Imagine two brothers: One good, one evil. The evil brother seeks revenge against the good brother for a past transgression, but at the last moment, the good brother is saved from harm by a special guardian.
And then, out of nowhere, a big boulder rolls through and wipes everyone out.
That's the story — complete with a surprise, plot-twist ending — that was developed by eighth-grader Luke Benfield for East Middle School's annual Comic Con, an event that showcased students' writing and drawing skills.
"We have it to celebrate the publishing phase of the writing process," said Brooke Nicoletti, an eighth-grade English language arts teacher. "It's a fun way to get students engaged."
Students were required to first write a story and then translate that story into comic form, either through hand-drawn images or by using a computer application. They showed off their finished products to their peers and other teachers during a convention in the middle school auditorium that also included a guest workshop by the Joplin High School Cartoonists Club.
"Writing is vulnerable because it's a reflection of us," Nicoletti said. "To have a kid understand that we're writing for a purpose, for an audience, helps them have more ownership of what they produce."
In Benfield's case, he used Legos to recreate scenes from his story and then took photos of the scenes. He organized the photos in a computer program and set the finished product to music to create his comic as a stop-motion film.
"Everybody seems to enjoy it, have a laugh to it," he said.
Eighth-grader Caden Osborn developed a story about an alien named Pablo who is being chased by a bounty hunter named Cosmo. Pablo is captured by the FBI on Earth near Roswell, New Mexico, and spends the next 20 years in custody before finally escaping, only to be confronted once again by Cosmo.
"Initially I got the idea because I have a thing for aliens, and I like the Roswell incident; I like the theory," he said.
Osborn put the story into comic form through drawings, and he said he was pleased with the final product.
"I think I have neat artistic abilities," he said. "I thought it was really fun to draw the comic and design it all."
Eighth-grader Tebrie Henderson wrote her story about Stardust, a half-alien, half-demon girl who hails from a dying planet. The story ends with a cliffhanger: Stardust has discovered that she has a secret evil twin sister who is not only holding their parents hostage, but she also holds the key to resurrecting the planet.
Like Osborn, Henderson also drew her comic strip by hand.
"I think I'm going to continue this," she said, gesturing to her storyboard and noting that her storyline was still unresolved. "I'm going to try to make it a series."
In keeping with the tradition of Comic Con, which generally showcases science fiction- and fantasy-related media at the national level, students were asked to create stories about superheroes, said Brooke Nicoletti, eighth-grade English language arts teacher.
"Superheroes have a way of being relatable to middle-schoolers because there's this idea that there's a big guy out there that can help you and save you," she said. "When you're in middle school and going through a lot of changes, it's nice to have that idea that maybe there's someone out there who can rescue us."