Coping, With Comics, in the Time of Coronavirus

Students and professors are creating comics as they deal with the current pandemic.

Story by

Lori Friedman

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Comics drawn by Alea Oakman

Alea Oakman is drawing and sharing comics that show how the coronavirus pandemic has changed student life. 

Some Lehigh students and faculty are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by drawing and sharing comics. What is it about this form that is especially useful when people are quarantined inside their homes and away from others?

Winnie Gu ’19, who graduated with an art degree and is pursuing a graduate degree in the College of Education, says the form helps her bring “positivity to the community during this stressful time.”

“It’s a way to make each day a little different than the day before,” she says. 

Before the pandemic, Gu’s comics focused on cultural identity. She still incorporates this aspect into her comics related to the pandemic, which she is posting on her Instagram account @thirdculturechinese.

“I use comics to tell my story and share what it's like to be an international student at Lehigh,” she says.

Providing some levity amidst the seriousness of the times is part of Alea Oakman’s goal in drawing and sharing comics that relate to how the pandemic has changed student life.

“My goal with these comics is to bring a little bit of light to people,” says Oakman ’20, a student in the IDEAS program studying design. “When I was a kid, I loved how the cartoon version of Lizzie McGuire showed what she was really thinking. I wanted a cute cartoon version of myself to better communicate my experiences, so I created Oakling, my cartoon alter-ego. Making illustrations of Oakling really helps me to process what is going on in my life because I have to step outside myself to see it. By taking a third-person perspective, I am better able to see that the scale of the problems I face is so much smaller than it seems.”

Comic drawn by Amy Forsyth

Amy Forsyth, associate professor of design, is drawing comics that document her daily life while social distancing.

She adds: “Particularly with this crisis, I have a lot more time on my hands to be creative. Documenting the funny, light-hearted moments helps me to stay focused on the good things rather than on the chaos and losing the end of my senior year.”

Ann Fink, neuroscientist, comic book artist and professor in Lehigh’s Department of Biological Sciences, uses comic-book drawing extensively in her classroom.

Fink, who teaches biology and the neuroscience of trauma to non-majors, shares her own comics on her Instagram @yourbrainoncomics. Her most recent comics focus on encouraging people to lower expectations of themselves to be productive in stressful times.

Amy Forsyth, associate professor of design, draws her own comics that document her daily life while social distancing and has also assigned a similar project to her students.

“It is a nice way to address the weirdness of it all,” says Forsyth.

Story by

Lori Friedman

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