Comics for the University of Manchester UCU




Comics for the 2019-20 nation-wide UCU strikes.

In November of 2019, the University of Manchester’s University and College Union announced they’d be supporting a nation-wide strike to defend pensions, increase pay equality, and reduce casualisation and excessive workloads. Around 65 Universities across the UK took part in this industrial action.


Conveying the strike's aims

The multi-faceted nature of the issues at the heart of the dispute combined with the many organisations involved - the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK) - were not easy for students to grasp.  This is why Manchester University's UCU wanted to create catchy media to explain to students the reasons why their lecturers ad teachers were taking strike action.


Dr Michael Sanders got in touch with me and we developed a series of cartoons about the problems that the strike intended to solve. The stories, all written by Sanders, introduced different concepts translated by me into DIN A5 monochrome sheets, that were printed and distributed across campus.

The first two stories we created were two individual comics. The first one, published in Late November, shows how unfair the challenges different members of staff face on a daily basis. A second one, with two characters that were developed later, explains the problem staff faced with WAM (Work Allocation Management).



Another wave of comics

Later in December, Sanders came up with the idea of a series of comics, which would be released almost weekly, titled “UCU vs The Faceless Men”. These would feature the three organisations formerly mentioned, represented as “The Faceless”, and other characters as regular members of staff. The first of these can be seen at the top of this page. Below is Part 2 of “UCU vs The Faceless Men” and another cartoon that was included in different messages by UCU.

The strike, expected to finish by December, had to unfortunately be extended until January. Sanders and I kept working on a rebranded “UCU vs The Faceless”, with now more directive advice for students and staff. Each of the three new double-sided comics, which follow the same aesthetic and characters, include ideas on how to help strikers.


These illustrations had to be developed very quickly because of the rapid evolution of the strike and the importance of relevant content. By working with Procreate for iPad and Adobe Photoshop 2020, I was able to produce most of these with less than a two day notice.

In total, over 20,000 physical copies of my illustrations were printed and distributed around campus. My comics were also shared online, mainly via Twitter, and staff from other UCUs used my content to promote and create awareness about the strike. Below are some pictures of the physical comics at the University of Manchester.



Dr Michael Sanders, Manchester University University and College Union, Julia Lebrero, Inès Boivin, Carolina Fuchs