Posts Tagged ‘Something Different About Dad’


The Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street – a panel-in-progress from Ben Dickson’s graphic biography of Neville Chamberlain which I’m illustrating.

This month marks the start – in earnest – of work on the graphic biography of Neville Chamberlain. The book has been written by Ben Dickson – whose latest graphic novel, A New Jerusalem, is out now. This project is only my second big graphic work  – the first being Something Different About Dad several  years ago. And with a script clocking in at about 200 pages, it’s certainly the longest work I’ve ever done on a historical or archaeological subject.

It’s a fascinating time-period and a gripping story. Ben’s script is a biography of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister – from May 1937 to May 1940. But it’s also the story of Neville Chamberlain’s childhood, his political career, his marriage, his friends – and his rivals. Ben’s script challenges – as several other historians have done – the notion that Chamberlain was “a guilty man”, whose policy of appeasement was a thin disguise for cowardice. Instead, Ben paints a picture of a man who understood how unprepared Britain was for another war – not just economically and militarily, but psychologically.

It’s a story full of high drama, something which is overshadowed by our contemporary focus on the action of the war which we know is inevitable. When I first read Ben’s script I just couldn’t put it down: reading the story as a interplay of characters and situations, not just of dates and facts, brought home how tense and unpredictable this pre-war period actually was. It’s interesting how Ben’s Chamberlain comes across as someone who understands these complexities, and is willing to sacrifice his political reputation in order to steer the country on a safe course through them.

I’m going to be talking about the project at Laydeez do Comics in Leeds, this Monday evening – you’re all invited! (Wharf Chambers, 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, LS2 7EQ, 6:30pm. Entry: £1.50 – no need to book. Wharf Chambers is wheelchair accessible). I’m going to talk about the book itself, and about how I’m approaching the artwork – specifically historical locations and people. And I’m also going to talk a bit about what it means to work collaboratively with an author, and what it means to work on such a large-scale project like this one.

Hopefully see you in Leeds on Monday evening!

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"The Dementia Diaries" - excellent cartoon book for young carers by Matthew Synman and SILK.

“The Dementia Diaries” – excellent cartoon book for young carers by Matthew Snyman and SILK.

I’ve just been reading a copy of The Dementia Diaries, kindly sent to me by the team at SILK, Social Innovation Lab Kent. The book is described as “a novel in cartoons”, and is written and illustrated by the writer Matthew Snyman. The book was produced collaboratively with organisations such as East Kent Independent Dementia Support and Kent Young Carers, and is aimed firmly at supporting and educating younger carers who are dealing with dementia and Alzheimers in their own families.

The book is part cartoon, part graphic diary, part comic – owing much in its look and feel to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It presents a huge amount of anecdotal experience and consequent education through the eyes of four young carers. The fictitious diary entries allow plenty of cartoons and illustrations to break up the text, and importantly, allow the carers to present their stories in the first person. The use of four different main characters, all different ages with different families and different experiences, allows for quite a range of situations to be explored.

This must be an extremely successful way to both support and educate young carers, and just as in other graphic medicine publications, it makes good use of visual narrative to render complex information accessible and appealing to a younger audience. This is exactly why Kirsti and I did Something Different About Dad as a comic book, although I wish we could have set up some kind of collaborative element to the project, as SILK have done.

Highly recommended for anyone who knows a young carer dealing with dementia or Alzheimers in their family – also recommended for anyone interested in creating educational material for younger carers. silkteam on Twitter are rightly proud of this book.


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Panel from "One of Those People" - John G. Swogger, 2013

Panel from One of Those People – John G. Swogger, 2013

My first experience of using comics in medicine was Something Different About Dad – a fairly straight-forward, didactic comic book aimed at children who had an adult in their lives diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Since that was published I’ve been working off and on at another comics and medicine project: One of Those People – about anti-depressant dependence.

It’s a collaborative project, and as a result, has had it’s various ups and downs over the past year and a half. Some of the issues thrown up by this collaborative partnership form the basis of a paper I’m giving at the 2013 Comics & Medicine conference in Brighton later this week.

The collaboration has been an education in the storytelling potential of comics. In the course of the past eighteen months I’ve been asked to bring to life some extraordinary stories – some harrowingly Kafka-esque, some Alice-in-Wonderland surreal. Looking around at some of the other work being done in the genre, I’ve realised that extraordinary stories are the stock-in-trade of comics and medicine – indeed, of comics full stop. Looking at works like Lighter Than My Shadowit’s hard to imagine them as anything other than a graphic narrative; working with my collaborative partners on One of Those People, it’s similarly hard to imagine their stories without the graphic component. Comics and medicine is the art of experience – and it’s hard to see how the story of those experiences could be rendered in text alone.

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Doing Something Different - making a collaborative comic about AS

Doing Something Different – making a collaborative comic about AS. On sale at Comics & Medicine in Brighton in a fortnight!

It’s the Comics & Medicine conference in Brighton in a fortnight’s time. I’m going to have a table in the conference marketplace, and in addition to copies of Something Different About DadI’ll also be selling copies of this little book: Doing Something Different.

This is a little behind-the-scenes book about how Kirsti and I collaborated on the project. It’s kind of come out of the paper I’m giving, on some of the experiences I’ve had on the ethics of collaboration in comics and medicine. As I was writing the paper, I thought it might be interesting for some people to have an idea of how Kirsti and I approached our collaboration on Something Different About Dad. The book is illustrated with sketches, rough drafts and “deleted scenes”, which help to show some of the development of the book from its origins as a one-page leaflet, through illustrated booklet, to 80-page comic.

Anyway, the book will be on sale during the conference – reasonably priced!


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"One of Those People" - Comics & Medicine 2013, Brighton, July 5-7

“One of Those People” – Comics & Medicine 2013, Brighton, July 5-7

Just a few weeks to go until the Comics & Medicine 2013 conference in Brighton (July 5-7). I’m glad I’m going to be around for it this year, as it definitely qualifies for The Best Small Comics Conference™ award!

The theme of this year’s conference is Ethics. I’m giving a paper entitled Those People, That Problem on some of the ethical issues involved in my latest comics and medicine project: One of Those People, which is a collaborative comic about antidepressant dependence. I’ll also have a table in the comics hall, where I’ll be selling copies of Something Different About Dad, the comic Kirsti and I wrote about Asperger’s.

It’ll be great to see some of the mainstay of the comics and medicine crowd, too. Plus I’m going to be in a session with Katie Green, who’ll be talking about her autobiographical graphic novel, Lighter Than My Shadow. The conference is always a-buzz with hugely creative ideas, both during the sessions, and in the late-night pub crawls afterwards! Seriously – it’s an over-used term, but the  conference really is inspirational in the truest sense. I’ve actively based my model of how I see comics working in archaeology on what I’ve seen accomplished in comics and medicine, and I’m going there just as much to learn about the interface between archaeology and visual communication as I am about medicine and comics.

The conference is an excellent example of what happens when you bring together comics, scholarship and a profession with a diverse communications agenda. It’s a model for what could be happening in other places where science and the humanities need to cooperate rather than conflict – like archaeology, for instance.

There are still plenty of tickets available. If you’re at all interested in pushing the boundaries of science communication, Comics & Medicine comes highly recommended.

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“Something Different About Dad” is part of an emerging and growing genre within comics – graphic medicine. Ian Williams, a medical practitioner and comics artists in North Wales has written an excellent article on the subject for Hektoen International Journal of Medical Humanities.

His article talks about what exactly graphic medicine is, why it’s important and how it’s different from other forms of medical literature. It’s an excellent summary of the genre and a great explanation of what it has to offer patients, practitioners and medicine in general.

Ian writes sharp, insightful and often painfully honest medical comics under the name Thom Ferrier

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