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Sample Program: Autobiographical Comics

“Our lives… in comics!”

(Example: Comics Workshop: NH National Guard )

Turn your life into an eye-catching comic book!  From the earliest days of comics to today’s hottest graphic novels, cartoonists have always drawn from their own personal experiences in the world.  Now you can bring the characters, settings, and situations of your own life into your comics, and use the power of cartoons to tell stories about your life!  Each participant creates a mini-comic over the course of this program. 

Students are assumed to have taken a basic comics course or have some experience with graphical storytelling.

Class Length:
Five or more full-day classes, or eight weekly classes.


  • Students will create imaginative, attractive, and readable comics based on their own lives.
  • Students will recognize the fantastical, interesting elements in their own lives.
  • Students will develop novel approaches to telling everyday stories.
  • Activities and Procedures:

  • Students create picture-lists of members of their families, and sort them into categories. (This is a good opportunity for “ice-breaker” sharing activities.)
  • Students develop a “Parts of My Life” page. Each student divides a single page into several panels, with each panel introducing a different character or item from the student’s life (family members, friends, important people and objects, etc.). The group discusses appearance, posture, eye-catchiness, and mannerism. What do we learn about each new character from a single introductory panel? Which characters are most interesting to the group? What stories can they tell us?
  • Comics Diaries: Each class meeting, students take time to create a quick diary strip. This strip can be about anything that happened since the student got out of bed that morning, right up to (and including) the present moment.
  • Life Maps: Students create maps of their lives, from their earliest memory to the present. The map shows the student’s life as a path, passing through graphics and text about important moments, decisions, experiences, and time periods. (Alternate project: Illustrated Life Timeline)
  • Possible Projects: Each student selects three favorite stories from his or her life, and sketches possible covers for comics about the stories. While these covers are necessarily quick and rough, they should convey enough information to allow classmates to choose a “most interesting” story. The class previews each selection and votes for one of each student’s three covers. Students then have a sense of which image or idea is most interesting to the audience (fellow students and teachers).
  • Autobiographical Scene-Action-Result: Students create three-panel cause-and-effect comics about some simple episode or experience in their lives.
  • Project Choice: Each student declares a final project for the workshop. This project will become a 4-24 page mini-comic. Previous activities provide a cover design, character page, and possibly other pages or material. Students conference on pages as they pencil them.
  • Final Projects: Students present their final projects to the group at the end of the workshop. (Students might also organize a culminating event, inviting parents, friends, and community members to come and read the new comics.)
  • Works and Artists Cited:
    This list may change, depending on the interests and age range of participants.

  • Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Phase 7 by Alec Longstreth
  • Jay Hosler
  • Lynda Barry
  • James Kochalka
  • John Porcellino
  • Keith Knight
  • Cathy Leamy’s Geraniums and Bacon
  • Work by various local artists
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