Eric Fulford is a full-fledged, self-admitted comic book junkie. And his passion for the genre has led him to become an illustrator who draws comics, teaches and performs comedy improv and is a certified teacher.
“When I was younger I would draw crazy, crazy pictures like a cowboy riding a whale. My mother would take one look at it, and say, ‘Eric, you have such a good imagination,’ which I learned was adult code for she had no idea what I was drawing. She didn't understand it,” he said.
When he was a young child growing up in Exeter, his father introduced him to the world of comic books.
“When my dad was a child, he wasn’t allowed to read comics. The adults told him ‘comics rot your brains.’ But, when he saw my drawings, he knew that I would be hooked,” Fulford said.
Once he saw that people actually got paid to draw “crazy, silly” pictures, he knew that was what he wanted to do. Fulford got his history teaching degree at Providence College and spent two years teaching in Japan. He now performs with Improv Jones and the Providence Improv Guild and is a self-taught illustrator.
Fulford told a room of more than 20 children at William Hall Library that they needed three things to draw a comic book. “Paper, of course, pen, crayon or marker, and the most important ingredient are ideas. There are no rules when it comes to dreams. It is a great place to get ideas for comic books,” he said.
He told the children that every book has good drawings, a story to follow and an important setting. Working with the children, he had them pick the setting for the comic book they were going to create, something exciting going on at that setting and something causing a problem.
The children picked the Eiffel Tower as the setting, a rocket racing to crash into the Tower and the Tower sinking into a pool of water.
Fulford let the children name the bad guy, the back story as to why he was evil, the hero and what special powers he possessed. Fulford taught the children about the design of “speech bubbles,” which is how the reader knows what character is speaking.
“There are different kinds of speech bubbles to let the reader know the emotion behind the speech. If someone is speaking normally, it is a regular bubble, if they are angry or excited about something the bubble has edges and is dramatic, if they are in a dream or thought process, it is a few bubbles on top of each other,” he said.
The next tool he explained to the children was the onomatopoeia, which is the use of sound effects. In comic books they are used in place of sound. Collaborating with the children, Fulford had them provide certain words to use in their story, like boom, sploosh and ping.
A superhero in a comic book is a regular person who does a regular job and has a regular life. But they turn powerful when something unusual happens in their lives.
Fulford called on children to give the hero his name, Melvin Carrot, who works in a chocolate factory but is not allowed to eat any chocolate. He has a mean boss, who always tells him, “Melvin, get to work, and don’t eat any of the chocolates.”
Fulford and the children created a story where Melvin turns into a superhero unicorn and has to stop Professor Evil from stealing all the potions in Cranston. Of course, justice prevails, after Melvin Carrot, also known as “Unicorn,” battles Professor Evil on top of the Eiffel Tower, just before the rocket crashes into it and it drowns in the water.
At the end of the program, Fulford gave the children a homework assignment.
“I want you to go home and draw a crazy, silly picture that your parents don’t understand.”