Comics & Research – event information

Directions, Event schedule, Speaker information, and internet information
Comics & Research: Applied Comics Network
10am-4pm Thursday 28th March

We’re looking forward to welcoming you to our Comics & Research event. If you haven’t yet booked, please use this form

This blog post has information about the event – or, download it as one PDF ComicsAndResearch_AppliedComicsNetwork_Thu28March2019

For general directions to Newcastle University, see
We will be in Fine Art Lecture Theatre (2.01 King Edward VII Building). This is building number 30 on the campus map
The photo below shows what the closest entrance to 2.01 currently looks like. Walk round the green building work portakabins, and look up for the big plate glass windows. We’ll do our best to put up posters. There are other entrances to the building but this is by far the most direct way.

Event schedule
10am-4pm Thursday 28th March
Fine Art Lecture Theatre (2.01 King Edward VII Building), Newcastle University main campus

10 Welcome
• housekeeping: fire exits, toilets, breaks, wifi, twitter @AppComNet #AppComNet

10.05-10.30 Introductory session
• Applied comics: what is it, and what could it become. Recap of previous ACN events; indication of consultation and planning for field guide (Ian, John, Lydia)
• From ‘to see if we could’ to a process of collaboration across boundaries (Lydia Wysocki, Newcastle University)

10.30-11.10 Comics and communication of research
• Making an Impact: Visual Communication in Public Relations Comics (Ian Horton, London College of Communication)
• Drawing the Line: Applied comics and ethics in research (John Swogger, Archaeological Comics Network)

11.10-11.30 break: tea/coffee, biscuits

11.30-12.00 Comics as a method within research
• 11.30-11.50 Comics as a method within research (Liz Todd, Newcastle University)
• 11.50-12.00 Graphic facilitation: introduction to Pen Mendonça’s practice (1of2) (Pen Mendonça, University of the Arts London)
• Q&A

Activity & semi-structured discussion

1-2 lunch (walk to KGVI building together, 200 metre walk)

2-2.05 Welcome back (Fine Art Lecture Theatre)
2.05-3 Invited speakers:
• 2.05-2.25 Values-Based Cartooning, A Method for Socially Engaged Research: further insights into Pen Mendonça’s practice (2 of 2)
• 2.25-2.45 From the Woman who Walked to the Gilded Canopy: decentering the collections of natural history through comics design (Florence Okoye, Natural History Museum)
• 2.45-3 Q&A

3-4 The Future
• Applied comics: a field guide (Ian, John, Lydia to present work so far; feedback on this 1st guide in a planned series to make it more useful to academics and/or practitioners)
• 3.30-4 Plenary and next steps

4pm close Room booked until 5pm for informal conversations
Any changes to this schedule will be shared on (you can view this without a twitter account).

Speaker biographies, presentation titles & abstracts

Dr Penelope Mendonça is an independent graphic facilitator and cartoonist with more than twenty years experience of working across civil society organisations, the UK public and independent sectors. She is a pioneer of live recording practices, her graphics are widely published and have been translated in to numerous languages. Pen has a background in health and social care, supporting campaigns and facilitating co-production, throughout her career she has used cartooning as part of her roles outside of the fields of art and design.

Values-Based Cartooning, A Method for Socially Engaged Research

Pen will discuss her professional practice and informal campaigning, along with findings from her PhD which developed the concept of Values-Based Cartooning (as a method for accessing and representing social issues). Here graphic facilitation was part of a wider cartooning process which considered the experiences and perspectives of single pregnant women and single, first-time mothers of babies.

Florence Okoye is a user experience and service designer, interested in community centred and participatory design practice. An occasional doodler, she is currently exploring how comics can be used to communicate user needs, empower individuals to tell their own stories and make the stories of the past more accessible for all.

From the Woman who Walked to the Gilded Canopy: decentering the collections of natural history through comics

How do we tell the untold stories of the Natural History Museum? The challenge to make collections more accessible to a wider range of people has led to an experimentation with different media to reach out to an ever increasing digital audience but also shift perceptions for our physical visitors. This talk will explore how comics are being used to explore new perspectives and hidden stories of the Museum’s collection, revealing as much about institutions as they do its history.

Professor Liz Todd is Professor of Educational Inclusion and Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Renewal at Newcastle University. She is Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Renewal which forges partnerships between the university and external organisations in order to contribute to creative solutions to societal challenges. She is internationally recognised for her work on the interaction between communities and schools, the engagement of young people in development and research, and the use of co-produced theory of change in complex initiatives. Two of her books have been highly commended, Beyond the school gates; can full service and extended schools overcome disadvantage? and Partnerships for inclusive education was shortlisted for the NASEN/TES prize. She is also co-editor of the only two UK books on video interaction guidance.

Comics as a method within research

Comics is a creative medium also in use as a method in social science research. By exploring how this emergent and as yet under-theorised aspect of social science methodology can be used in a range of research approaches and processes, it becomes clear that comics is already used in multiple aspects of academic research including but far more than dissemination and consent. Through a focus on comics, questioning what counts as data and whose interpretations of data are privileged thus approaches deeper issues of whose voices are privileged in research.

John Swogger is an archaeological illustrator and field archaeologist who specialises in the use of comics to communicate research in archaeology. He works on long-term field projects in the Caribbean and the islands of the Western Pacific, but is currently also working on comics and cultural heritage projects in the USA, North Wales, Central America and Yemen.

Drawing the Line: Applied comics and ethics in research

Abstract: As an archaeological illustrator, I principally use applied comics as a way to communicate information about surveys, excavations and museum exhibits to public audiences. However, not all public communication in archaeology is purely informational. Recent comics projects have told the stories of repatriations of sacred items and ancestral remains from US museums back to Native American communities under NAGPRA legislation (the “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act”). Working collaboratively with both museum anthropologists and Native communities has raised various ethical issues about when and how items, people, places and events are shown – or not. What are the ethical issues involved in visual storytelling when the right to visualising certain things is contested?

Dr Ian Horton is Reader in Graphic Communication at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. He has published work on: oral history and text-based public art; colonialist stereotypes in European and British comic books; the relationship between art history and comics studies; public relations and comic books.

Making an Impact: Visual Communication in Public Relations Comics

Abstract: Applied Comics are used to examine many different issues with history, science, technology and the socio-political being some of the most significant topics. The diversity of visual devices employed in such comics is evident in all of the categories outlined above but specific modes are most usually employed to tackle certain subjects. For example, the scientific and technological often employ diagrammatic devices whilst historical and politically engaged works tend towards the illustrative. By examining three Public Relations comics about nuclear warfare; Duck and Cover (1951), Protect and Survive (1980) and When the Wind Blows (1982), it is possible to consider both the complexity of the visual devices employed and the impact these might have on different readers.

Lydia Wysocki is a Research Associate in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University, where she is also undertaking a part-time PhD. Her research interests include: comics and the communication of information and values, sociocultural approaches to processes of collaboration, and using comics as a method of data collection and analysis. She founded and leads Applied Comics Etc, working with comics creators and subject specialists to use comics for specific informative and educational purposes.

From ‘to see if we could’ to a process of collaboration across boundaries

A very brief tour of some collaborative comics projects with Newcastle University so far, shared here as examples of what can be done with comics and research. These include: Asteroid Belter: The Newcastle Science Comic (10k copies, 76 collaborators, much fun and lots of learning), Gertrude Bell: Archaeologist, writer, explorer (using hotspots in online comics to connect with digitised archive sources), FaSMEd Comic (children making comics to reflect on their lessons, to support interviews, and as a research project output), and Freedom City Comics (37k copies, 17 collaborators, and heading towards a theoretical framework for collaboration in applied comics).

The internet
For wifi at the event:
• if you have a Newcastle University staff or student login, use newcastle-university
• if you have a login for another educational institution, use Eduroam
• or, use The Cloud (WiFi Guest)
More detail and a link to rules of use:

To keep in touch on twitter:
• our account is @AppComNet
• our hashtag is #AppComNet

Our blog/website is

For last-minute queries about this event, tweet @AppComNet or email lydia.wysocki (at)

Event co-organisers: Lydia Wysocki, Ian Horton, and John Swogger
March 2019


“Comics and Research” one-day event

Next Friday, March 28th 10am – 4pm, the Applied Comics Network are holding a one-day event at Newcastle University on Comics and Research. Making, using and sharing comics can offer interesting, fun and thought-provoking potential for involving people in research, accessible ways to communicate the complexity of research, and means by which ethical issues in research can be explored.

Our one-day event next week includes sessions which look at all these aspects of applied comics and research, including communication of research, comics as a method in research, graphic facilitation, sketch-noting, and comics and user experience.

This free event is open to everyone, but will be of specific interest those working in the fields of communication, education and training, and those whose interests include visual and multimodal approaches, research engagement, user experience in heritage and culture, comics in the classroom and education, and patient information in healthcare.


  • Lydia Wysocki (School of Education Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University)
  • Ian Horton (London College of Communication)
  • John Swogger (Archaeological Comics Network)
  • Florence Okoye (Natural History Museum)
  • Pen Mendonça (University of the Arts London)
  • Liz Todd (Newcastle University)

Although this is a free event, as lunch is provided, please use this lightbox link to register so we can keep track of numbers:

ACN Newcastle poster 96dpi 1

Comics and Heritage Project

Project Manager for Oswestry Heritage Comics

Following a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Qube (Oswestry Community Arts) is seeking a Project Manager for its Oswestry Heritage Comics project. The project will produce weekly comic strips interpreting the rich heritage of Oswestry and the surrounding area and provide public comic heritage workshops.

Qube is looking for a professional working in the field of heritage, history and archaeology who can demonstrate:

  • experience in the field of graphic information
  • an excellent knowledge of Oswestry’s local history, archaeology and heritage
  • a body of work gained in the field of comics
  • an ability to work with a wide range of people and volunteers
  • proven track record in delivering workshops to all ages
  • client-based experience in working to tight deadlines, and to coordinating with publishers, printers and research partners
  • experience in original academic research

This is a freelance position and the project is for 1 year beginning in April 2017.

For full details of post or to submit your CV contact: Laurel Roberts, Oswestry Community Action. email: info[at]

Closing Date: 13 April 2017

Charity Number: 1063319. Inc Company. 3390138



The Ethical Dilemma – guest blog post by Anum Yoon

Screenshot (6)

Anum Yoon is a blogger and freelancer who primarily talks about money management. Her other passions include comics and photography.

There’s been so much hype about driverless cars, autonomous cars, self-driving cars (call it what you will) over the last year with quite a few articles discussing the ethical dilemmas that might arise from their mainstream presence. I couldn’t find any visual aids that portrayed these ethical scenarios in a fun and comprehensive manner, so I decided to create my own.

Read Anum’s full comic on her website:

Can Your Insurance Do This?

Check out this latest flyer from a well-known insurance provider that came through my letterbox. So applied comics have gone mainstream, have they?

I’d be curious to know exactly what it is Direct Line thinks they are tapping into by using comics like this. Inventiveness? Novelty? Yoof culture?

Could you do better? We’ll be doing another hands-on comic making event in Leeds tomorrow as part of the Comics Forum/Thought Bubble weekend. Come along to the Applied Comics Network workshop at the Comics Forum conference at Leeds Central Library and show us!

Not Everyone Rises: Comics on Location

Guest blog post by Hannah Sackett

While on holiday this summer, I visited Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex. As well as being an excellent location for spotting coastal birds and rare plants, the reserve is home to remnants of coastal defensive structures, including a Martello tower and WWII pill boxes. As I approached a pill box, I noticed a display board fixed to one side.

Rye Nature Reserve Pill Box: Photograph by Julian Hanshaw
Rye Nature Reserve Pill Box: Photograph by Julian Hanshaw

I expected the familiar heritage information: dates, details, plans, possibly a reconstruction drawing. Instead, I found a comic by artist Julian Hanshaw, created as part of his project Not Everyone Rises.

Not Everyone Rises by Julian Hanshaw
Not Everyone Rises by Julian Hanshaw

So far panels have been placed at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, Winchelsea Old Town and Hastings Country Park, with two more to follow.

Fire Hills, Hastings Country Park: Photograph by Julian Hanshaw
Fire Hills, Hastings Country Park: Photograph by Julian Hanshaw

Talking about his motivation behind the project, Hanshaw said:

Having eagerly consumed my war comics as a child I was aware of the plans that the Third Reich had for this gently sloped stretch of coastline, but as I read more local history books small vignettes and facts began to draw me in further, craving more information.

These small moments in time full of pathos and intrigue suggested they would work wonderfully in the medium with which I work: comics.

I wanted to use the sequential art form in a way that broke the stories down into small ‘chapters’ on the page. Coloured differently they would be read in their ‘individual blocks’ and the blocks when read together would become the whole story.

I also wished the audience would, of course, ultimately enjoy the story but might have to work at them a little. A piece of work which stands up to repeated views.”

The panel at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve tells the story of an RAF bomber that crashed into the sea, just off the coast from where the pill box is located. A more traditional heritage notice board might have recorded and illustrated the incident, objectively informing visitors of a past event. Hanshaw’s storytelling, on the contrary, plunges us into the action – we are in the plane with the American airman who is about to meet his fate, and we are drawn into the tragic unfolding of his story. Through Hanshaw’s sophisticated use of words and images, the past ceases to be distant; the experiences of people who lived and died during the war are made tangible. In this way, comics and stories based on research and historical (and archaeological) evidence can connect us to the past in a way that a conventional heritage information board would find hard to achieve.Hanshaw’s comic would have made an impact on me if I’d read it in a book or newspaper, but reading it on location added an extra component, an additional power to the narrative. At the start of the project Hanshaw looked forward to the connection between comic and location: “it will be fascinating to… read the piece on the downed bomber pilot and with a tilt of the head be able to look out at the same ‘uncaring sea’ in which his body was gently lowered ‘in as Christian a manner as possible’.

Hanshaw’s “site specific comics” are an excellent innovation. I hope that his work inspires similar projects in other locations.

We’re getting ready for our session at Comics Forum conference in Leeds this Friday 13th November 2015.  Here’s a look back to our first event in May this year: thanks Selina Lock for permission to cross-post your blog post. Originally posted at on Friday 15th May 2015.

Research as comics – Applied Comics Network

by Selina Lock

On Saturday 9th May I attended the first Applied Comics Network event to talk about the PhD sessions I offer on ‘Communicating your research as a comic strip’.

The event was looking at the use of comics for informational and educational purposes. Attendees included academics, PhD students, graphic facilitators and comic creators.
Applied Comics Network is run by Lydia Wysocki (Newcastle Science Comic, Applied Comics Etc), John Swogger (Archaeology in the Caribbean, Something Different About Dad), and Ian Horton (Coordinator for Contextual and Theoretical Studies, London College of Communication).

They started the event off (before & after the interruption of a fire alarm!) by looking at the different types of comics the network might cover. They had all come up with different categories but they included:

  • Instructional (instructions for using/doing things)
  • Informative (providing facts/information)
  • Educational (these might be factual or have a narrative to make them more interesting/engaging)
  • Reflective (for reflecting on your own practice/methods/research)
  • Opinion (putting forward your view/interpretation of a subject)

Next we all had a go at making a quick comic strip based on a random Wikipedia page – yes, even those of us who can only draw stick figures! Then in small groups we discussed what we’d created and any issues it raised.

Points raised from comic strip exercise:

  • Difficult to create a comic strip to the time limit – several of us wanted to do more research first, rather than stick to the basic information on the Wikipedia page.
    • I wanted to find primary sources/firsthand accounts of the incident I was focusing on to bring in a human viewpoint.
  • All the comic strips were different even if we’d picked the same bit of information to base the strip on.
  • Differences included bringing a modern socio-political outlook to some of the historical events, and deciding what was/wasn’t appropriate to depict (as some of the information was about a bombing).
  • One of the strengths of using words and images (comic strips, infographics, illustrated text) is that it gives you a wider choice when trying to convey information, context or meaning.

Then the invited speakers gave their presentations:

  • Lizzie Boyle (Cross political satire anthology, Disconnected Press) – Lizzie talked about trying to use a comic book prior to the election to engage people in politics. It worked best with those who already liked comics and were interested in politics, but some schools/organisations also used the book to try and engage with young voters.
  • Selina Lock (Research communication workshops using comics with postgrad students) – I talked about the workshop I do for PhD students and that the biggest barriers to using comic strips is lack of funding/artists and fear of disapproval from the academic world. Also that some workshop attendees found making a comic strip useful to identify the ‘story’ of their research and what they wanted to communicate, even if they didn’t use a comic as a final communication method.
  • Lydia Wysocki (Applied Comics Etc) – Lydia talked about several funded projects she is overseeing to use comics to engage with the wider public – including a comic about ‘Spineless Mini-Monsters’ to accompany a museum exhibit and comics to highlight the WW1 & Gertrude Bell archives at the University of Newcastle.
  • Ian Williams (The Bad Doctor,Graphic Medicine) – Ian is the co-founder of the Graphic website and conference, which grew out of his Masters dissertation looking at medical narratives in comics. He also talked about workshops he, and other Medical academics in the States, have done asking medical students to create comic strips to reflect on their medical practice and interactions with patients.
  • Steve Marchant and The Cartoon Museum – Steve talked about the wide-ranging experiences he’s had working with school children, teenagers and senior citizens to create comics. He either ran workshops so they could create comics themselves or created comics based on their experiences. The comics often dealt with issues such as bullying, teenage pregnancy, recycling etc.

Discussions points after the presentations included:

Visual notes by academic and comic creator Paul Davies
  •  Sources of funding to pay comic creators
    • Suggestions included –  from within existing grants if there is a wider impact focus, Arts Council (for art focused projects), Arts Council for Libraries fund, Public/Wider Engagement Funds (Specific funds within Universities, Research Funders, Lottery/Heritage Funds, Local Authorities).
  • The need to educate/provide workshops for academics/researchers on how best to communicate research using comics/graphics novels.
  • Information/workshops for comics creators on working with education, academia, businesses, and other organisations to produce comics.
  • That trying to create a comic strip can be very helpful even if the strip is not used – to reflect or examine ideas, to help focus on specific issues, to storyboard a process or to reflect on current practice or communication methods.
  • Several attendees recommended reading: Unflattened by Nick Sousanis – comic book based on Nick’s PhD thesis. “The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making?”

Comics and Harassment

473Interesting article from last week’s Guardian on the use of comics as part of an anti-harassment campaign on Egypt’s metro. I know there’s a fairly strong tradition of cartoons in the Arabic world as a form of political commentary – but informational comics? A couple of years ago, at Comics Forum, there was a really interesting paper about the use of informational comics by the Royal Omani Police, but I’m not aware of any similar examples.

The anti-harassment comic is the work of artist Ahmed Nady, and supported by the Imprint Movement. What’s notable about the comic is that it’s clearly being used as a way to “start the conversation”. Comics seem to be a medium of choice for introducing difficult, complex or unfamiliar subjects to a broad audience – whether it’s science, medicine or social and cultural issues. What exactly is it that comics can do that other media can’t?

Abdel Fattah al-Sharkawy, one of the co-founders of the Imprint Movement, suggests that it’s narrative that’s important. It’s making the link between the story in the comic and the everyday experiences of its readers. The artwork in a comic is important, but as far as informational comics is concerned, getting that narrative right – making that connection to the experiences of our readers – is what’s key.

In these anti-harassment comics, Ahmed Nady’s art is an example of how great comics can create narrative through lively and dynamic visuals. Informational comics can sometimes stray too close to being just “illustrated text”. These comics remind us that images are as important as words in creating that link between reader and information.

Comics? Check!

013-pawn_levers013-pawn_leversOf course! Comics can do all sorts of things – tell all sorts of stories. But there’s one kind of story that comics excell at: stories where the visuals are as important as the text. This applies to all sorts of comics – not least comics with an informational content. Comics where the explanation is as much about showing as telling always work best. Of course.

Well, what’s something that needs explaining as much through showing as through telling? Games, of course! And here’s a cute game comic: Scott Tingley’s The Chess Comic. Partly through anthropomorphised fables, partly through comic-based diagrammatic explanations, the comic presents the basic rules and concepts of chess. To quote Scott:

My goal with the comic is to take the information I have taught in the beginner and intermediate chess camps I have taught in the past and pass that on to my readers using the comic medium. In my experience, kids and adults new to chess often forget the little things that make up the fundamentals of the game, and I thought having a visual cue for these things might come in handy.

It’s uneven in places, and the artist is clearly self-taught – but the comic is charming and accessible nonetheless. I like the way that Scott has used comics to create a very specific type of informational visual: cues. This isn’t a comic to read in the chess class – it’s a comic to read between classes. It’s not a comic about how to play chess – it’s a comic about how to remember how to play chess.

Comics not necessarily as a “teaching” tool, per se, but as a “reinforcement” tool? Hmm; that’s an interesting idea. Could comics have a powerful role to play as specifically-designed support media for other forms of instruction or informational communication?

Unfortunately, Scott appears to have stopped updating The Chess Comic about a year ago – but there’s more of Scott also does educational comics reviews at: Comics in the Classroom.