UNBOXING THE BITTERNESS (2019)
A graphic memoir on grief and Chinese funeral traditions
Dr. Shelley Wall
About the Comic
This piece is a reflection upon my experiences amalgamated with other's perspectives on grief in the context of diasporic Chinese-Canadian individuals. I hope that by sharing this story, others like me—or anyone processing the loss of a loved one—might find this comic relatable & validating. I hope that it prompts readers to consider being gentler on themselves as they take the time/means they need to heal. I hope that it encourages them to share their own narratives & opens a discourse on the culturally diasporic experience. But most of all, I hope that it elicits honest self-reflection on your emotional state & open communication with those around you.
Click here to read the full comic
Award of Merit
Finding a story
I knew I wanted to tell a story about grief from a Chinese Canadian perspective, and being cognizant that I could not accurately represent all Chinese Canadian experiences simultaneously, thought to frame it as an autobiographic graphic memoir. I pitched this idea (and a few others) to Dr. Shelley Wall and she encouraged me to further develop this narrative.
I interviewed friends and family, and even solicited stories from strangers from online communities who identified as first generation children of Chinese parents via an anonymous google form. With this collection of stories and additional research into grief management and Chinese customs, I created a rough outline for my story.
Writing A script
Based off of my outline, I wrote a script containing the words that would be used as text in my comic.
Each block of text (see blue arrow) in the sample page from the script shown indicates a new page. Each line within the text blocks indicate a separate textual box—to be either located in a different panel or space on the page. In brackets are notes to myself of some ideas for visualizations. This document is peer reviewed.
Creating A Vision
After making final edits to my script, I began creating thumbnail sketches using this document. This involved rough drawings of the comic including panel design and layout, as well as layout of text elements. This was peer reviewed prior to moving forward.
Additionally, I did some look development for the comic by trying out different styles of characters and repeating elements. These looks were posted publicly to gauge audience preferences which partially influenced character design choices.
Making A Comic
I applied the changes discussed during peer review of my thumbnail sketches, and rendered the comic to completion in Procreate on the iPad. These images, text, and panel layout was compiled using Adobe InDesign (see below for a few comparisons between the thumbnail sketch versus the final render). The comic was also printed as an 5.5'' x 8.5'' booklet that was staple bound. Click here to read the full comic.