Writing autobio comics

Hello hello!

Because I am again away from the studio this week, working hard on my book, I thought I'd share a blog post from a couple of years ago that I wrote for the SA Writers' Centre. It's all about writing auto-bio. It was originally written as a taster for a Writing Auto-bio Comics workshop I was running at the time, so just ignore all the mentions of workshops. 

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Hello there! My name is Gina; I like to watch television, drink my tea without milk and draw auto-bio comics. What do you do with yourself?

Auto-bio(graphical) comics (writing stories about yourself) are my favourite to write as I get to write from what I know and experience. When I was younger I often found talking to people hard and so I started writing comics about myself that I could share when meeting new pals. They found out a bit about me and it was a talking point. My comics can help work out my feelings or just be a laugh (I also wanted to be a stand-up comedian but found being on stage terrifying so I ended up just writing my jokes down in comic book form).

When tackling writing/drawing/creating comics for the first time, people often think of superheroes — I know I did! My first comic was about a superhero called Menu Man (he’d fight food with food). But as I got older and started reading a broader range of comics, I realised the stories I wanted to tell were about my life and thoughts I had about things I came across in the world. 

Here are some common questions I hear about writing auto-bio comics:

Of course! Just because you weren’t born a chosen one destined to duel the greatest dark wizard of all time or didn’t survive a terrible ordeal doesn’t mean that what you have to say isn’t worth listening to. Everyone thinks differently, and if you think about the world in an interesting way there is nothing stopping you writing well-thought out or funny comics.

Me too! I often worry about what people in my stories will think of how I wrote them or drew them. And tbh they are generally flattered. However, I make sure that I check with whoever I’m writing about and show them the comic first before anyone else. Give them the chance to say “I don’t like how you wrote me there”. Most of the time people will be understanding; just give them the courtesy of being the first to read it.

No sweat! One of the most critically acclaimed auto-bio comics creators, Harvey Pekar, was a writer only and teamed with a variety of artists. Just because you don’t think you can draw (although I bet you probably could) shouldn’t stop you from writing your own comics masterpiece. Comics is a super fun medium to collaborate on. Often comic books will have a writer (or maybe even two), a penciller, an inker, a colourist and sometimes even a letterer.

Don’t be! It can seem pretty scary to write about yourself but it’s not as hard as you think. I know a lot of people who worry about what other people would think of them if they wrote truly about themselves. Do you have a social media account (facebook, instagram, tumblr, twitter)? Then you are already writing auto-bio! So why not add pictures and make it a comic?

There are lots of different ways to write auto-bio comics and no ‘right way’. Here are some of my favourite practitioners of auto-bio comics:

Raina Telgemeier

Mandy Ord

Art Spiegelman

Lucy Knisley

Guy Delisle

Gemma Correll

 

These guys are all great for different reasons - the only thing they have in common is telling their own story from their own special point of view. Have a look at their work (you can see most of them online or in the library) and start having a think about what kind of stories you would turn into a comic.

Can’t wait to see you at the workshop!

Stay excellent, 

Gina xx

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And that's it for this week. I can't wait to share with you guys what I've been working on at The Burrow (that's the name of the studio apartment my residency is at. How great it that!) and have the draft of part two of my book underway.