Author: Tom Batiuk
Pages: 246 pgs.
Publish Date: November 15, 2007
Publisher: Kent State University Press
Catalog ID: ISBN-10: 0873389522
Guest review by Sathyaraj Venkatesan and Raghavi Ravi Kasthuri, National Institute of Technology, India.
Published in 2007, Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe by Tom Batuik is a compilation of comic strips about the breast cancer experience of Lisa Moore, a popular fictional character in the Funky Winkerbean series. Syndicated in more than four hundred newspapers, the Funky Winkerbean series is celebrated for illuminating socially relevant issues such as teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, gun violence, suicide, among others. Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe is no exception in that Batuik, through a series of two tier black and white cartoons, meditates upon the diagnosis, illness and death of Lisa Moore, using Batiuk’s realism and fine sense of detail to accurately capture Lisa’s emotional experiences.
Divided into two distinct parts, viz. Lisa’s Story and The Other Shoe, and set in an imaginary township of Westview High, the story covers a nine year period, chronicling how Lisa and her husband, Les Moore, traverse the perplexing world of breast cancer. The story begins with the identification of a lump in Lisa’s breast and covers her subsequent treatment, including mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and various holistic therapies. Lisa’s breast cancer diagnosis traumatizes the whole cast—Funky Winkerbean, Holly Budd, Cindy Summers and Harry Dinkle. As Dinkle, the band director, laments: Lisa’s breast cancer diagnosis was a “kind of forcing [their] merry little band to grow up” (25). Toward the end of the first part, Lisa is awarded a five year survivor pin by her breast cancer support group.
However, in 2006, the cancer returns, having metastasized, and forces Lisa to undergo another series of painful treatments including chemotherapy and radiation. In fact, in 2003, while sketching the second part of Lisa’s Story, Batiuk himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer and this personal experience, as he attests in the preface, enables him to depict Lisa’s breast cancer experience realistically. With no recovery in sight, Lisa, to every readers’ surprise, opts out of her treatment. Although her choice initially startles and disappoints Les, he later accepts her decision by stating: “I just want to tell you that it’s okay… okay for you to go” (204). Conceding defeat, as it were, Lisa spends her time not only in preparing to confront her inevitable death but also by championing and raising funds for breast cancer research.
Lisa dies in October 2007. Following her death, the story jumps ten years ahead with Summer (Lisa’s teenage daughter) and Les dedicating a bench in Central Park to Lisa’s memory and organizing “Lisa’s Legacy,” a walk for cancer awareness. Unlike many cancer narratives, which end in a note of hope and triumphalism, Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe closes with death and commemoration of Lisa. In boldly attending to the theme of death, Batiuk departs from the gratuitous triumphalism of ‘survivorhood.’ By setting Lisa’s death in the month of October (the breast cancer awareness month), the book provoked and angered readers, who refused to accept the untimely death of Lisa. Stunned by the readers’ rage, Batiuk defended his creative choice in an interview with Vaghan: “I thought it was time to get the point because there were a lot of well-intentioned people who said they wanted to see a miracle. I wanted [to tell them] … there is a miracle in the story, but just not the type they looking for.”
Batiuk, Tom. Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2007. Print.
Vaughan, Don. “The Not-So-Funny Pages.” curetoday.com. Cure Today, 10 Dec. 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.
Read an article in Oncology Times here.
Read a review in the Lancet here.