Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weekly Water Inspiration: Habibi by Craig Thompson

In honor of this book's official release this week, I chose Habibi by Craig Thompson as the topic for my Weekly Water Inspiration post. At nearly 700 pages, Habibi is a fairy tale with its roots in reality-- a 1,001 Nights-inspired journey through a culturally Islamic fictitious landscape in which two escaped child slaves navigate their way through barren deserts and cluttered cityscapes. Throughout the narrative, Dodola (named for a rain goddess) and Zam (named for the stream that saved Ishmael and his mother from dying of thirst) are influenced by water, or a lack thereof. Their lives together in the desert region almost entirely revolve around finding water, which Zam is responsible for, and he gets into the practice of trading water for food in nearby villages and with traveling caravans-- proof that water is a valuable commodity. The big city in this fictitious land has built a dam, which is a significant source of prosperity, but it also has the same issues with water that many major developing cities do, and capitalizes on people's lack of water by bottling it in a plant (kind of the same thing we do.) And at one point in the story, Dodola uses water to bargain for her freedom-- in this sense, it is the most valuable thing in the world.

I was lucky enough to be able to see Craig Thompson speak twice this past weekend at events for the Brooklyn Book Festival-- first at an independent bookstore in Greenpoint, and the next day at a panel discussion at the festival's Borough Hall location. In both instances, he referenced water and modern-day water crisis issues as a main theme throughout the story. At the independent bookstore event, he went into more detail about the significance of water in this and his other works. Here are some quotes from his talk:

[Please bear in mind that I am paraphrasing from notes and quotes I jotted down that night.]

"All my stories have a water theme. Chunky Rice was the ocean, Blankets was snow... it just seemed natural that a larger water crisis would be the next thing."

"My father was a plumber-- he instilled in us that water is a very precious resource..."

"Maybe in America it is easier to live in denial about the water crisis..."

"Drought is a huge thing: not only ecological drought, but emotional, sexual, and creative drought as well."

On a personal note, Craig Thompson is one of my graphic novel heroes and it was amazing to be able to see him and also to meet him during the book signing portion of Saturday night's event. He is wonderfully talented, and I would highly recommend Habibi. Check out his other books, too: Goodbye, Chunky Rice, Blankets and Carnet de Voyage (Blankets is my favorite.)

To learn more about Craig Thompson, his process (all hand-drawn, no Photoshopping!), and his books, visit:

I hope this helps you guys get some inspiration, and that you're experiencing the opposite of a creative drought.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Brianna's Revision

Hey all!

So I've thought about it, and I am revising my idea so Kelsey's and mine won't be so similar-- that way everyone has a unique story to tell from their own perspective. But I am not entirely moving away from my original intent. I am still really interested in who "owns" water and its byproducts (as Kelsey mentioned, "water barons" are beginning to corner the market of privatizing water.) But something else that interests me, as an extension of this, is the products and marketing of those products that would appear in a world where clean water is completely privately owned. I mentioned this in my previous post as something I was thinking about when designing my world, and now instead of this being a backdrop, I would like it to be the focus of my comics.

Basically, I would like to design a series of very short (1-3 pages each) "storyboards" for commercials, or magazine/periodical advertisements, for products related to water and water itself. This is included, but not limited to:
- A commercial for a pharmaceutical treatment for a waterborne disease like dysentery or cholera, similar to advertisements we see today.
- An advertisement for a home desalination filter, similar to the Brita filters of today.
- An commercial that is pro-privatized water, or for a private "Water baron" company
- A grocery store specials/pharmacy coupon page of various products related to water or other food whose prices have skyrocketed because of privatized water needed for production.

I would like to do several and insert them as interludes between everyone's stories-- kind of like each story is a TV program and these are the commercials.

I think this especially interests me because, as a graphic designer, I am genuinely interested in the ethics involved in my profession and how designers can work to change the status quo or perpetuate it. In this case, designing fake advertising is working against the trend that the advertising itself is trying to promote.

Let me know if you think this is a good idea to dive into. I look forward to reading everyone else's progress and ideas!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brianna's Idea

This idea is very similar to the one Kelsey just posted, so I may end up switching, but Kelsey, maybe there's a way that we can go different ways with the same idea.

Main Idea:
For my comic, I chose the prompt: "Water is the oil of the 21st century." There are many ways to interpret this, but or my purposes, "water is the oil of the 21st century" is largely about the commodification of water-- turning water, and its effects and by-products, into products for consumers, manufactured and sold by private industries. To a certain extent, this has already happened: bottled water is everywhere in the U.S. (so much so that anti-bottled water products, such as home filters and reusable metal bottles, are also everywhere.) Coke and Pepsi are even in the game with their own brands of bottled water. But, for the majority of people, water is still something regulated and supplied to homes by municipal governments. Water as a natural resource has not been privatized the same way that oil as a natural resource has been. But what would happen if the crisis for fresh water became too massive and expensive for local governments to handle, and larger private corporations stepped in to fill that role for people?

The story I want to tell takes place after the privatization of water in America-- long enough after that people have generally accepted this new system, but not long enough for everyone to have forgotten what it was like before the system was in place. I want my story to be not so much a narrative as a glimpse into everyday life, so I'm asking myself questions like this:
- In a world where fresh water is incredibly scarce, what would we eat and drink (and how much would it cost)?
- What would we do to obtain fresh water-- including desalination, buying from private companies, or risk digging your own well?
- What products would be developed and marketed in this age? (This one is especially interesting to me.)
- In a world where more people in developed nations suffer from waterborne diseases, how would the healthcare community (including pharmaceutical companies) respond? How would the government respond?
- Would this world be a kind of barren landscape in which everyone felt the effects of the water scarcity, or would some people have enough money and resources that they are able to live normally?
- What role would technology play in everyday life as well as water?

I want all of these details to be really hammered out, because I want them to appear completely commonplace for the characters, and jarring for the readers.

Within this backdrop, there is a small faction of people who have rejected the system that has been set up and live outside society, hunting for fresh water. The protagonist in this story is not one of these people, but she had a relationship with someone who is, and he contacts her. She has to make a decision about whether she wants to continue living the way she lives now, or leave to join him and the others. I want the ending to be ambiguous.

So I will generate some more ideas in the next couple days, and/or maybe Kelsey and I can work something out about our ideas being so similar. I'll also have some sketches later on this week. Until then, I'm looking forward to hearing everyone else's ideas!


A Rough Idea

Hi all,

I'm pretty excited for this project, but I have to admit, I have not had as much time to work on it as I would have liked. The downside to having a real-person job I suppose. I wanted to have a complete script, some sense of length, and maybe some rough layout sketches...but I'm just not there yet. I do have a rough concept though. I will be going with the "water is the oil of the 21st century" prompt.

It will open with a very bored looking man at a gas station. Soon a boy will come by on his bike/skateboard/scooter (not sure which...i originally thought bike, but man I hate drawing bikes) and they will exchange conversation about how no one comes by the gas station any more. The boy will have many empty containers on his back. He will scoot along and get at the end of a long line. As we pan toward the front of the line we will learn that he is in line at the water pump with a bunch of other scraggly thirsty people, and some big man in a fancy suit will be smiling as he jacks up the water prices.

One of the biggest problems in the world today is that many people do not have access to clean drinking water, especially in less fortunate areas. There is also a concern for the future about who "owns" the water. Even today, the term water baron is already in use, to describe the privatization of water rights. I have included an excerpt from below:

Cholera and the Age of the Water Barons
February 3, 2003 — The explosive growth of three private water utility companies in the last 10 years raises fears that mankind may be losing control of its most vital resource to a handful of monopolistic corporations. In Europe and North America, analysts predict that within the next 15 years these companies will control 65 percent to 75 percent of what are now public waterworks. The companies have worked closely with the World Bank and other international financial institutions to gain a foothold on every continent. They aggressively lobby for legislation and trade laws to force cities to privatize their water and set the agenda for debate on solutions to the world's increasing water scarcity. The companies argue they are more efficient and cheaper than public utilities. Critics say they are predatory capitalists that ultimately plan to control the world's water resources and drive up prices even as the gap between rich and poor widens. The fear is that accountability will vanish, and the world will lose control of its source of life.

Just a little something to give a bit of background to my concept. Now I just need to find a little more time to solidify my ideas and work out the details. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone else's ideas!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Welcome to the blog for a collaborative comic project between four friends about one very important subject: water.

Why water? Well, though most of earth is covered in it, less than one percent of that is usable by humans, and we're using (and abusing) it fast. Water is essential to all life, but one billion people across the globe don't have access to safe, clean water-- and the constant need for it keeps many (mostly women and girls) from pursuing other goals like school or a job. Water is a health issue, an economic issue, an environmental issue, a human issue.

And we want to help. But since we're not doctors or engineers, we've decided to use the skills we do have as designers, illustrators, and creative thinkers to communicate sides of this problem through a collection of comics.

This blog will feature our comics as we work on them, from brainstorming to the final product, along with interesting facts, research and inspiration about the topic of water. Check back often to see what's new, and enjoy!