Create your own comic book character

Created by Iqra Babar

The Character Creation Zone

Hi! My name’s Iqra, and I’m an autistic, Muslim woman of colour with ADHD. I was diagnosed as autistic and with ADHD at 17, and since then, I feel like I’m more in-touch with myself than I’ve ever been. I’m very proud and open about being a Muslim neurodivergent and a Pakistani woman, and always try to advocate for neurodiversity as much as I can.

I’m also very into comic books and superheroes, and it was pretty blatant that there was a huge gap in comic books when it comes to representation outside of the generic ‘white male’ trope. Interested in celebrating my own identity, and knowing that there are so many other people in the world like me, I knew change needed to be made, and it needed to start right now.

Why I’m creating my own comic

Throughout my childhood, I was rarely able to find in books, films or TV programmes someone who looked or thought like me – the closest character I had was Spider-Man. Seeing that I was able to give voice and visibility to people like myself and other minorities and communities, I took the chance to make this a reality. The feeling of seeing someone who behaves or looks like you in a comic book or TV show is overwhelmingly heart-warming, but also extremely necessary.

It’s so important for children to know that there is a place for them in superhero comics, TV, fantasy novels etc., no matter their heritage, race, ethnicity etc. To know that someone like you can and does exist in superhero, Sci-Fi, fantasy settings is so important to minorities. There is such a diverse range of people that exist and showing just one version of humanity is marginalising to everyone else. I wanted to create characters from all sorts of different backgrounds who are able to kick bad guy butt just as much as the next white male hero. You don’t need to fit into what society says you should be to be a badass. Be unapologetically you!

Comic book character
Image of Sahar © Iqra Babar

Kids need to be able to know that people like them are able to be crime-fighting superheroes, vigilantes, authors, singers, football players, whatever it may be, just as much as the next generic person. No child should be made to feel excluded from the media or that they don’t belong in novels, comics, poems and other books. Diversity and inclusion matter!

My comic ‘Darjin’ and the characters

Zarifa Nasim is an aspiring carpet racer, who’s had to raise herself up from as young as she can remember. She wants to know what it feels like actually to live rather than just to survive. That all goes haywire after her sister’s murder, as everything starts to become an open door of life and death.

It starts off with just two of the main characters, Zari and her best friend Akeno AKA ‘Ken’. The other three, Sahar, Aryaan and Aakashi slowly fall into the plot as it progresses, and the pair soon expand to a very chaotic group of five.

Meet the characters

Comic book character

Zarifa (Often called Zari)

Is autistic and has ADHD; 19 years old; Aspiring carpet racer; Very energetic, hyper; Full of life, very outgoing; Can become impulsive when in tough situations; Hard to focus on things that don’t interest her; Spaces out at the worst times; Tends to speak without thinking; The funny one; The ‘chaotic good’ of the group

Comic book character

Akeno (Often called Ken)

Has vitiligo and anxiety; Also 19 years old; Loves sandboarding; The mum friend; Will put you in your place if you do something wrong; Keeps things to himself; Overthinks a lot; Will do anything for the people he loves; Overprotective; Just needs a hug

Comic book character

Aryaan (Sometimes goes by ‘Yaan’)

He’s dyslexic; 18 years old; G r u m p y; Grumpy for valid reasons; Very affectionate towards children; Has a great level of empathy; Wants to do good but often does so in the wrong way; Loves playing the dhol drum

Comic book character

Sahar

She’s blind but has some form of light perception; Very care free; Little to no sense of safety; Overly impulsive; The oldest but acts like the youngest; You would never think she’s 22 by the way she behaves; Tends to either be child-like or eerily serious; She will mess with you tenfold if you mess with her or her friends though

Comic book character

Aakashi

Non-verbal autistic; 17 years old; The youngest but the most mature; Has a very ‘I’m so done with you’ attitude; Blunt and straightforward; Brutally honest; Pretty assertive; Ambiverted; Deeply caring and thoughtful person but doesn’t know how to show it

What will we create today?

What sort of characters do you want to see in a comic book? Plan, develop and draw your own characters with this guide.

Let’s start!

Look

The front cover of Marvel on the left, on the right is the start of a Spider-man story
Images: © 1972 MARVEL. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
  • Look at the different colours that have been used in the comics shown here! What colours stand out to you the most? (i.e.: bright, pale, darker/brighter colours etc.).
  • What is your favourite colour? Is their costume the same colour or different? Are their powers colourful?
  • Look at their costumes and different things they’re carrying or wearing. What is their clothing or costume made out of? Is it a special material? (i.e. metal, rubber, spandex, fabric, wool, yarn etc.)
  • Do they have special equipment? Special goggles, or gloves, maybe a weapon? Or how about a belt that has cool things on it!
  • What sort of clothing do you like? Does your character like the same? Do they love wearing jackets and jeans, or maybe they have a special suit?
  • Who’s got the wackiest colours, and who’s got the darkest/plainest colours?
  • Who has the coolest/funniest/smartest look? Which is your favourite?

Creating your very own character – The Character Writing

There are a few things to make sure your character has before you start drawing them:

  • What’s their name? Is it a royal name (Such as Charles), an ethnic name (such as Fatimah, which is an Arabic girl’s name), or a whacky made up name (such as King GoggleFart the 2nd)?! Do they have a middle name? Any nick-names? Are they ‘known as’ someone, do they go by another name? (For example: Fatimah was known as ‘The Master Kickboxer’)
  • How old are they? Are they a child, teenager, adult, or elderly? Maybe they’re immortal! Or maybe…they’re already dead, but somehow brought back to life!
  • Ethnicity! Diversity! Is your character from an iconic time period? Maybe they’re from the times of the Pharaoh’s in Egypt! Are they from a tribe, or do they live in a town? Are they an African-American person, a Muslim woman? A Native man?
  • Do they represent something important to you?
  • Do they have any superpowers? Can they shoot fire, or do they have laser eye beams? Are they super strong, or super-fast (faster than the speed of sound?!)
  • The important decision – are they good, or evil? Do they want to help people, or conquer the world? Maybe they want to help the world, by conquering it? Are they a mix of both? Or do they just do their own thing?
  • What type of person are they? Are they similar to you? Maybe they’re hilarious! Or a grouch. They could be funny AND grouchy. Perhaps they’re a very tired and angry character. What if they were a mix of everything?!
  • Try putting a part of yourself into your character – either something physical or part of your personality:
    If you like sports, does your character like it too? Are you and your character both bubbly and fun? Or are you and your character both sleepy? Shy, perhaps? Add parts of yourself to your character!

The Setting

  • Let’s think about the background and culture. Is your character based in the real world (AKA, on Planet Earth), or are they from an alternate reality? Maybe a reality where everything is in Black and White! Or somewhere where the only food that exists is pizza! It’s totally up to you!
  • Do they live in an iconic time period, like the time of Ancient Egypt or Ancient Greece? Maybe they’re from the time of dinosaurs and cavemen! Maybe they live by one of the wonders of the world (such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, the Colosseum etc.)
  • Are they a time traveller? Are they from the past, present, future? Do they mess around with time a lot and like ripping holes in it? Is time travelling their job?
  • My characters come from a completely made-up universe. Is your character based in a made-up world? Does your world have enormous trees? Is it a jungle world? Are there massive waterfalls, beautiful gardens and animals or is it a place that is destroyed?
  • Culture! Does your setting have a cultural touch? Is it inspired by your heritage? (Such as the setting being in Asia, Africa, Native America etc.) Show off your characters in a cultural setting true to you!

Creating your very own character – The Drawing!

  1. Grab a bunch of pictures from the internet that you love, make a little collection of pictures that inspire the look of your character. (For instance, pictures of your favourite characters from TV shows or superheroes in comic books!)
  2. If you find drawing anatomy hard, you can find a reference of a pose on the internet to help you.
  3. You can draw your character either traditionally (the classic pen and paper) or you can use a free drawing app on a phone or tablet.
  4. If you’re using a reference, use it to help make a rough outline of the pose you’re going for (make sure it’s only basic shapes and not detailed so it’s not tracing, and then refine from there.)
  5. Pick out things from your pictures you like the most – is there a certain hairstyle you want your hero to have? Do you want it to have a cultural touch? Do they have fangs, pointy ears, scars on their faces? Perhaps a whacky hair colour like bright red or yellow!
  6. There’s no right or wrong way to do ‘create’ your hero, it’s completely down to you! Whatever you decide to make will turn out great!
  7. Experiment with different colours, face shapes (do they have a square-type face? Is it egg-like? Maybe a heart shape? Do they have blue or purple skin, or a human skin tone?)
  8. Once you’re happy with your character, show off your work. Well done!

Image credits

  • Characters and images of Zafrina, Akeno, Aryaan, Sahor, Aakashi © Iqra Babar