The process of making the first comic strip developed naturally from the format used to design the logo, passing ideas back and forth among the team and involving the young people’s input as much as possible.
First Tracie ran some question and answer sessions with students covering the sorts of experiences they had during school transition and also their opinions on the sorts of stories and characters they liked and felt represented by. Tracie also had very useful discussions with pupils about colours and how they represented different emotions for them, and how these perhaps differed from the standard colour emotion charts often used with autistic young people.
Sam drew out some basic comic making guides and initial character sketches for Tracie to use with students as part of inviting them to engage with the project.
The discussions Tracie had with young people were shared with the team in anonymised text form. Sam then used the pupils’ answers together with research summary outcomes collated by Hanna and Sarah to draft 4 rough story outlines that attempted to capture some of these experiences in fictionalised form.
The team discussed the outlines and came to an agreement on the one they felt worked best as a first comic. As Coronavirus restrictions and in person school closures at this point meant it was difficult to seek further direct student feedback the team agreed to use this first comic as a ‘tester’ that we could hopefully present to students when finished and gather their in depth responses before moving to the next comic.
It was agreed that using anthropomorphic animal characters would be a quick way to communicate characters’ inner states and anxieties visually. Giant characters juxtaposed with much smaller ones and ears, tails and colour combinations being a great way to express extra emotions without needing a lot of expository text on the page.
Sam designed characters with an eye towards simplicity and relatability, after the team decided a small nervous mouse would make a good main character for readers to connect with. Sam shared rough digital pencil versions of the strip with the team before progressing to final inks and colours (the team was also eager to suggest kinds of animal they’d like to see popping up in the background of the comic!)