The Secret Language of Comics

An Evening with Maia Kobabe

At first I wasn’t too sure I’d have time to attend the Maia Kobabe workshop event because I had an assignment to finish and turn in only about an hour after the event, but I ended up watching and listening on the side as I worked and I’m kind of glad I decided to.

Before the event, only being aware that it was an event in which they would discuss the process of making their graphic memoir Gender Queer, I had the assumption that I would not have much to relate to or wouldn’t fully comprehend any struggles—given that I’m a straight cis woman. However, I was surprised when, although I can’t relate or 100% comprehend the emotional process, there was a lot on the “technical” process of writing their memoir that I felt connected with Maia. They mentioned using a wacom tablet and I was instantaneously taken back to my “artist phase” in which I saved up to buy a small wacom intuos tablet because I wanted to get into digital art in like the 7th grade. My biggest shocks, however, came upon Maia saying they get inspiration from fanart, fanfiction and music, from which a large portion was Kpop. Back in middle school when I was a full-time One Direction fan, I definitely read quite a few fanfictions—it was a crazy time, at one point I even tried writing my own but gave up after 2 chapters—so hearing Maia, as a professional author—compared to fanfiction authors which from my experience are usually teens—mention fanfiction it was so odd, yet it felt relatable. Same thing when they mentioned fanfiction; these works created by fans have always seemed to me to be only presented within fan communities on social media—being presented in anyway or mentioned to the “normal” audience groups is not taken well because of the stigma around internet stan culture—so for Maia to openly talk about how writing fanfiction has helped and inspired them made me happy in a way. At the moment in which Maia talked about the music that inspires them, I felt the biggest connection of them all when I saw lots of EXO’s music spread throughout their music gallery since they’re one of the Kpop groups I listen to a lot. When they mentioned they’ve done Kpop fanart, it made me wonder what if I have probably already come across their work without knowing so?

Overall, I enjoyed listening in on the Maia Kobabe event, I got to learn about a new author and add a new book to my future reading list hehe.

Workshop with Maia Kobabe

Maia Kobabe is the author of “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” In this workshop, she talks about the process of creating her work. When Maia first found inspiration and motivation for drawing comics, it was from drawing fan arts and listening to K-POP music. Her first book was “The Theif’s Tale.” She worked on it for 5 years right after she graduated her college. However, it was not popular and Maia said that it was because she did not talk about her identity. After her first series of books, she started drawing little gender-related memories in Waldorf Lesson Books. She created 60 4×4 comics in just 2 weeks. At that time, she was curious if people like her work about gender identity, but she was concerned a lot because she was not yet ready for coming out. However, after she impulsively uploaded the comics on her social media and came out to the wider audience, lots of people were interested in her work and showed her powerful and emotional reactions.
Some books helped her to get a voice and tone of “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” For example, Maia learned about herself and how to talk about sex and sexual health by reading “Oh Joy, Sex Toy.” Also, the embarrassing and private stories that she jotted down in her high school diaries became the main outline of her book. One of the longest processes that she had was designing a cover of the book. She did not want to make half male and half female, since she wanted to express her identity as non-binary. Also, she wanted to show little Maia reflecting adult Maia.
While listening to Maia’s story of creating “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” it was awesome that many people could identify their gender and learn about themselves by reading her book. Also, it was so wonderful to see the development and process.

Wendy Xu Workshop

Overall, I really liked the workshop. Wendy was sociable and nice. Before the workshop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised to how down-to-earth and relatable she was. I really enjoyed her vibe. We started off with an exercise where we created a four panel sketch, similar to what we have already done in class. The focus for this exercise was to talk about “gutters” in comics ( aka time in between the panels ). Wendy chose to depict a bird hatching from an egg where the amount of time in between each panel was different. The example did a good job in explaining the concept. Afterwards, she showed us a few of her comic panels and her thoughts will making them. We moved on to Q&A then another exercise. This exercise was focused on using your imagination to its fullest extent. We drew four frames and within those frames we had to make a scribble. From the scribble, we had five minutes to make a monster out of the line. I personally am a fan of my creation. I haven’t read her comic “Mooncake”, yet but it is definitely on my to read list.

Workshop with Wendy Xu

Wendy Xu was born in China and raised in Connecticut. When she was going to NYU, she tried to be a doctor, since she loved science and was a Psychology major. However, later she was working on “Mooncakes,” she started to draw a comic in earnest. While working on it, she did not sleep a lot, quitted his previous job, and focused on it full-time. I was surprised that she had no art experience before and could draw a comic so well. Wendy said that we do not need to be amazing artists to draw a comic. 

First Exercise

After her brief introduction and basic information, she started the first exercise. I needed to draw a 4-panel comic with a free topic. I was familiar with it, since I already drew a quadriptych for the Sunday sketch before. She wanted us to think about how much time is between each panel and said that the gutter holds the whole comic. Her explanation about moment and time in comics was interesting. She worked on the exercise with us together and drew an egg hatching in 5 minutes. Also, Wendy showed us a few images of her comic and how she indicates the time difference with backgrounds and scenery. It was awesome that just the color overall can show how the story is going on and how long each situation takes place. 

Second Exercise
Second Exercise

The second exercise we did was fun. We drew four squiggles and chose one of them to draw a monster with it. At first, it sounded hard, but while I was working on it, I could creatively make a monster with a squiggle only in five minutes. I learned that simple sketching and doodling may be a good start of a comic. This workshop was interesting!

Extra Credit: Workshop with Wendy Xu (co-creator of “Mooncakes”)

Tesla Cariani, doctoral candidate in English at Emory, and her students in ENG389: Nonbinary Narratives in LGBTQ+ Comics and Graphic Novels have invited us to join a workshop with Wendy Xu on April 6th, 2021, at 2:40pm EDT. You’ll need to register at that link, but the event is free.

Wendy Xu is an award-nominated Brooklyn-based illustrator and comics artist with three upcoming graphic novels from Harper Collins.

She is the co-creator of Mooncakes, a young adult fantasy graphic novel published in 2019 from Lion Forge Comics/Oni Press. Part of it can be read on Her work has been featured on Catapult, Barnes & Noble Sci-fi/Fantasy Blog, and, among other places. You can find more art on her instagram: @artofwendyxu or on twitter: @angrygirLcomics.

I’ll offer extra credit to anyone who attends and writes a post on their site about their thoughts on the event.