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The Tri-Valley Herald, July 28, 2006

Program teaches kids to create own comics

By Kristofer Noceda, Staff Writer
Inside Bay Area

DUBLIN — Delve into the mind of 15-year-old Michael Onojafe and you'll find "Rocket Boy" — a kid who possesses superhuman powers after falling into chemicals while playing in his father's science laboratory.

Or tap into his 13-year-old brother, Sam, and he'll describe a teen who may have to quit his dream of playing football just to keep intact a well-maintained hairdo.

The Onojafe brothers of Pleasanton and about 18 other kids participated in a comic book creation workshop held Thursday afternoon at the Dublin Library — where tomorrow's next popularcomic character may have been born.

"I got into drawing from the Far Side comics and I wanted to learn how to create my own characters," said Ian Leunberg.

Ian, 15, is a junior at Dublin High School and plans to work for animation studio Pixar.

Participants got their creative juices flowing from program instructor Oliver Chin's showing them different types of comic book story telling and characters.

"I think everyone wants to be able to tell their own story but they just don't know how to start," he said. "I try to emphasize fun, and just the structure of creating a comic is instant gratification by being original."

The workshop is a pilot program to test out the popularity of manga graphic novels — a Japanese-style comic book that has taken off since it hit U.S. shelves in the late 1990s.

"Graphic novels (have) really taken off as a new genre and we're piggybacking on that interest," librarian Donna Leach said.

As art programs continue to be trimmed in many school districts, kids have turned to outside sources for programs that meet their interests.

"There's a few classes, like portrait paintings, at my school, but nothing really like this," Ian said.

Chin recognizes the need and has spent three years holding workshops throughout Bay Area libraries — including a session teaching kids in Contra Costa Juvenile Hall — to inspire kids to follow their dreams.

"With schools lacking resources to offer such programs, librarians recognize they can give an opportunity for kids and address these interests right here and now," he said.

"It's really inspired me to do what I'm doing. I can see myself in these kids' faces," he said.

After working as a cartoonist for the Harvard Crimson, Chin's dream of being a comic artist was put on hold when he got a job in marketing for Viz — one of the larger publishers for Japanese anime.

He eventually found his way to Comics Buyer's Guide as a columnist and critic. But his dream was never forgotten and Chin founded Immedium — a San Francisco-based publishing company specializing in children's books and contemporary non-fiction.

Through his company, Chin has been able to publish his own books, including "9 of 1: A Window to the World," a graphic novel he wrote and illustrated based on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"When I tell a boy or girl to create a new idea, in some way I'm talking to myself," he said. "I'm always trying to motivate them and pursue their creative interest."

About Immedium

Immedium, Inc. inspires a world of imagination, and creates entertaining books that have multi-dimensional appeal. Based in San Francisco, CA, Immedium sits on the Pacific Rim, a vibrant intersection for crossover cultural trends from Asia and America. Embracing an increasingly diverse and "multimedia" world, Immedium publishes titles ranging from eye-catching children's books and contemporary non-fiction to commentaries on art and popular culture. Visit us at www.immedium.com.