Upstart Comics wants to connect with other comic book artists, writers and enthusiasts to provide support and constructive criticism. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Upstart Comics wants to connect with other comic book artists, writers and enthusiasts to provide support and constructive criticism. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Okanagan group promotes creativity among local comic book artists

Upstart Comics offers local artists a community to share content, receive feedback

Writing, drawing, inking and colouring a comic book isn’t just a one-person job, which is why an Okanagan-based group is offering fellow comic book artists and writers the support they need.

Before the group was called Upstart Comics, it was called Okanagan Comic Creators. Founded by comic writer Ed Brisson. The group’s purpose was to provide Okanagan comic book writers and artists with a space to talk about their love for comics and exercise their creativity.

Leland Bjerg was part of the group when it was still known by its former name, and he said members would get together to talk about the comics they love and to have “comics jams.”

“Comics jams is where you make up a comic on the spot,” he said.

“About three years ago, I started making comics, and when I joined the group, I really wanted to have workshops. I wanted people who care about comics to look at my work and give me honest critiques.

“As anybody making anything knows, you show it to your friends, you show it to your family, and they go ‘that’s cool,’ and they’re not going to tear apart like you need to be torn apart when you’re learning.”

Bjerg started organizing workshops, and slowly, the group began to meet more frequently. Now, they’re eying expansion.

“Since the pandemic started, we realized that we don’t need to just be Okanagan-based. We can open up and expand to include people from all over the place,” said Tylore King, a member of the group.

“The group has evolved, and we’ve turned into this hodge-podge of different creators, and we all have very different tastes and styles with the comics we create, but lots of different perspectives make lots of good feedback.”

Since many of them can’t meet in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers started a Discord channel where members can share what they’re working on and get the feedback they need.

The group’s members are at different stages in their art and comic journey, but all of them have one goal in mind: to work in the comics industry.

Nathan Nelson has been with the group since it first started, and he currently self-publishes his comics. He said Upstart is important to keep his own creativity fresh and push his art to be better.

“I started out drawing in a room by myself. Now, I have people I work with, people I can get advice from, people who I can share skills and resources with,” he said.

Currently, members of the group are getting ready to participate in a competition where they’ll have a week to come up with, write, draw and colour a four- to eight-page comic based on a prompt. The winning groups will be included in an anthology, which can give artists exposure.

For more information on Upstart Comics, visit their website.

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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Okanagan