Graphic narrative enlightens complicated or difficult experiences, articulates a complex and powerful analysis of illness, medicine, and disability and helps us to rethink the boundaries of health to include factors that can adversely impact health, such as climate change, gender and sexual identity, and political crisis. Graphic medicine titles have been included on several publishers’s lists, primarlily Penn State University Press in the US and Myriad Editions in the UK. The books are inspired by a growing awareness of the value of comics as an important resource for communicating physical and mental health, illness, caregiving, and disability.
The titles available show a diverse approach. Myriad nurtures and publishes the work of individual comics artists, often coming to the publishers’ attention through its track record in graphic medicine, and through its First Graphic Novel Competition. Penn State University Press publishes the US editions of several Myriad graphic medicine titles.
Curated by editorial collectives with scholarly, creative, and clinical expertise, Penn State’s Graphic Medicine list includes monographic studies and edited collections from scholars, practitioners, and educators, as well as original comics from artists and non-artists alike, such as self-reflective “graphic pathographies” or comics used in medical training and education, providing a creative way to learn and teach.
Penn State Press’ first graphic medicine title was the Graphic Medicine Manifesto, which was nominated for an Eisner Award for best scholarly work in 2016.
This was followed by Peter Dunlop Shohl’s My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s.
Myriad’s list of Graphic Medicine titles began in 2011 with the publication of Nicola Streeten’s Billy Me & You, the first graphic memoir to be published by a British woman, and an inspirational benchmark for subsequent authors. Streeten’s honest and unflinching account of recovery after the death of her two year old son continues to be a classic of the genre.
Several books that followed were published both by Myriad Editions and Penn State Press, beginning in 2012 (UK) and 2015 (US) with Nye Wright’s Things To Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park, a moving account of caregiving as well as a portrait of emphysema, and in 2014 by Ian Williams’s The Bad Doctor. It was Williams, a practising GP, who coined the term Graphic Medicine, describing the interface between the medium of comics and the discipline of medicine, which has spearheaded a growing international movement that considers the graphic novel to be a rich and vibrant format to use for resources for healthcare professionals, patients and carers. Ian has since published the second book in the series, The Lady Doctor.
Since 2014, further memoirs dealing with challenges to both physical and mental health have been published to critical praise, including Henny Beaumont’s Hole in the Heart (2016), on raising a daughter with Down’s syndrome, and Paula Knight’s The Facts of Life (2017). Gareth Brookes’s A Thousand Coloured Castles (2017), gives an illuminating portrait of macular degeneration and Charles Bonnet syndrome, while Olivier Kugler’s Escaping Wars and Waves, published in 2018, used graphic reportage for its focus on mental health workers in refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Penn State Press published Aliceheimer’s: Alzheimer’s Through the Looking Glass and The Walking Med in 2016. In 2017 they released MK Czerwiec’s graphic memoir/oral history Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. And in 2018 the comics anthology Graphic Reproduction was released.
More titles are being released each year as the field of Graphic Medicine grows in popularity and academic value.