Medical graphic novels attracting a growing audience

Medical graphic novels—that is, comics about people going through illnesses, or by medical professionals offering insights into their fields—appear to be a growing market, with a number of new titles in the works.

The crossover genre's appeal is two-fold. For medical professionals, the books provide valuable insight into the human condition, as UK physician and author of The Graphic Medicine Manifesto Ian Williams says on his website,

For a layman, their tell-all nature offers intimate stories that might help readers— who are "often fascinated by medical subject matter," said Williams in an email interview—cope with their own lives.

Where did the genre get its start? Justin Green's 1972 title Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin is "generally regarded as the first graphic memoir of illness," says Williams, although it is in the last 20 years that the number of titles has snowballed.

graphic-novel Rachael Ball's 'The Inflatable Woman', out later this month, is said to approach breast cancer diagnosis with a mix of grit and magical thinking

Among them, in 2005, the graphic novel Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies—in which the author recounts his mother's fight with metastatic lung cancer—won a prestigious Eisner award for best digital comic.

Flash forward a decade, and publishing industry source The Bookseller notes a growing popularity for the genre, citing titles such as 2011's Billy, Me & You by Nicola Streeten, in which the author writes of her recovery from the death of her young son, and Ian Williams's own 2014 title The Bad Doctor, a semi-autobiographical book in which he draws on his experiences as a rural doctor.

More titles from patients and their families are on the way. On October 22, Bloomsbury will publish Rachael Ball's The Inflatable Woman, which started life as a series of blog posts after Ball was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Myriad Editions, the publisher behind Streeten's and Williams's graphic novels, has plans to release Holy in the Heart in June 2016; in it, author Henny Beaumont tells the story of learning her third child would have Down's syndrome. To follow in 2017 is The Facts of Life by Paula Knight, about family, mothering and miscarriage.

Where to get started? For those new to the genre, Williams recommends the following titles:

Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies
Marbles by Ellen Forney
Epileptic by David B. (originally published in French)
Wrinkles by Paco Roca

He also recommends the following books by healthcare professionals:

Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham
The Bad Doctor by Ian Williams
Taking Turns by MK Czerwiec (forthcoming)
Works by the French surgeon Charles Masson

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The Week

Topics : #health

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