The insidious power of the Reverse-Engineer!
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 and colored by Shelby Edmunds, two 10-page stories with art by Serena Guerra, and a short prose story with spot illustrations by me. 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!
Our newest venture is in the domain of lesson plans! Along with curriculum expert Tracy Edmunds, we have launched a Teachers Pay Teachers store! In it, we have the 113-slide digital comic, along with 25 pages of lesson plans and activities for grades 4-8!
The first listing goes with Solution Squad #1:
Solution Squad is a comic about a team of teenage heroes, each with a different math-based superpower. The team teaches mathematical concepts in a fun and accessible way while engaging students in the story. Join the Solution Squad and be part of the solution!
The digital comic Solution Squad: Primer was created specifically for classroom use. Project the comic to read as a class, or have students read it on a tablet or other digital device. Math concepts are embedded throughout the story.
The lessons that accompany this comic teach different aspects of prime numbers an their uses. All lessons include directions and printable worksheets, and can be used with the whole class or small groups.
The Solution Squad: Primer Full Package includes:
• Solution Squad in: Primer digital comic
• How to Read a Comic
• Prime Number Sieve activity
• Happy Primes activity
• Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic activity
• Fraction Action activity
• Goldbach’s Conjecture activity
• Bonus: One Billion Dollars writing prompt
It’s 25 pages worth of lesson plans! You can teach for two weeks with them!
Please check it out and spread the word!
As announced the other day, we are bringing a new collaborator on board to help with our Solution Squad YouTube Channel. I am pleased to welcome Nikki Tolerico to the Solution Squad team! I met Nikki at the 2014 New York Comic Con and she’s a fantastic cosplayer AND math teacher! She’s in the process of building an Absolutia cosplay, and she’ll be hosting videos on our YouTube channel before long! Welcome aboard, Nikki!
Hello, everyone! Jim McClain, here. Upon reflection, 2015 flew by. I began by dedicating the year to making progress on the hardcover Solution Squad book. I gave up spending hundreds of dollars in table fees to do comic book shows where I would find precious few from my target audience, and dedicated that money instead to my artists. The book looks very different today than it did on December 31 last year. And it will probably look different still before all is said and done.
I’m pleased to say that this morning, Rose McClain turned in the final pencils and inks on her 24-page story! As she is moving on to work with Gene Ha on Mae, I’m turning the coloring of her story over to Serena Guerra, who is nearly done with the 10-page story that she is penciling, inking, and coloring. In the meantime, I’m still plugging along on my little stories, which will be done right around the time Serena finishes coloring Rose’s story. Just as Rose got scooped up, I fully expect Serena’s full-color art will get her scooped up as well! I’m well aware of my own artistic limitations, but I also know enough to know talent when I see it.
In the past year, I have collected pinup work from (in no particular order) Janet Lee, Jeff Moy, Steven E. Gordon, Christopher Jones, Dean Trippe, Josh Buchanan, Erik Roman, Cory Carani, Marc Alan Fishman, Paul Schultz, Drew Geraci, DeEtta Harris, and I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. With just a few outstanding pieces remaining, The book IS coming together. We’ll be launching the Kickstarter on February 29 (Radical’s birthday!) along with a daily webcomic preview of Serena’s story and I hope I can count on your help to spread the word when we do. My goal is to have everything shipped out by the time school starts again in August.
One important thing that I have learned this year is that I cannot possibly do all of the things I need to do for Solution Squad by myself–at least, not while I have a full-time job. So, I am taking on more collaborators in the work. My friend and colleague Tracy Edmunds is coming on board to help. Tracy is a razor-sharp editor and is a genius at lesson plans, and she’s not afraid to tell me exactly what she thinks. Whenever I have a doubt or a question about this stuff, she is the first person I turn to.
I’m also bringing in a collaborator to help me with the Solution Squad YouTube channel that I recently started. I can’t announce who just yet, but I’ll tell you that she’ll make a way better video host than I will!
For now, I’ll leave you with the revamped Steven E. Gordon cover, which serves as the working front cover for the hardcover book. The orange sunburst has sort of become our trademark, so with the artist’s permission, we have replaced the clashing red with something we think will be sure to catch the eye.
Happy New Year!
It’s been a long time between updates, but we’ve been busy at Solution Squad HQ! Progress on the hardcover book is being made, and lots and lots of new art has been done. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to!
For now, though, we’ve added a Cyber MonthDay holiday sale from now until the end of December on Solution Squad #1 that you won’t want to pass up. Buy 1-10 copies for 25% off the cover price. Eleven to 30 copies are 40% off! And if you buy 30 copies, you get a package including a projectable digital copy of the comic as well as all the lessons Jim uses with the first issue. That’s 35 pages of free materials, including SUB PLANS! Please see the sidebar at the right for details!
In the meantime, enjoy this preview image from the upcoming story, The Candy Crimes of the Confectioneer! Her candy cane isn’t made of peppermint and sugar, that’s for sure!
Posting has been light here in the past year or so, but we promise you, it’s all going to be worth the wait. Here’s the lineup of talent behind Solution Squad: Primer. The whole book is written, and more than half of the artwork is now done. When the book is complete, we will run a Kickstarter to cover the printing of this 144-page hardcover book. Jim has paid for the artwork out-of-pocket, but we will need help to go the rest of the way. This list may not yet be complete:
Jim McClain–all the writing and lettering, some art
Rose McClain (Scoundrels, Mae)–interior art on 48 pages of story and various other coloring
Serena Guerra (Mice Templar)–interior art on 10 pages of story
Erik Roman (Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Monster Men)–pencils on 10-page story
Gene Ha (Top 10, Mae)– cover
Pinup art and special features (in alphabetical order):
Carlo Barberi (X-Men, Gen13)
Josh Buchanan (Scratch9)
Cory Carani (Legionnaires)
Tracy Edmunds (educational consultant, AMP! Kids)
Drew Geraci (Nightwing, Sojourn)
Eric Gordon (Harper Collins Early Reader books)
Steven E. Gordon (X-Men Evolution)
DeEtta Harris (fine artist)
Jason Howard (Astounding Wolf-Man, Super Dinosaur, Trees)
Terry Huddleston (Thaniel)
Jamal Igle (Molly Danger)
Christopher Jones (Young Justice, Parallel Man)
Scott Kolins (Flash, Avengers)
Janet Lee (Return of the Dapper Men)
Ryan Ottley (Invincible)
George Pérez (comics legend)
Scott Rosema (August, Space Ghost)
Joe Rubinstein (Wolverine, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe)
Dean Trippe (Something Terrible, Project Rooftop)
Watch this space for more announcements as we near completion on the book, and follow @SolutionSquad and @TheJimMcClain on Twitter!