Through 2020-21 I’ve drawn life during the pandemic as a comic strip diary, one page at a time, as it happened.
I’m almost at 100, which will be the final page, and the Kickstarter for the second collection is live.
100 pages isn’t actually that much in comic book terms. The average graphic novel is about 300 pages long, and some are longer than that.
But then Distance isn’t really ‘written’ – it’s recorded. There’s no plot other than drawing what’s happening in real life and getting in the head of a comedian with no live gigs (me), sharing thoughts on life as it plays out. Oh and running, lots of running.
The format for Distance really dictated itself. Get a sheet of A4, divide it up into 6 or so panels and draw what’s happening and how I feel about it. At the time I was reading ‘Charleys War’, a classic strip about a soldier in World War I. Distance takes its format from the old British newsprint comics of the ’70s where a lot of story is squeezed into a few pages, economical storytelling through thoughts and moments, trying to cram in as much as possible and still make sense. With that in mind, 100 pages, is pretty good going.
As we know, in the early days of the pandemic a lot was happening, and very quickly, Drawing allowed me to slow down a bit and process the world around me at a time when the UK was panic buying bog roll and wine. Just drawing what was happening and putting it online. As time’s gone on it’s become more reflective, and as the world has changed the process has revealed more to me about myself than I ever thought it would.
I collected the first 50 strips in print in July 2020, through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and now the second collection Kickstarter is live to get the remaining strip in print.
At the time of writing in May 2021, I’ve been very lucky and not contracted Covid19. The pandemic has caused tragedy and sadness and at times I have questioned what to draw – what to leave in, what to leave out and is it even is appropriate?
How quickly would the “Hey folks, let’s be positive” message wear thin?
At the very least, creating Distance has been something I could do while there are no gigs, a focus to help get me through, and feedback has been super supportive.
Lockdown three in the UK in March 2021 was really hard, fatigue kicked in and I was really reaching for what to include that wouldn’t be negative. That’s where running really helped.
All the best thoughts, words and images that I’ve put into the strip have come into my head during a run, and that’s why it’s so core to the strip. Running for me is a perfect space to process thoughts and emotions. I still have a few ‘covid pounds’ and the half marathons of 2018 feel like a distant memory, but I’ll get there again, in the future.
I’d been considering how and when to wrap up the strip in early 2021. Covid isn’t going away there as still countries suffering badly.
I knew if I tried to engineer narrative closure and ‘look for a story’ it would feel a bit fake. It’s a diary, life goes on.
May 2021 feels like a natural end for the strip. The vaccine rollout here has been successful and as events are playing out, two of the things I lost are coming back. Running in groups are happening again, and Comedysportz my improv gang, have their first scheduled indoor show later this month, face to face, with a real audience – I’m pinching myself just thinking about it!
The 100th strip also coincides with an event that’s really significant to me. Nothing I’ve planned – and I don’t want to write about it more, because right now it’s in the future, and having things to look forward to again is is really special.