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Surf’s Up Pal

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share Patrick Dunn's in depth conversation with Ellen Forney about Rock Steady, her self-help (non)graphic novel manual for those living with mental illness.

My personal stories and my personal point of view, that’s coming directly from me. But I did a ton of research that’s available to anyone, really. It’s just really dry. You’d have to do a lot of work. Like, who wants to read those studies? I was a psychology major, so I find it really fascinating, I love that kind of thing. But it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to appeal to the general public, or people who read for pleasure, or for that matter have a mood disorder and are in an emotionally stimulated state. It’s hard to focus when you’re manic, it’s hard to focus when you’re depressed, it’s hard to focus when you’re anxious.

One of the things that is a strength of comics is that words and pictures engage your brain in a different way – I would say maybe in a more thorough way. I’ve heard from people who were bipolar who said that Marbles – and Rock Steady, for that matter – is the first book that they’ve read cover to cover in years. And I think it’s because of the power of comics. It’s specifically a self-help manual for when you’re feeling emotionally rocked. You’re not in balance and you need to soothe yourself or figure out what to use. Then you can go to a comic, or go to a self-help manual that’s in words and pictures. You can understand the information better.

Our review of the day is from Tegan O'Neil, and it's all about Winsor McCay...after a fashion. Out of all the non-Garth Ennis comics released this year, there's no better example of Jeet Heer clickbait than this McCay, from Titan Comics.

Winsor McCay as he appears in Smolderen and Bramanti’s account appears almost to be sleepwalking through the narrative of his own life. The most consequential thing that McCay does is draw, after all, and that takes up most of his time (which, to be fair, it does for most cartoonists). But as with his real life, the slightly fictionalized McCay we meet here also meets the likes Houdini, William Randolph Hearst, and George Herriman. Honestly, the narrative through-line is a bit difficult to follow without already knowing the contours of McCay’s career, so if you don’t remember which years he worked for which tabloid you will probably need a refresher.

But that points back to the weaknesses of the present volume, which can probably best be summed up by referring back to the book’s significant ambitions. McCay wants very badly to be a worthy tribute to one of the great cartoonists, one of the very founders of the modern art form. However it is also built around a plotline where Winsor McCay learns how to harness his psychic powers and travel in and out of the fourth dimension, AKA the dimension of dreams. In order to solve a crime involving ghost anarchists. Whether or not you appreciate that kind of fantastic insertion will indicate whether or not you finish the book or throw it across the room in disgust, but it is pervasive.

Over at AV Club, the list season has begun--and the AV Club is one of the first out of the box, and they're going hard. There's some good write ups to be found here, friendo. 


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