Working with Brands to Tell Stories in Comic Strips

Ron Chan of Periscope Studios in Portland, Ore. recently told the story of a couple riding across the country when the check engine light turned on in their RV. This type of story is unusual when you look at his gallery of comics and illustration, which features zombies, X-Men, aliens and superheroes.  But when you dig into his bio a little deeper, you’ll find Chan draws comics for big brands including HP, Dell and Nike in addition to his work with more traditional comic publishers such as Dark Horse.

Big brands use comics to tell their stories in a digestible, engaging and visual way and they’re hiring comic artists like Chan to continue creating this digital content. Freightliner Custom Chassis wanted to tell a story about their customer service for RV owners and they hired Chan to create that comic strip.

We caught up with Ron Chan and asked him about working with brands to tell their story in comics and the tools he used to create the FCCC comic.

1.       Why should brands use comics to tell their stories?

Comics done right is a very effective and efficient form of communication. They're eye-catching and can deliver complex concepts in a very easily digested form.

2.       How do freelance comic artists begin working with brands?

I'm not sure, actually. Most of career has kind of happened by accident! One job leads to another and once contact to the next. I tend to split my work about 50/50 between drawing comics and doing advertising and commercial art, so bringing the two together seems natural.

3.       What is the most important thing to remember when working on comics for business clients?

Comics have some unique storytelling conventions and unique storytelling rules. Working for comic book companies, most everybody knows these, but when you're working for business clients, some may understand comic storytelling, and some may not. This FCCC comic was quite a breeze to illustrate, as the client and art directors I was working with had a good grasp of what would work.

4.       How does your process change between your corporate work and your personal work?

Drawing-wise, not a lot, actually. The process still involves a rough sketch, polished line art, and finished colors, but with a client, I will check in for approval at each phase before moving on to the next one.

5.       What tools did you use to draw the FCCC comic?

This comic, as well as most of my work, was done all digitally. Hardware-wise, I use a Cintiq 13HD or a Cintiq Companion (depending on whether I'm at home or at the office). For software, I use Manga Studio 5 for the drawing and color setup phase, and then Photoshop for the final rendering and color adjustments.

6.       What is the first question you ask when you’re taking on a new client?

Right down to the nitty gritty! What do you need drawn, how long do I have to draw it, and what is your budget?