Nick Johnson

Welcome to the PENCILTOWN Podcast! Here in PENCILTOWN we examine the craft of storytelling through comics, films, book, poetry, wherever our curiosity may take us. Our ultimate goal is to bring our discoveries back into the world of comics to enrich our storytelling and create more emotional and engaging narratives.

All Episodes

While we chip away at the second season of PENCILTOWN, we thought it would be fun to wrap up our first season by rifling through our mailbag, sharing a few storytelling lessons we learned over the past year, and most importantly, by opening up the floor to hear from fellow artists in the comic community, in an episode segment we like to call Pencil-TOWN HALL! Tune in to hear sage wisdom on comic storytelling, the production process, and ways to relieve the pressure we sometimes place on ourselves when making work. We put a call out to some of our favourite creators in the indie comic scene in Alberta and the enthusiastic response had us brimming with gratitude. There's so much here to teach and inspire and we thank our contributors oh-so-much for making this such a special episode! The creators featured on the episode are: Gord Cummings, Cam Hayden, Jillian Dolan, Chad Colpitts, Jarret Hartnell, Kelly Porteous, Aaron Navrady, Zack Schuster.  For comments and episode suggestions, you can contact the pod on twitter: @penciltownpod - or via email: You can view all of the work and creators mentioned on our show notes page.


Feb 4

1 hr 22 min

This is a very special BONUS episode of the Penciltown Bump-In, being released in conjunction with THOUGHT BUBBLE FESTIVAL 2020, happening from November 9th to November 15th. Host NICK JOHNSON (also exhibiting at the show) will catch up with one of his cohorts from the Masters in Comics and Graphic Novel program, REBECCA ELISE. They also discuss the inspiration, concept and process for her latest comic release THE GORGON. Rebecca is an artist, illustrator and comics creator from Leeds, UK. She graduated from the University of Reading with a BA in Fine Art and English Literature in 2017 and went on to complete a Masters in Comics and Graphic Novels at the University of Dundee in 2020. Her work can be found online at and she can be reached on Twitter: @RebeccaElysium and Instagram: @rebeccaelysium


Nov 2020

54 min 8 sec

Finishing off their first season with a bang, the PENCILTOWN crew discuss strategies for creating compelling characters that propel a story forward. How can we create characters that the audience can relate to, care about, and are compelled to follow through to the end of the journey? How do we create characters who aren't stereotypes and cliches? After discussing strategies for writing characters, they delve into the artistic process to see how artists can bring them to life through shape, performance, and more. They share examples of how they have created characters in their own works, as well as characters and creative teams throughout pop culture that have resonated with them. What does it all have to do with an impending Matter Eater Lad film? And will the fellas get drawn into yet another Star Wars debate? Tune in to find out!


Oct 2020

2 hr 5 min

The PENCILTOWN crew dives into the comic-making process from beginning to end! They tackle idea generation, scripting, visual thumbnails, colours and more, revealing not just HOW they make comics but WHY they do it this way! Is there one tried and true method?  Nick kicks it all off by asking what is purported to be the silliest of all questions: "Where do your ideas come from?" But will it prove to be the most important question? As they embark on their discussion, are these gentleman entering an enormous sandbox, or an endless kitty litter box? Is lightning any use without the bottle that captures it? What are the most challenging, fun and important parts of the process?  Give the episode a listen to find out the answers to these questions and more! We would love to hear from you listeners, so if you have any comments, episode suggestions, or would like to share your unique process for making comics, you can contact the pod on Twitter: @penciltownpod – or via email: the Show notes are available at


Jul 2020

2 hr 1 min

On today’s mini-episode, Nick will be “bumping into” JILLIAN FLECK who was kind enough to share some hobbies, obsessions and recommendations, as well as some insight on how to prevent burnout, overcome creative roadblocks, and strategies for maintaining an artist’s mental health. They both share many laughs while admiring the many dogs that roam the PENCILTOWN streets and reveal where to gain inspiration from outside of comics. The fun and inspiring episode ran a little longer than intended, but it is so damn good, we couldn’t imagine trimming anything. Not even the part where Nick talks about burying himself up to his neck! Enjoy! A multidisciplinary artist and storyteller, JILLIAN FLECK specializes in comics. Their graphic novel Lake Jehovah, an epic tale of love, loss, and hooking up during the apocalypse, was published by Conundrum Press in 2016. Jillian's comics have been included in anthologies such as Dirty Diamonds and Dirty Rotten Comics, featured by the online comic magazine Comics Workbook, and they recently published an academic article in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. Their work can be found online at and on Instagram @jillian.fleck For comments and episode suggestions, you can contact the pod on Twitter @penciltownpod – or via email: the Show notes are available at

Jul 2020

36 min 28 sec

In the sequel to their smash first episode on THEME, the Penciltown crew continue their discussion, focusing on how a Theme can be used throughout the creative process to guide us through a story. They explore how it can be used to develop, setting, characters and endings, and Jason takes us down a Hotel Calfornia-esque cul-de-sac to discuss idea factories. And what does this all have to do with an ice-cold fish slap in the face? Tune in to find out! For comments and episode suggestions, you can contact the pod on twitter: @penciltownpod - or via email: Show notes are available at

Jul 2020

1 hr 5 min

The Penciltown Bump-In is a mini episode where we will be “bumping into” our fellow storytellers on the busy streets of Penciltown. We’ll take a few minutes to catch up, see what they’re up to, who they’ve been working with, what they’ve been obsessing over and inspired by, and they might just be willing to share some of the exciting narrative discoveries they have made of late. Our first guest is Romanian-Canadian cartoonist Maria Stoian. Her comics have appeared in the New Yorker, The Nib, and print anthologies such as Drawing Power. Her graphic novel, Take It As a Compliment, is a collection of real-life stories of sexual violence. Maria’s work can be found online on Instagram: @maria_stoian, and much of her comic work can be found at

Jul 2020

18 min 46 sec

For their first deep-dive into storytelling, the PENCILTOWN crew tackle the subject of THEME. They spend some time chasing its elusive definition, attempt to determine what a theme really is, and what it isn't. They discuss if it's important for every creator to have a theme when starting their project and when it should be integrated into the creative process.  Our conversation runs so long that we ended up splitting it into two episodes, the second of which will explore how we can use theme to structure our story. As usual, we wrap things up with the PENCILTOWN Spotlight, recommending three inspirational works to get the creative blood pumping. For comments and episode suggestions, you can contact the pod on twitter: @penciltownpod - or via email: Show notes are available at

Jun 2020

57 min 18 sec

Welcome to the inaugural episode of the PENCILTOWN podcast! In this introductory episode we will be exploring the PENCILTOWN mission statement, the very purpose behind the pod's existence, who it is designed for, the format of future episodes, as well as upcoming topics. Hosts Nick Johnson, Jason Mehmel and Sho Uehara reveal their secret origins, highlighting the moments that developed their love of story and brought them to this point in their practice as storytellers.  We wrap things up with our first PENCILTOWN SPOTLIGHT wherein we recommend some creative works that have been a huge inspiration to us, and serve as great examples of how to tell a story right. For comments and episode suggestions, you can contact the pod on twitter: @penciltownpod - or via email: Show notes are available at

May 2020

55 min 11 sec