Recently, I’ve been reading a number of comics and graphic novels that deal with aspects of mental health and wellness. This is part of the wider project I’m developing on Comics, Social Change, and the Public Good which I’m hoping to work on more next year. Below I’ve listed a number of comics and graphic novels that form part of that which pick up specifically with mental health matters such as anxiety, dementia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Most bring a strong autobiographical strand to the narratives, don’t shy away from uncomfortable elements, and which offer insights into living with these conditions.
Jacques Mathis (writer), Sylvain Dorange (illustrator)
Publisher: Humanoids, Inc.
A moving autobiographical portrayal of psychosis and mental illness as shown through the experiences and writings of writer-poet Jacques Mathis.www.humanoids.com
Jacques Mathis tells his own story-of a megalomaniacal man stuck in a body too small for his ideas. His childhood, spent in a dreary little town in Lorraine, France, came to a brutal end at the age of fourteen after he suffered his first episode of psychosis. Since that day, between repeated visits to psychiatric wards, Mathis had to find some way to carve out as much of a normal life as possible.
With Psychotic, Jacques Mathis gives us a candid, inspirational account of his daily life, beginning with the day his disorder was first discovered and covering his many stays in psychiatric hospitals, his sessions with various doctors, his setbacks, and his triumphs.
This Is How I Disappear (2021)
Mirion Mall (creator), Alesha Jensen and Bronwyn Haslam (translators)
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Clara’s at a breaking point. She’s got writer’s block, her friends ask a lot without giving much, her psychologist is useless, and her demanding publishing job leaves little time for self care. She seeks solace in the community around her, yet, while her friends provide support and comfort, she is often left feeling empty, unable to express an underlying depression that leaves her immobilized and stifles any attempts at completing her poetry collection. In This is How I Disappear, Mirion Malle paints an empathetic portait of a young woman wrestling with psychological stress and the trauma following an experience of sexual assault.
Malle displays frankness and a remarkable emotional intelligence as she explores depression, isolation, and self-harm in her expertly-drawn novel. Her heroine battles an onslaught of painful emotions and while Clara can provide consolation to those around her, she finds it difficult to bestow the same understanding unto herself. Only when she allows her community to guide her towards self-love does she find relief.
Filled with 21st century idioms and social media communication, This Is How I Disappear opens a window into the lives of young people as they face a barrage of mental health hurdles. Scenes of sisterhood, fun nights out singing karaoke, and impromptu FaceTime therapy sessions show how this generation is coping, connecting, and healing together.www.drawnandquarterly.com
Lighter Than My Shadow (2019)
Katie Green (creator)
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (Penguin)
A poignant, heart-lifting graphic memoir about anorexia, eating disorders and the journey to recovery
Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast. But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behaviour might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.
Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.Jonathan Cape (Penguin)
Hardcore Anxiety : A Graphic Guide to Punk Rock and Mental Health (2019)
Reid Chancellor (Creator)
Publisher Microcosm Publishing
Punk rock and mental health have been intertwined since the very beginning. Nervous breakdowns, anxiety, seeking acceptance, attempting to overcome internalized demons, and reacting to harmful and oppressive systems–punk rock embodies and emboldens all our feelings and experiences, positive and negative. Hardcore Anxiety charts and tracks punk movements from the 70s till today, from small towns to stadiums, from the struggles in our heads to the people actively harming us in our communities. Told from the point of view of a young man discovering punk and working through mental illness in Evansville, Indiana, this stunning nonfiction graphic novel gives punks the most important advice of all: “You aren’t alone. You’re going to make it through alive.”https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/9814
God Country (2017)
Geoff Shaw, Donny Cates, Jason Wordie (creators)
Publisher: Image Comics
SOUTHERN BASTARDS meets American Gods in a high-stakes fantasy series that masterfully blends high-octane action and jaw-dropping worldbuilding. In GOD COUNTRY, readers meet Emmett Quinlan, an old widower rattled by dementia. Emmett isn’t just a problem for his children—his violent outbursts are more than the local cops can handle. When a tornado levels his home—as well as the surrounding West Texas town—a restored Quinlan rises from the wreckage. An enchanted sword at the eye of the storm gives him more than a sound mind and body, however. He’s now the only man who can face these otherworldly creatures the sword has drawn down to the Lone Star State… In GOD COUNTRY, salvation is a double-edged sword.imagecomics.com/comics/releases/god-country-tp
For superhero comics that engage with mental health you might be interested in this earlier post, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five: Comics and Mental Health, featuring my favourite current Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz.