Reversing Comic Composition

My daughter Myra and I have been collaborating on a number of projects over the past two years.  She has provided illustrations for my poetry collection, Local Bird.  She has converted one of the poems in that collection “My Song” into a 4 page 24 panel comic that appeared in INKBRICK.  We also worked together on an academic article “Drawing is Learning: To Understand and To Be Understood” that was recently published in comic format in the Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning.  In these cases, she has been converting my words into her images.

In an effort to reverse this collaborative relationship, I suggested to her that we develop a different process:

  1. I draw a page of panels.
  2. We agree on a title.
  3. She draws an image in the first panel and leaves me an empty narrative box, speech balloon, or thought bubble.
  4. I provide the text for that empty space.
  5. She repeats step 3 and I repeat step 4 until we run out of panels on the page.

(By the way, because she lives in Brooklyn and I live in Texas, our collaborations have been mediated by email and text messaging.)

Here is the page of panels I drew.

Panels - Theft Smaller

We agreed on the title “Theft.”  And here is Myra’s first panel.

Theft (1) Smaller

I wrote “I can’t tell if I recognize you.”  And here below is what Myra sent me next with three empty speech balloons in the third panel.

Theft (2) Smaller

I then responded with “What are you doing in my house?”  “How do you explain these?”  “I received them from my husband.” And here below is the next panel Myra drew.

Theft (3) Smaller

I recommended a speech balloon for the bottom left panel that would say, “Is this the man you mean.”  And then Myra sent me the panels as drawn below.

Theft (4) Smaller

I then responded with “I used to love this house.”  And here below is the final version.

Theft Final Smaller

This new process of image first and text in response has been very interesting.  Rather than comics as illustration of a story or poem, we have been able to achieve a more shared process of collaboration, an image/text dialogue that shapes the comic panel by panel.

Here’s two more we’ve completed, agreeing that we should move the panel arrangement around a bit each time.


Rain Final Smaller


Chair Final Smaller

And one we just started today: “Blue.”

bluesm smaller