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Making Comics

Book Review by Denise Hill.

After watching this book trailer for Making Comics by Lynda Barry, I still didn’t understand it but was intrigued enough to get the book. I started with the “assignments” just for fun and fell in love. It’s not at all what I had expected. Barry is very much of the you-don’t-need-to-be-an-artist-to-create-art mindset (says it’s better if you haven’t been formally trained in drawing!). The book is essentially a guide to how she teaches her course at UW-Madison in Interdisciplinary Creativity (her areas of interest include “comic strips, cartoons, writer, spoken-word, graphic illustrator, exploring question of ‘what is an image?’ in work”). The book is interspersed with Barry’s own personal stories, classroom experiences and explanations of methodology. She blends drawing and storytelling using memory recall exercises and various approaches to daily journaling. Barry instructs how to create both nonfiction and fiction using her story generating and mapping ideas.

It’s a subtly prescriptive practice that over the past couple of months has repeatedly surprised me with the outcomes – just as she says it will. While some assignments are meant for use in groups, I was able to complete them solo. When we can be back in the classroom, I plan to use her techniques with students, from remedial to college writing as well as literature. Barry’s own love of her students and (obsession with) their creations has instilled a new attitude of appreciation for me. And when family (safely two-week quarantined first) come to visit for Christmas, I plan to sneak in a round of Face Jam or Character Jam on game night.

For writers, for teachers, for non-artists most especially – this book will have you reimaging what it means to be creative. Barry closes: “Everything good in my life came because I drew a picture. I hope you will all draw a picture soon. I will always want to see it. XOX”

Making Comics by Lynda Barry, Drawn & Quarterly, November 2019.

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