'Step One' - Misconceptions about Alcoholic Anonymous
Prof. Shelley Wall¹
Lay public, recovery groups
Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Pen and Ink
This is a graphical short story about the struggles of a young alcoholic reaching out for help, and overcoming her worries with AA (Alcoholic Anonymous). This short story aims to clarify common misconceptions about AA, regarding its practices, ideologies, and support system. Background research on the topic was conducted from published literature on AA, from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and from personal testimonies. The finished story was rendered using pen and ink, and watercolour.
¹Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto
The topic of alcoholism and self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) interested me, as it bordered on the precipice between faith and healthcare, and as a consequence is often shunned or misconstrued in the modern society by secular and religious alike. With such a nuanced topic, a nuanced communications medium such as graphic medicine was required to put forth any sensible discussion. Background research was done through a combination of AA's resources (printed literature / web resources), and a plethora of anonymous testimonies online.
2. Establishing Narrative
First, main themes were established - that of exploring societal concerns about AA and its response toward those concerns. The perspective of the story was set, following a disheveled young woman reluctantly attending an AA meeting for the first time. To establish a full story, a textual treatment was first written, from which an initial script was developed, accompanied by simplified thumbnails to block in panels and pages for the comic.
Storyboard drafts were created based on the established script and thumbnails. The drafts were iterated upon weekly through discussions and suggestions with peers and project supervisor. The script was compacted, parsed and embedded into the storyboard.
To create a convincing, congruent story, a cast of main and supporting characters were developed, with distinct looks and personalities.
5. Style and Format
The final deliverable was to be a small printed booklet format (5.5'' x 8.5''), and alternatively as a webcomic in double-page spread format. The graphical style was set to be a tense, emotional hatched style with strong tonal contrast and lighting. Two typefaces were chosen, for thoughts and speech respectively.
The final rendering approach was through traditional pen and ink hatching, followed by subdued digital tonal wash in Photoshop to enhance depth. The cover page was lightly tinted with colour to set it apart without contrasting it strongly against the body of the comic. The comic was printed in booklet format and bound through "saddle-stitch" stapling.
Daily Reflections: A Book of Reflections by A.A. Members for A.A. Members. New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 2002.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, 1984.