Fergus, 11, who has created a story about a family of aliens who left their home. planet after the population learned of their president’s evil plan to take over the whole world. The intergalactic clan crashes onto the lawn of an Earth family’s home, and the two must now learn to get along and live together.

Izzy was one of six students, aged 10 to 14, to attend SDCC this year.

“We are the only exhibitors in Comic-Con history to have elementary-aged comic book creators,” Romero proudly proclaimed.

“I was a little nervous coming in,” said 11-year-old Edgar Zamora. “You wonder if people will like what you did, but your friends are telling you to keep going.”

By Sunday, all of the comics, including Edgar’s story of a battle between two worlds, were completely gone.

News of the BLAST program began to spread across the convention floor, and a handful of professional artists made their way to the student table at the back of the huge space to speak to the young designers.

“Yesterday Marvel artist Joshua Cassara came over and talked to the kids,” Romero said. Cassara was an artist in Marvel’s “Falcon” book.

Graphic novels by young members of the BLAST Graphic Novel Project, as seen on the final day of San Diego Comic-Con in San Diego on Sunday, July 22, 2018 (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

“They come here and they give them advice and tell them not to give up,” Romero said.

Two boys, Alex Macias and Aaron Felix, both 14, have been participating in the program for five years and have helped newbies, like Danira Valle, 12, and Angel Guzman, 10, know what to expect during of the convention.

“It was fun and it’s so big,” Angel said as he sat at the table and handed out cards and flyers about the program that have information on how to donate to the program.

The small program is gaining traction in the Chula Vista district, but Jones and Romero would like to expand it into San Diego County and beyond.

The program is not funded by the district, so Romero and Jones and two other teachers have worked hard to raise funds throughout the year to purchase supplies, print the comics, and purchase the $ 600 table at the SDCC. Like most teachers, when they fail, they sometimes put their hands in their pockets.

That spark definitely ignited something in Aaron.

“It’s something that I really love and it’s a passion for me,” said the 14-year-old, who says he now aspires to be a professional comic book creator.

“We think it’s an experience that should be open to all kids,” Romero said. “They should all have this opportunity and know that they can do more.”

For more information on donations, contact Jones at [email protected].

Lisa M. Horner