Hi there! My name is Jim McClain, creator of the Solution Squad. Solution Squad is a project that I have been working on since 2007. It started when I was teaching 8th grade math and I made activities for my students to do featuring established comic book characters. Reading about Clark and Lois was more fun for them than to read about Dick and Jane! Eventually, I had a whole bunch of these activities and I thought about turning them into a book that could be used by teachers for sub plans. I knew that DC and Marvel would never let me use their characters, so I created my own! As I started to make more and more characters, I started imagining personalities and ways of speaking for each one so that their dialogue in the activities would seem authentic, like the kids could be friends with them. And then it hit me. I could make an actual comic book featuring the characters and within each one would be embedded a math concept!
I started writing and drawing and erasing and drawing and erasing some more, and eventually I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have enough talent to pull this off on my own. I had designed the characters well enough, I thought, but I just didn’t have what it took to execute the whole thing. When my niece, Rose McClain, started showing off her talent in her college art classes and indicated an interest in drawing comics, I enlisted her to help me pull the project together. And we have!
On February 29, 2012 we launched a webcomic on this very site, and over the course of six months, published a 24-page story. I wrote it and did thumbnails and Rose did layouts, pencils, inks, and colors. Then I lettered it, and added 5,000 words of text origin stories in “Marvel Universe” style. Along the way, I commissioned some high profile comic book artists known for working with young characters to do character portraits, and they graciously agreed to let me publish their work in the comic as well. They are, in chronological order, Ryan Ottley, Jason Howard, Carlo Barberi, Jamal Igle, and…George Perez! With a cover by X-Men Evolution’s Steven E. Gordon and his son Eric, we were finally ready to go.
On April 25, 2013 at C2E2, we released our first published issue, Solution Squad #1. It is 32 full-color pages of all-ages comic with no ads! At the same time, it was released as part of the Comixology Submit program and can be found here. Then, a short time later, I was asked if I’d like to include the story in a book that eventually became Reading With Pictures: Comics That Make Kids Smarter, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing on August 5, 2014. I also served as designer and co-editor of the free, downloadable Teachers Guide.
Now, with so much positive feedback from educators and visual literacy experts alike, along with affirmation from an international publisher, we are creating a hardcover graphic novel that we hope any educator will be proud to keep in his or her classroom or library. The Solution Squad hardcover collection will be 144 pages long, and will include more work by Rose McClain, a 10-page story with art by Serena Guerra, another 10-page story with art by Erik Roman, and a short prose story with spot illustrations by Dean Trippe. There will also be new Origins pages for all the new heroes and villains introduced in the stories, as well as a sample lesson plan and behind-the-scenes sketches and illustrations. We hope that you will continue to Be Part of the Solution!