Monday, 31 January 2011

How To Make (Awesome) Comics

Awesome Comics intro pic
Chimp VS Shark

I've been out and about doing a bunch of talks and workshops lately - Tuesday last week I was in Leicester doing some workshops at Rushey Meade library, and then on Thursday and Friday I was down in Hove doing a couple of Mo-Bot High-related school events in association with The Book Nook, a wonderful children's bookshop and home to the greatest Victoria sponge cake it has ever been my privilege to eat. Seriously, the whole trip goes down as a Big Win for me, if only because of the cake.

Me drawing Bob the Funky Riot Penguin
A penguin with a riot shield and lightsaber. What of it?

I've done a few of these events now, and I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. I'll generally talk for a bit about drawing comics and show a bunch of art, then get into giving some tips and ideas on how to create your own comics. I use a complex and nuanced system for coming up with ideas but I've simplified the basic gist into this handy diagrammatic form.

diagram 1

Fig. A: The Principle of the Multiplication of Awesomeness.

I came up with this idea as kind of a joke on the lazy 'it's x meets y' elevator-pitch nature of so many comics / cartoons / films these days ("It's Cowboys... VERSUS ALIENS!"), but actually as a way to come up with some Fun Stupid ideas to get kids started making their own comics, it works pretty well. And, I think, is in fact a fairly accurate representation of how creativity begins, albeit in a kind of reductio ab absurdum form. Because really, that's what any artist or writer is doing when they come up with a new idea - taking elements of thoughts / concepts / sensory input from their experience and combining them in (hopefully) new and (maybe even) interesting ways.

Like, y'know, this.

diagram 2

Fig. B: A Pirate That Is Also A Monkey

Anyway, when doing a talk I usually manage to rein in the pseudo-philosophical waffle and concentrate on the Drawing Fun Awesome Silly Things part, and the events in Leicester and Hove were a lot of fun on that front. It's always fun trying to come up with a story live in front of a roomful of excited kids, coming up with characters and plot points left right and centre based on their ideas.

A Blurry Audience
It's a very blurry photo, I grant you. but I think it kind of captures the atmosphere of doing one of these sessions.

Between the strips I'd draw live in front of the audience and then the strips the kids would create themselves in the workshop sessions, many exciting and doubtless soon-to-be-incredibly famous characters were birthed into the world on this trip, including Mr Sucky the Millionaire Octopus, SkunkBomb the Super-Skunk, Bob the Funky Riot Penguin and my personal favourite, D.O.R.I.S (that's Devious Offensive Racist Intolerant Squirrel... I *think* that was right, anyway.) And of course... SCARY KNICKERS.

Scary Knickers
Any attempt at explanation would be inadequate, I fear.

I'll be doing a bunch more events over the next couple of months, and I'm very much looking forward to them - will post the details and dates here as and when. There's loads more details about talks and workshops up on the events page on my website, so if you are a teacher or librarian who would like to get some comics-type fun going on - why not go check that out?

Huge thanks to Ian Burley at Leicester libraries, to Lauren Bennett at Random House and to Vanessa and Julie at the Book Nook for organising these events and for looking after me so magnificently on my travels! And most of all to the children of Leicester and Hove for being so enthusiastic, entertaining and just occasionally, completely insane.


  1. If I'd known you were going to be in Hove, Actually, I'd have popped in to say hello!

  2. Yeah, it was only school stuff this time, there weren't any public events - but hopefully will be coming down again to do some soon. Ish. Would be great to say hello!