If you don't see it, make it! These Asian comic artists are taking charge of telling their own stories

"When I first started doing comics, I wasn't seeing a lot of Asian voices." That's why Althea Balmes started a comics workshop for young Asian artists.

If you grew up in an immigrant family, these comics are for you

If you don't see it, make it: These Asian comic artists are creating their own worlds

6 years ago
Duration 3:48
For anyone who’s grown up in an immigrant family, these comics are for you

A comic book can be about anything — and yet, there are so many stories that never get told. It's a fact that bothered Toronto artist and educator Althea Balmes. Where was the diversity? "When I first started doing comics, I wasn't seeing a lot of Asian voices," Balmes, who's the illustrator and co-creator of Kwentong Bayan, tells CBC Arts. That's why she decided to create a space where artists could come together and make comics about their own experiences. The result is the Comic-Making Workshop + Residency, a place that encourages young Asian artists to express themselves and develop their own artistic voices.

Workshop participants have published comic books that speak about love and the way it's expressed in different cultures. They've written stories about body positivity and the feeling of not belonging. Their narratives explore the negotiations that come with being from an immigrant family — the things that affect their daily emotional, social and family life. And on top of everything, the workshop is now a place for them to bond and form their own community. 

(CBC Arts)

In this video, we hang out with some of the kids from the workshop, who are also part of a comic-making residency program called the Cup Doodle Project. They reveal what this welcoming creative space has meant for them and their work — and for anyone interested, they're accepting new members! The workshop has teamed up with the Toronto Public Library for comic meet-ups (Cup Doodle Project will also meet here regularly). The event is called "Comics/Komiks Meet-Up" and it happens on Mondays until October 30.

Watch Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 12:30 a.m. (1 NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4NT) on CBC Television.


April Aliermo is a Filipinx-Canadian musician, songwriter, entrepreneur and educator based out of Toronto. She plays bass and co-writes music and lyrics for Hooded Fang and Phèdre. She strives to build conscious communities while having the time of her life.