Comic Book Writer & former teacher David Gallaher shares a powerful essay on teaching with the print release of his acclaimed Graphic Novel Series —THE ONLY LIVING BOY.
Inspired by classic pulp novels, old-time radio broadcasts and Saturday morning cartoons, the first volume of Harvey Award Winning Creators David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’ adventure series THE ONLY LIVING BOY will be available for the first time in print on March 8th 2016! You can order issue #1 on Amazon here.
The series features the adventures of Erik Farell, a runaway boy who awakens on a strange planet to discover he just might be the last human alive. Erik must befriend an insect princess and a mermaid warrior in order to defeat an evil dragon and a slew of dangerous creatures!
“My experiences as an educator informs so much of THE ONLY LIVING BOY ,” said Gallaher. “Growing up can often feel lonely and isolating. As a teacher. I saw first hand how anxiety can haunt children. With this series, I’m exploring how children adapt to adversity.”
Gallaher’s fantastic story & exotic locales are filled with dangerous creatures but his characters are instantly relatable to young readers. They grapple with issues like intolerance, finding self confidence, and feeling like the odd person out.
In his terrific essay on his time in the classroom, his passion as an educator really shines through-
“While I was still in high school I had this giant vision board of what I wanted to do with my life after graduation. This collage was a visual road map to the kind of life I wanted to lead — essentially, the Pinterest of the Pre-Internet Age.
Looking back on my vision board, which included plenty of unusual things for a kid my age (I mean, I had four different models of the Chevy Lumina listed, with the words OWN A MINI-VAN circled. Like who at the age of 17 wants a mini-van?), plenty of aspirational things (walk along the Great Wall of China, visit the Pyramids of Egypt, visit a Shinto temple in Japan) and three career clusters: become a published writer, become a psychologist, and become a great teacher.
‘Become a great teacher’ — I hadn’t even started college, yet I was cocky and presumptive enough to believe that I’d not just be a good teacher, but that I’d be an awesome one. Ahhhh… the arrogance of youth.
There’s this awful adage, popularized by Woody Allen, that says, ‘those who can do; those that can’t teach.’ It’s an incredibly mean-spirited phrase meant to demean teachers and the work they do. It undermines my back-to-back semesters of studying Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner, Alfred Bandura and Erik Erikson. It devalues the hours I spent in the classroom, writing lesson plans or fighting for every child. And it is simply the cruelest and most ignorant thing you could say to a special educator.
Special Education — that’s where my path in teaching took me. When I started my career as a teacher I worked primarily with children who had autism, many of whom had additional medical, emotional, and social issues. At the time, autism wasn’t largely understood and the prognosis for children diagnosed with autism wasn’t very good. When I told other people about my goals working with autistic children, the first thing they’d do is quote the film ‘Rain Man.’
On your first day in the Special Ed classroom, other teachers and professionals are quick to offer their thoughts. They’ll tell you that the burnout rate is extremely high. They’ll remind you that parents have extremely lofty, often unrealistic, expectations of you. They’ll remind you of the long hours, the endless paperwork, and the bureaucracy. If you’re lucky, they might even tell you to not eat in the cafeteria on Tuesdays.
It’s what they don’t tell you on your first day — intense bouts of fecalphelia, self-injurious behaviors, or ear-shattering tantrums — that will really get to you. I adored all of the children I worked with, but that didn’t stop them from splashing me with something or other by day’s end. (To all future special education teachers reading this, bring an extra set of clothes on your first day, I can almost guarantee you’ll need it.)Also, despite your best efforts, you cannot safety proof everything. Sometimes the most innocuous object can become a safety hazard.
Becoming a good teacher, let alone a great one, is hard work. Some days I felt that I was stopping more behavioral meltdowns than teaching grade-appropriate skills. There were a series of weeks — of bad weeks — where one of my students, who wasn’t yet potty-trained, would reach into his diaper and smear whatever was in there on anything he could reach. There were days when all of the progress I had made with students was undone because of a change in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)or curriculum. Teaching will surprise you every single day — it will often make you cry — either from laughter, stress, or sadness. The best way to get through it is by finding the positive in every situation.
I often look back on those bad days, and there were more than a few, wondering how the heck I got through them. But — damn — there were some remarkable days. The first time I got one of my students to chain a sentence together, or that time I developed a program to help one of my non-responsive students communicate, or even taking field trips to Discovery Zone. I wouldn’t trade any of it.
During one of my chaotic days, when I was covered in scratches and sugary, sticky juice box syrup, I found myself in the middle of some invaluable personal lessons:
“When in doubt, trust yourself.”
Self-reliance is crucial to your success as a teacher. Inside the classroom, nobody knows your students better than you do. Every day, you’ll spend long hours with them. You’re often the first to observe new milestones and the first to recognize unusual behaviors. Your job is to create a strong learning environment for those children to grow. On those days you don’t feel prepared, you’ll need to lean on your skills, training, and experiences.
Part of trusting yourself, however, also means knowing when your experience isn’t enough. I started teaching at a pretty young age. After five years of working in the classroom, I recognized a growing need to go back to school, and broaden my education. While working towards my Master’s degree, I developed programs that used comic books to help children with dyslexia and developmental difficulties learn how to read. This work lead me to pursuing an internship at Marvel Comics and developing my career as an author.
With the upcoming release of THE ONLY LIVING BOY, I’ll be returning to the classroom. Throughout 2016, Steve Ellis and I will be traveling around the country — visiting schools, libraries, and bookstores — teaching children how to make their own comics and leading workshops on teamwork, self-reliance, and personal development. We’re eager to share our experiences and empower the next generation of great artists, great writers, and great teachers.
When I reflect back on my career as a teacher, I feel a sense of pride knowing that I was able to provide an environment that was nurturing, uplifting, and educational. Not even a vision board could prepare me for what I experienced in the classroom. Life is often unpredictable and dangerous, but believing in yourself is the first step in getting through it. Still, it doesn’t hurt to bring an extra of clothes. You never know what life might fling at you.”
Gallaher’s experiences as a teacher informs not only his creative process, but also how he and Steve Ellis interact with THE ONLY LIVING BOY’s growing fanbase. Instead of participating in traditional bookstore readings to support the print publication of THE ONLY LIVING BOY, the duo will be conducting #makecomics workshops for their young fans and aspiring creators. Participants will receive helpful, honest advice about project planning, publishing, funding, and navigating the comic industry. Workshops will be held at the following locations:
AW YEAH COMICS
March 5, Early Afternoon
EAST SIDE MAGS
March 5, Late Afternoon
Staten Island, NY
COMIC BOOK JONES
ELK (David Only!)
Buffalo Street Books (Steve Only!)
Falls Church, VA.
Long Island, NY
LONG ISLAND LIBRARIES AND POP-CULTURE CONFERENCE (David Only!)
“Our goal with THE ONLY LIVING BOY is to create amazing adventure comics that are inspired by the past, but look to the future,” said David Gallaher. “We look forward to meeting with our readers and aspiring creators, helping to guide a new generation of writers and artists.”
“We’re delighted to be publishing THE ONLY LIVING BOY in graphic novel format for the first time,” enthused Papercutz publisher Terry Nantier. “It gives existing fans a chance to have a more permanent version of the series they love and also exposes Erik’s adventures to a brand new audience. I’m sure they’ll fall in love with Steve’s gorgeous artwork and David’s compelling storytelling, just like I did!”
art credit ~ cover Steve Ellis /photo Wiki
Author David Gallaher has received multiple Harvey Award nominations and won The Best Online Comic Award for his work on High Moon for DC Comics. David was an early pioneer of digital comics developing projects for Marvel as well as Box 13 – the first comic designed specifically for the iPhone – for comiXology. He has served as an editor for Attack on Titan, Sailor Moon, has also written for The NYPD and McGraw-Hill.