I’m a part time comic maker with absolutely no relevant prior qualifications, although I know my way around a Wacom thanks to years working in design agencies. As a result, I approached comics with a very different attitude when I decided to put pen to paper.
Here’s a guest post from comics creator Richard Amos, on his comic How We Grow Old (and our short stories).
When I set out to write a comic I felt worthy of printing, I immediately flinched away from something tied to a personal quest. My life is unremarkable unless you want a graphic novel about sitting in front of a computer for a living for 14 years (I refer you to Dilbert).
This approach led me to write a comic based on feelings of grief, sentiment and longing, applied to fictional situations. My comic “How We Grow Old” is a short set of visual stories written to illustrate the effects of health and ageing on people and those around them. The stories are entirely fabricated, but the situations and emotions could resonate with anyone.
My objective was first and foremost to lead the reader to question the story. Who is suffering, who is enjoying themselves, and which protagonist considers themselves to have succeeded at the end of the comic? This principle was applied to all strips, to maintain coherence and a sense of objective for the reader. Despite what might initially be apparent, the comics are ostensibly not about death – they are about the inevitability of change.
Colour palettes are useful tools to prevent an artist from drowning in decisions, but for me they are also a storytelling device suited to the passing of time. With time, environments and situations change, but memories and comforts often live vividly in people’s minds through objects and colour. To accentuate association, I weave colours throughout a story to show how individuals retain and value associations even as their environment changes.
Looking from the outside in, I hope that the reader sees it as a cue to reassure them that the character is at least comfortable in their form, if not by the changing situation.
Using graphics with no words is a way of myself avoiding the pitfalls of using emotive, culturally-specific phrasing. The subject matter is so personal to some that I actively want to encourage readers to relate through emotional feedback, rather than through association of specific conversations. With such a sensitive topic, I actively avoid anything that could leave a reader to question their relationship with the comic.
Characters are commonly homogenised in even the best of comics and are often drawn from artist’s existing relationships. I pushed myself to invent characters of all backgrounds in all situations to ensure that the main currency of the story was situation, not stereotypes.
The immediate outcome is a comic that stubbornly resists the use of culture and normalised relationships as a story telling device. In every strip the characters could be friends, partners, or related. With ambiguous relationships hopefully comes accessibility to a greater spectrum of readers and less feeling of exclusion for those who cannot relate.
Probably most importantly, it takes the comic one step closer to achieving its goal – to show that we all experience the same feelings, no matter who we are.