The Graphic Medicine International Collective (GMIC) is thrilled to announce the 2023 shortlists for the GMIC Awards for outstanding health-related comic projects completed and/or published in 2022. This award is made possible by a generous matching gift in Honor of Nancy and Herbert Wolf, and is intended to honor and carry on their legacy of service and care. You can read more about Nancy and Herbert here.
This is a matching gift, so donations to support this award are needed and appreciated. Please donate here if you are able!
This year’s entries were wide-ranging in form, length, geographical origin, and topic, but they had one thing in common: they revealed deep engagement with highly meaningful subjects. The GMIC Board is moved by the care and trust their creators showed in submitting work for this award, and we honor all of the creators.
This year we are adding an additional award. There are now two shortlists, one for each of the two awards: short and long form works of graphic medicine. The short form are comics that are 25 pages or less, while the long form are more than 25 pages.
The board of the Graphic Medicine International Collective enthusiastically agrees with the choices of our independent panel of judges and we are thrilled to announce the ten short listed comics—five in each category—that have been selected. Another panel of judges will choose the winners, which will be announced at the closing of our 2023 conference in Toronto on July 15th.
The Short Form shortlist is:
by Sydney Heifler
This is an intensely honest story of PTSD from sexual assault by a person thought to be a friend. The assault results in mental health issues, shame, panic attacks, lost time, disassociation, and other consequences of this trauma. Heifler writes that the colors in the comic are very important as “blue & pink represent men who have harmed me as well as the lasting consequences of that pain … green represents my miscarriage, and the father of my baby.” Heifler takes her power back by controlling when and how to have sex. The cover image is broken up in a summation of the author’s goals “… focused on moving forward and creating new connections with myself and others.”
by Emil Wilson
When in high school the author is asked to stutter for comic relief in a student-produced play. Others might laugh but those afflicted with a stutter will feel only pain. Erin Williams’ story “changed the way [Emil] saw people with this disability.” The cruelty of those without the affliction is sometimes inadvertent but could be intentional; just look at comments about President Biden, a stutterer, having memory problems. This powerful work discusses blocking (having a huge vocabulary to find a substitute word when one word just won’t come out). Erin says, “I order things all the time that I don’t want because often I can’t say what I want.” Artistically, this work creatively uses word bubbles tied in knots. Provides some helpful tips and what not to do. Others’ finishing stutterers’ sentences isn’t helpful; just ask what would be helpful. And don’t laugh.
by Meredith Li-Vollmer & Hatiye Garip
This comic begins as the COVID-19 pandemic strikes. We initially see chaos, a fast learning curve, efforts to get word out, and hard work to provide a united front to the community. This public health comic emerges from ground zero of the pandemic, King County Washington (Seattle area). This was pre-CDC guidance. This comic takes the reader from start of the pandemic in the U.S. to vaccines with “the highest level of vaccination [rates] in the nation for a county [their] size.” Burnout occurs and they weren’t immune from harassment by anti-vaxxers.
by Rachel Litchman
As a counterweight to Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree, after hospitalization, Rachel Litchman dreams of climbing an insurmountable “ungiving” tree beautifully rendered. Her chronic illness (chronic fatigue disorder) is barely mentioned, though her limitations are metaphorically on display as she becomes a stick figure moving through life the higher she climbs.
by Josh Neufeld
This educational comic describes the use of House Balls (Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ house competitions) as a site for COVID-19 vaccinations. It describes the lack or loss of trust in communities of color due to such mistreatments as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1932-1972), and J Marion Sims’ experiments on slave women in the 1840s. The comic quotes BIPOC modern authorities, such as Dr. Lisa A. Cooper of Johns Hopkins University. It concludes with a “trauma-informed approach … [whereby] there’s a big barrier to trust that has to be overcome.”
The Long Form shortlist is:
comics by Arantza Pena Popo, Christina Tran, Erika Rier, Gigi Woolery, Liz Yerby, Marin Jurgens, McKensi Payne, Mike Bautista, Quinn C Amacher, and Valerie W.
This anthology provides ten stories of student housing insecurity and homelessness from Street Roots and the PSU (Portland State University) Collaborative Comics Project. The stories describe the stress of trying to remain in college while feeling on the fringes of their community. From the introduction, “These comics seek to build greater understanding, empathy, and awareness to change how we talk, think, teach about homelessness and housing instability … [and to] disrupt harmful stereotypes … of individuals from communities that are disproportionately impacted … including individuals who are Black, Indigenous, AAPI, Latinx, People of Color, Disabled, and LGBTQIA+.”
by Kate Schneider
This fictional story of Ruth, afflicted with dementia, is based on the author’s grandmother and another woman for whom the author cared. Ruth is hospitalized following a stroke, and this almost wordless tale invites us into Ruth’s inner life or headland. The pencil drawings are sometimes colorfully fabulist and sometimes terrifyingly grey. She lives in her own world, whether manipulated by physical therapists, or homebound TV-watching, or traveling in her mind where color abounds. Her turtle traveling companion symbolizes her walled off memories and her deep connection to nature.
by Elizabeth Trembley
Elizabeth recounts the trauma of finding a dead body while out for a walk in the woods and having various recollections about the event as the years go by as she looks, relooks, and discusses this story with many audiences.
by Rick Louis & Lara Antal
From the review at the graphic medicine website: Ronan and the Endless Sea of Stars is a powerful, touching, honest portrayal from author Rick Louis’ perspective of his son, Ronan, born with Tay-Sach’s, a genetic terminal neurological disease. This story provides information about Ronan’s birth, the disease, infant milestones made and lost, the impact on Louis’ marriage, and all wrapped in Lara Antal’s wonderful illustrations both happy and sad.
by Emma Grove
This memoir of a transgender woman with dissociative identity disorder (DID) invites the reader into numerous therapy sessions with various therapists. As quoted in the review (by KC Councilor) of this work at the graphic medicine website, “The book is a chronological story of Grove’s coming to understand herself as a trans person and as a survivor of trauma with ‘alters’ or DID—a term to describe separate personalities formed to protect a person as a result of extreme stress or trauma.” The end of The Third Person explains how Grove was able to let each personality tell their tale.
award bottle design by Alex Thomas and Ian Williams