Creating Comics

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Matt Charlton got his scribble on and helped conjure up some new characters

I like comics. I like reading them, I like collecting them, and I used to, in a much younger life, attempt to draw my own. Mine were supposed to look like people and animals, but my ‘dog’ looked like it had been squashed by a bus for starters. Enter Jim Medway’s Minicomic Workshop with the promise that people with very little art confidence could produce great results – perfect!

So it was with some trepidation that I took my seat alongside a variety of strangers. Naturally all of us were of various ages, backgrounds and ability. Yet, by the end of the day we had collaborated on our own 19 page comic after navigating a series of exercises to boost our confidence, not only in our drawing skills, but crucially in telling a story visually.

Our leader for the day was Jim Medway, best known for his quirky and fun cat people that have graced many comics. Jim’s teaching was down to earth, he quickly put us all at ease and his tireless encouragement helped to keep the group engaged. His skill was in convincing us that we had the necessary seeds inside of us to draw and create good comics.

Kicking off with a theory session, we looked at the development of comics, before moving onto a group task to draw as many characters as we could remember. Confusion and hilarity were evident on seeing the results, but in doing this Jim was reinforcing a key aspect of comics – good character design.

Other tasks included creating a ‘jam’ comic. The idea was simple enough, you start off the first panel of a three panel comic strip and pass it on for another of the group to do panel two, and a third person to complete panel three. Some of the skills taught were evidenced here as we tackled close-ups, shading, blocking and character design with some particularly effective results.

We went on to create a drawing from a series of random cards assigned by Jim. You might have had to illustrate a particular animal doing a specific activity or job for the rest of the group to guess what you’d drawn. Definitely a challenging task, but one that continually gave us the confidence to create and draw new characters.

All of this culminated in the hardest, but most enjoyable exercise of the day – creating our own group comic! And so Snap Happy the tale of Alphonse, the one-legged schoolboy, Sunshine the crocodile dinner lady, and the documentary gameshow from hell was born!

Hard work? Sure. Fun? Oh, most definitely. Importantly, we’d all done what we thought impossible when we started the day – as a team created our very own characters in our own unique comic story. And you know it’s inspired me to dig out my pens and pencils and resume my own scribbling’s.