Now Or Never

Just do the thing! Six years later, I finally taught kids to make comics

Ben Shannon and Steve Manale finally fulfilled the requirement of their Ontario Arts Council grant by teaching a hands-on workshop for young people exploring the art of making and writing comics.

After years of shame, my debt has been paid

Six years ago, Ben Shannon, right, and Steve Manale, left, received an Ontario Arts Council grant to teach a comics workshop and they had been putting it off ever since. (Naomi Woodman/Otter Art Club)

My name is Ben Shannon. I'm the art director for CBC Radio Digital and I have a giant, shameful secret. *Deep breath.*

My friend Steve Manale and I were six years overdue on an Ontario Arts Council grant to teach a comics workshop. And they never let us forget it.

Every year like clockwork, I get an email from the OAC. The moment I see it in my inbox, my heart sinks. It might sound masochistic, but after reading it, I mark it as unread and then leave it in my inbox all year. It's a constant reminder of what a giant disappointment I am to someone.

I know you're probably wondering, "How does this guy sleep at night?" The answer is not very well, which is exactly why Manale and I got off our butts, grabbed a recorder and hit the road. 

We decided to finally stop hiding our shame and take care of this unfinished business once and for all.

Steve Manale, left, and Ben Shannon, behind the wheel, head to Orillia, Ont., to teach their comics workshop. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Right out of the gate, we hit a pretty big snag. In the six years we'd been lollygagging, the high school where we were originally supposed to teach our class had been demolished.

Thankfully, Naomi Woodman and Travis Shilling, who run the Otter Art Club in Orillia, Ont., gave our course a new home. 

Finally teaching this class was a delight and the students were creative and talented young artists. We had such a wonderful time that we've been talking with Woodman and Shilling about returning to teach another workshop in the fall.

I can't tell you what a relief it has been to finally have this long past due debt in our rearview mirror. I can't believe how much sleep we lost worrying about this project and how easy it was to do once we finally put our backs into it.

It even inspired me to create this comic: 

Ben Shannon created a comic about the moment he and Steve Manale finally decided to teach the comics workshop. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Thank you Now or Never for inspiring us to finally grow up a little and do the right thing. I'm going to sleep like a log tonight! 

Want to create your own comic? Download the Now or Never comic template and read our create-your-own-comics guide below!

Read Now or Never's Quick Guide to Making a Four Panel Comic, then download the comics template to make your very own. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

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