Over the past few months I’ve started to collect comics and graphic novels that document the experience of COVID-19 in various communities. Most of these books are anthologies – collections drawing together vignettes of life from the perspective of people from all walks of life. There is something about how COVID-19 has permeated the everydayness of life in all manner of places and situations around the world that lends itself to this format, much as photo essays or books might have in the past.
In this post, I’ve collated some of the ones I’ve collected so far, as well as links to others who are using the graphic medium of comics to engage creatively and constructively with this particular time and place. Some of this will feed into the comics and social good project, if I can find time out of other things to really get stuck into that.
Lockdown: Tales from Aotearoa (2020)
Creators: Various artists
Publisher: Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhet?
This hardcover anthology from Aotearoa New Zealand documents a number of short stories about the experience of New Zealanders during the first long lockdown in March-May 2020. It has work by a number of well-known New Zealand graphic and comic artists, each with their own style and take of how lockdown affected them and the communities around them.
Available from good bookshops and online retailers or from the link below:
The bumper Toby Morris & Siouxsie Wiles Covid-19 box set (2021)
Creators: Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles
Publisher: The Spinoff
The complete collection of microbiologist, Siouxsie Wiles, and cartoonist, Toby Morris’s cartoons and graphics that help explain what COVID-19 is, how it is transmitted, and how to respond to it. Definitely a good example of Graphic Medicine.
The images in this collection are released under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence. For a collection of the te reo M?ori translated versions, see here.
COVID Chronicles (2020)
Creators: Ethan Sacks, Dalibor Talajic and Lee Loughridge
Publisher: Upshot/AWA Studios
Originally published as a serialized web comic on NBC News’ website, this collection brings together stories from the medical front lines – doctors, nurses, patients, as well as the experiences of journalists and others trying to come to grips with COVID-19 as its effects become known.
The first episode is available through AWA Studies website: https://awastudios.net/series/covid-chronicles/
The NBC web series is available here: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/covid-chronicles-series
Superheroes in the Fight Against COVID-19 Misinformation (2021)
Creators: Sathyaraj Ventatesan and A. David Lewis
Publisher: Caravan Magazine
An article looking at how comic creators have used their medium to engage the public creatively to communicate both trustworthy information about COVID-19, as well as countering misinformation about the virus. There is a focus on Indian comic creators, along with some wider discussion about graphic medicine.
Ventatesan, Sathyaraj , and A. David Lewis. “Superheroes in the Fight against Covid-19 Misinformation.” Caravan Magazine (2021). Published electronically 10 February 2021. https://caravanmagazine.in/health/superheroes-in-the-fight-against-covid19-misinformation.
Graphic medicine refers to the intersection of comics and the discourse of health, illness, and wellness. It includes a range of materials including hand-drawn posters, cartoons, sequential and single-paneled drawn images, visual case studies, medical instruction and tools, or narrated medical infographics, disseminated through traditional platforms like print and non-traditional platforms like social media. As a sub-field of health humanities—an interdisciplinary field that draws on arts and humanities in its approach to the experience of health, illness, wellbeing—graphic medicine during a pandemic plays multiple roles: as a witness to an unfolding crisis, as a health literacy tool, and as a medium which captures the intricacies of contemporary life.“Superheroes in the Fight Against COVID-19 Misinformation” by Sathyaraj Ventatesan and A. David Lewis (posted 02/10/21)
COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology (2021)
Editors: Kendra Boileau and Rich Johnson
Publisher: Graphic Mundi
This volume collects over sixty different short comics from around the world focusing on myriad experiences on COVID-19 in 2020.
From the publisher’s blurb:
At times heartbreaking and at others hopeful and humorous, these comics express the anger, anxiety, fear, and bewilderment we feel in the era of COVID-19. Above all, they highlight the power of art and community to help us make sense of a world in crisis, reminding us that we are truly all in this together.
The comics in this collection have been generously donated by their creators. A portion of the the proceeds from the sale of this volume are being donated by the publisher to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) in support of comics shops, bookstores, and their employees who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.www.graphicmundi.org
More details at: https://www.graphicmundi.org/books/978-0-271-09014-6.html
The Lockdown Lowdown: Graphic Narratives for Viral Times (2020-21)
Publisher: Distant Connections
ISBN: 978-1-5272-8140-0 (Issue #1); 978-1-8384448-0-8 (Issue #2)
Both of these issues of the zine, The Lockdown Lowdown, arrived a couple of weeks ago in the post. At one level they tell stories by creators predominantly from the UK and Europe about the experiences of lockdown and COVID-19, but at another level the production of these stories also serves as creative activity to give life to those in lockdown. From the inside of each issue:
Distance Connections is a comic book collective created during the first lockdown in 2020 by a group of artists from diverse backgrounds in terms of culture, experience, career & geographic location (Europe, China, USA & more). Our stories reflect on the strangeness of the lockdown experience and explore how drawing and writing help navigate emotions of isolation and loneliness. We believe engaging with the arts boosts confidence and improves mental health.From frontispiece of Issues #1 and #2 of “The lockdown lowdown”
Finally, some links to a number of interesting places doing graphic medicine with blurbs from those publications:
“Graphic Medicine is a site that explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare. We are a community of academics, health carers, authors, artists, and fans of comics and medicine. The site is maintained by an editorial team under the direction of the Graphic Medicine International Collective.”
“A graphic memoir about the treatment of mental illness, treating mental illness as a commodity.
In her early twenties in New York City, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Rachel Lindsay takes a job in advertising in order to secure healthcare coverage for her treatment. But work takes a strange turn when she is promoted onto the Pfizer account and suddenly finds herself on the other side of the curtain, developing ads for an anti-depressant drug. Overwhelmed by her professional life and the self-scrutiny it inspires, her mania takes hold. She quits her job to become an artist, only to be hospitalized by her parents against her will. Over the course of her two weeks in the ward, she tries to find a path out of the hospital and this cycle of treatment. One where she can live the life she wants, finding freedom and autonomy, without sacrificing her dreams in order to stay well.”
“Using comics to enhance the impact of dementia care practice and research.”
Page curated by A. David Lewis, comics studies scholar and author. His specific research in Graphic Medicine addresses the depiction of cancer in comics as well as the utility of superhero narratives.