G7 Manga Superheroes

World Leaders as Manga Characters?

Save the Children asked if I'd like to work with them to produce promotional artwork for their health care campaign for use at the 2016 G7 summit in Japan.

Due to Japan's love for comics and anime, Save thought a manga theme would be a good basis for getting their message across at the event. They needed a capable manga style artist who could deliver a type of caricature which was amusing without being insulting with a colourful, detailed and professional finish. The artwork needed to be suitable for both large scale print as well as online media.

After an initial conference call with the Save team, the following brief was given to me along with a few sample images to help explain the idea and requirments:

"7 colour drawings, individual full-length caricatures of each of the G7 leaders (not EU representatives) as a manga style superheroes. These should be varying styles, avoiding anything that would be insulting, sexist, racist in the way they are represented.

We are interested in the message that they should be “Universal Health Coverage superheroes” so maybe explore if there is a way of representing health in each of their drawings.

The drawings should be suitable to be provided to media as quality artwork to print and also to be printed life-size as cardboard cut-outs. The printing will be done in Japan.

We also want to have a single drawing of the 7, a dynamic drawing which we can provide to media and use on websites etc.

It would be great to have this titled Be UHC Superheroes but in a way which could be cropped out if picture editors or we chose to."

The Results:

Initial Drawing: Starting with the UK's David Cameron. These are a few ideas that were suggested such as adding a cape, more realistic body proportions, or a squished 'chibi' body. Once the style was agreed (in this case enlarging the head somewhat to make it more caricature-like) the other 6 leader drawings would follow.

Character Lineup: The politicians heights were considered and shown here. From left to right: Francois Hollande (France), Shinzo Abe (Japan), David Cameron (United Kingdom), Barrack Obama (United States), Justin Trudeau (Canada), Matteo Renzi (Italy), Angela Merkel (Germany).

Finished G7 Leaders: Coloured artwork to be used for the cardboard cut-outs as well as promotional material.

Cardboard Cut-outs: Photos featuring the printed characters at the G7 Summit.

Initial Mock up: Composite character arrangment draft

Pencil drawing: Composite artwork line art prior to inking and colouring.

Final Composite image: This was used for online promotion.

The character art sucessfully helped gain coverage on news platforms such as The New York Post, The Guardian, Le Huffington Post and Japan's Buzz Feed and The Bangkok Post. Athan News site featured a video of the cut-outs and some interesting opinions were shared on Quora in responce to "What do you think of the cardboard Manga superhero depictions of the world leaders meeting at the G7 summit in Japan?"


  • Sam Kennedy,
    Senior Campaigns Advisor, Save the Children

    Hi Ben, Thank you again for your recent work for us. You understood the brief and delivered it as agreed- The balance was about right in terms of caricature and hagiography. They do look funny but not insulting to them. Given the nervousness of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was good they were not too stupid-looking. The quality of work was very high and we're very pleased with it. You responded to all feedback and helped us understand design choices you had made and the impact of any changes on the delivery of the project. In addition, we think the price was good value and when it became clear that more work was involved than initially anticipated we were happy to pay a bit more. The team here are really pleased with the pick-up. As my director put it to us at the end of last week, your designs really helped this story break out from technical coverage to Buzzfeed Japan type territory. Best wishes, Sam

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