The year-long Durham Comics Project (DCP) kicked off in April 2013 during the Comics Fest. Founder Amy Godfrey, Children’s Librarian and co-creator of Comics Fest, sought to capture the essence of Durham as a community by teaching people how to tell their stories through pictures. Since then, DCP has both hosted and attended a variety of events, from monthly Drink & Draws to workshops, attracting participants ranging in age from 8 to 70.
“People don’t need to be technically trained artists to tell stories through comics,” said Godfrey. “Moreover, being a technically trained artist doesn’t mean someone will be good at it. The essence of a good comic is a good story, and we believe everyone has a good story in them.”
The DCP has been busy since last spring’s debut. The first Drink & Draw began in April and continues to meet every third Wednesday of the month at either Full-Steam Brewery or Cocoa Cinnamon. Godfrey encourages people who may be looking for something more laid back and less structured to begin with these monthly events, which have become extremely popular. DCP has also produced several Comics Workshops at various the library locations, aimed at providing novices with the tools to begin creating comics.
In addition to the events and workshops, Godfrey created a web site, durhamcomicsproject.org, to provide further opportunities to encourage residents to submit a comic. Participants can be any age and do not have to participate in other DCP events; all that Godfrey requests is that the short comic runs between one and six pages and is a true story from life events. The collection of these completed nonfiction comics has been one of the most challenging aspects so far for the project. While DCP has collected more than 50 comics, not all are nonfiction and so will not be included in the final count. Many people have started a comic, and Godfrey hopes that they will complete them prior to the project’s end.
DCP has also traveled to festivals around the community, beginning with the Eno River Fest in July 2013. The fest provided an opportunity to unveil the Comics Contraption, a device specially planned for festivals and events around Durham. The contraption allows space for two empty squares with the idea that each person who visits draws the next panel in the story, resulting in a comic that has been created by hundreds of different people. On its debut endeavor, the Comics Contraption enticed 316 people to draw 121 panels, with many panels coming from group efforts. Each comic from the contraption’s outings is digitized and featured on the web site.
Godfrey plans to celebrate the end of the project during the fourth annual Comics Fest, tentatively scheduled for either late October or early November. The ultimate goal is to publish an anthology of the collected comics. Even once the year-long project is officially over, Godfrey doesn’t believe it will disappear. Both the Drink & Draw evenings and the Comics Contraption have been so popular that she would like to see them continue to function on a somewhat lighter schedule.
When asked about her favorite experience of the project thus far, Godfrey noted, “I don’t have one favorite experience. The whole thing has been great. I love comics; I love teaching people to make comics; I love community art. It’s been a lot of fun, and community response has been great. I am really thankful to the Friends of the Durham Library for giving me the opportunity to do this project.”
DCP will be accepting submissions until May 31, 2014. To find out more information about the project or how to submit a comic, visit the DCP blog at durhamcomicsproject.org.