As we all know, I’ve always been into comics and sci-fi/fantasy type stories. I’ve read that kind of stuff since I was a little kid and it really taught me a lot.
Jamal’s World was an educational comic I came up with a couple of years ago in response to an idea my mother had to try to help young black students with their math and science (two disciplines we are unfortunately trailing behind in).
She came up with the idea, and then I had to come up with a way to realize it.
Not quite a teacher
Well, as much as I love science, and as much as I love creating comics, that doesn’t exactly qualify me to *teach*. This was an area where I had virtually no experience.
Oh yeah, I loved science but I hated math, algebra, geometry, statistics and all that stuff -the young chilluns would be on their *own* with that.
Anyway I decided not to come in hard with the science, but to do something basic and fun that would hopefully spark the *desire* for young kids to go learn more about these things.
It always worked for me. Comics are what taught me to read, and usually something in a comic book would send me running for the encyclopedia.
Most of the time it would go down like this:
- ME: “Hey man, check out this Spider-Man!”
- FRIEND: “Dude, that could NEVER happen!”
- ME: “Yes it could!”
- FRIEND: “Could not!”
- ME: “Could TOO!“
- FRIEND: “COULD NOT!”
…and so on, until, tired from the mental exhaustion of the intense debate, I would run to my parents for validation of my favorite comics.
Their answer was invariably: “Go check the encyclopedia.”
Man, I read through so much of those encyclopedias, and I usually forgot what I went looking for in the first place.
Oh yeah, when I did stay on track I’d usually find out I was indeed wrong, and that it would be impossible for Superman to actually pick up the Earth and fly through space with it. Oh, well :(
Creating Jamal’s World
But back to the present. I created Jamal to be someone young black boys could hopefully identify with. Someone they might want to be, and as such not feel bad about learning some basic science along the way.
The basic premise is that Jamal is a very bright kid who’s mother and father are both scientists. Jamal enjoys sneaking away into his parent respective labs and going off on adventures, where of course he learns valuable lessons.
Besides me and my mother, we brought in a couple of teachers we knew who were going to take the comic in to their classes as a mini focus group.
After I drew it up I sent it off to the teachers for review.
So here’s a look at the one and only “Jamal’s World” comic:
What could have been
My plan was to introduce a female classmate who would journey along with Jamal and help him out of tough scrapes (or even to cover up their adventures from their parents).
This way I could work in a character to hopefully give young black girls someone to identify with.
Also, I was going to try to show that Jamal’s dad worked with physics, while his mom would work with biology and the adventures from either lab would reflect that.
Of course that never happened, mostly since none of us involved in it really knew what was necessary to get these things into schools.
I was hoping for some kind of a Weekly Reader sort of a vibe, where the kids could look forward to seeing a new adventure every week.
Also, we came up with a short quiz with links to reference material to be administered directly after the kids would read the latest comic:
Again, I’m not a professional at this sort of thing, so I’m sure it could have been tweaked in more.
So what happened?
Well all parties eventually lost interest, and I moved on to other projects that were taking more of my time.
Also, a funny thing happened along the way: We had been planning the website for the comic, obviously were going to call it jamalsworld.com, except somebody got the domain name before us.
A matter of days before us.
Very interesting. If it would have been already registered for years I wouldn’t have been suspicious, but to be registered only days before we were going to get it?
I mean, we had been going back and for the between us for about 2 months over the project, so a handful of people knew about it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d been ganked by someone close to the project.
Honestly though, even though a conspiracy is nice and juicy, I was eventually forced to the more reasonable conclusion that it was just one of those unfortunate coincidences.
After all we didn’t go forward with the project anyway, so I can’t be mad at ’em..
Jamal in the future?
I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to this one. I thought it was a wonderful idea from my mother, and I was happy that I came up with Jamal’s World.
But if I did come back to it I’d change the name, and do a bit more research on the subject so I could really hit it hard out of the gate.
I’m not sure if there’s much demand for this sort of thing. I think it could help some kids, but could it help enough?
I just don’t think I’m qualified to know the answer to that unfortunately.
Anyway, to close this thing out, here’s the inked artwork for Jamal’s World.