Applied Comics Collaborations

three comics creators working with a researcher

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Applied Comics Collaborations is about working together to make good and useful comics. In each project three comics creators work with one academic researcher to make one collaborative draft of a comic, aiming to a way through the multiple possible ways of making a comic that communicates specific information to a target audience. Each project ends with a draft comic that the researcher can then take forward towards a plan for further work.

This pilot phase was funded by the ESRC IAA ABC fund (Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account Accelerating Business Collaboration) at Newcastle University.

Resources on this page:

  • How-to guide (Applied Comics Collaborations: Ways for humanities and social science researchers to work together with comics creators)
  • Resources folder
  • Snapshots and quotes from our three pilot project teams

How-to guide

This how-to guide comic was made by Lydia Wysocki with Adam & Lisa Murphy. We’d also like to thank Carol Moxam as an advisor on this comic.

The copyright of this guide belongs jointly to its creators. This guide is published with an Attribution –  NonCommercial – No Derivatives 4.0 International Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Wysocki, L, Murphy, A, and Murphy, L. 2021. Applied Comics Collaborations: Ways for humanities and social science researchers to work together with comics creators. Available at: http://appliedcomicsetc.com/collaborations

Applied Comics Collaborations how to guide (PDF file download 4.7KB) (request a print copy)

Resources folder

Here are generic materials to help you run your own Applied Comics Collaborations project. The folder includes an example timetable and details of the tasks we used at key points in the project week. We’re keen for people to have a go at running their own projects, and would love to hear how you get on.

ACC generic resource examples (zip file download of 3 Word documents, 4.2KB)

Snapshots and quotes from our three pilot project teams

Applied Comics Collaborations 3: Hot Property

three comics extracts from 'Hot Property' collaboration

Researcher:

Comics creators:

Audrey was beginning a new area of research about how, in the context of climate change bringing about extreme weather and rising temperatures, some people in the UK can afford to keep cool and some people cannot. This is especially important in housing. Architectural, construction, legal and policy decisions have major effects for residents’ lives, especially when those decisions do not deliver fair outcomes and less socio-economically advantaged people have to bear the brunt of over-heating. How could a comic help Audrey present this context to residents and to research funders to help advance her work?

Irina and John joined this project as experienced comics creators, and Nate joined the project as an experienced design researcher. Individually, they each made a rough first draft of a comic based on Audrey’s research. Together, the whole team developed these ideas further with attention to how to present both lived experiences and policy issues in the same piece.

‘I have in my head now a clearer image of how to communicate this new research, thanks to the week with comics artists. I wanted something really punchy and the thermometer image we discussed is really striking, it could go a long way.’ (Audrey)

‘This project was really productive because we had three artists, each bringing a different approach. Bouncing ideas around with other artists was a real asset to the project, then the whole process was a dialogue and we were checking in with the researcher to ask any questions.’ (Irina)

‘It was interesting to be involved at an early stage in a research-comics collaboration and to find all the ways you could go with the project. For me it’s the layout and plot that’s the foundation of making comics, then the words can be edited later with the researcher.’ (John)

‘The facilitation supported the comics creators and the researcher, creating a culture of collaboration. It was good that there was lots of conversation over the project week, academic research can be intimidating so it was great that Audrey was so approachable.’ (Nate)

Applied Comics Collaborations 2: The It Girl

3 comics panels from project ACC: The It Girl

Researcher:

Comics creators:

Stacy’s research about novelist and scriptwriter Elinor Glyn focuses on the history of consent, including the history of women’s sexual pleasure. Glyn’s novel Three Weeks was a scandalous bestseller when first published in 1907, and Stacy wanted to explore how making a comic could help connect her research with a teen/young adult audience discussing issues of consent in the context of sexual relationships.

Anja, Hannah, and Rachael joined this project as experienced comics creators. Individually, they each made a rough first draft of a comic based on Stacy’s research. Together, the whole team developed these ideas further with attention to how modern audiences might connect with Three Weeks.

‘This project made me think about my research in invigorating ways. It really freshened up my thinking and pushed me to think about my work visually, beyond using images as a rhetorical hook. I’m excited about taking this project forward, and now wondering what it would be like to teach my research with comics creators present in my seminars.’ (Stacy)

‘It was such a good experience to work with other people on a comics project. I loved it, especially at an early stage of a project it was nice to have that spitballing of ideas, not like the pressure of working alone to come up with a great idea for a client.’ (Anja)

‘I was blown away by all the comics creators’ ideas. It was so cool how different all of our comics were, we had such different narrative approaches.’ (Hannah)

‘The organisation of this project created a real energy and zest. I actually liked the speed and openness of the brief, even though the drafting process was quite quick we reached a stage of flow and completeness for the work.’ (Rachael)

 

Applied Comics Collaborations 1: Love and Marriage

love and marriage draft extracts

Researcher:

Comics creators:

Raksha’s research found out about the spectrum of arranged marriage practices among British Indians in the North East of England. Her forthcoming book Learning to Love: Arranged marriages and the British Asian diaspora will share this with an academic audience, and making a comic could help share the same research with a wider audience – especially as a resource for young people making choices about their own relationships.

Hannah, Jim and Mark joined this project as experienced comics creators. Individually, they each made a rough first draft of a comic based on Raksha’s research. Together, the whole team developed these ideas further, navigating the detail – and potential risk of stereotyping – in representing the deliberations and negotiations undertaken by individuals and families. Within the team we found ways to tell an intergenerational story about relationships that became stronger through working together.

‘Working with experts has always ended up with a better comic than I could’ve done on my own. Working together we found the centre of the project, in thinking about both content and audience’ (Hannah)

‘This was more engaged, more intensive than other collaborative comics work I’ve done. We were all kind of equal within this relationship’ (Jim)

‘This was different to my work with a regular collaborator on fiction comics – it was good to subsume yourself to what you’re trying to get across with no agenda or ego, just to get the researcher’s content across’ (Mark)

‘This was fantastic, really enjoyable and eye-opening. I’ve worked collaboratively before in writing grants and papers, but this approach to creative collaboration was different. We all wanted to do something together, and with a bit of moderation and structure we found ways to do it.’ (Raksha)