So I’m walking through the aisles of Excalibur Comics in Portland, when I come face to face with two of my professors from the Savannah College of Art and Design. No, not browsing, but as characters on the cover of a comic book. Mark Kneece and Bob Pendarvis are two of the founding members of SCAD’s Sequential Art program; Mark teaches writing and Bob teaches… well… just about everything else. Their new book is called The Bristol Board Jungle, a reference/narrative that combines their efforts with the work of the best of their senior student talent. The Bristol Board Jungle is intended for aspiring comic book artists who need to be introduced to comics writing, inking and drawing in a classroom setting. Having been there as a part of that program, it has a touch of the eerie.
“Bristol Board” is based so close to reality that the student characters may be linkable to actual people, and the fact that all of the teachers are real offers this poser: you may have been curious about what your professors thought of the student body, but did you really want to know? Is Mark sharing a cuddly moment with his wife something you were hoping someone would draw? And what’s the point of having a transgendered goth student anyway? Since each section is drawn by a different student artist, the quality of the work varies from the terrific to the “long way to go,” every teacher in the book’s favorite critique phrase. Taking creative criticism well is the most dominant message, something every artist should learn, though its presented somewhat heavy-handidly.
None of this stops it from being a book worth buying for teenage comic book dreamers, who might as well get their rude awakening about the harsh realities of the comics world before they get to a school like SCAD. And for those who have more of an insider relationship with the college? The last page shows Bob kissing a girl while wearing his Hello Kitty costume. Buy it just for that.