Comics & Medicine

It all started with the May 2006 LA Times Book Review, and a comic panel of Brian Fies’ mom receiving chemotherapy. Fies’ panel, entitled “Arrangement in Grey and Black,” from his comic Mom’s Cancer, shows his mother sleeping while receiving chemotherapy. At the time I considered the panel as another artifact of cancer’s culture. But the image never left me. With over a decade of writing about cancer inequalities and seeing a series of cancer comics (fotonovelas, public health messaging, educational comics, and pink ribbon fundraising), I had not come across a story that was so honest and intimate.Since that initial introduction to personal narrative comics I increasingly focused my scholarly attention to this genre and what it might mean theoretically and methodologically for ethnography and, more broadly, for our experience of suffering.

I am currently working on an ethnography of the Graphic Medicine community that explores how storytelling about illness in graphic form creates an ideological and material network of support.

My thinking through comics and medicine has, so far, resulted in two publications and a series on Image + Text on the Somatosphere website.

by Judith Vanistendael, When David Lost His Voice.
(London: Self Made Hero Press, 2012)

Juliet McMullin, 2016.  Zombie Toxins: Abjection and Cancer’s Chemicals. In The Walking Med: Zombies and the Medical Image. Lorezno Servitje and Sherryl Vint (eds). Penn State University Press.

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Juliet McMullin, 2016. Cancer and the Comics: Graphic Narratives and Biolegitimate Lives. Medical Anthropology Quarter 30(2):149-167.  doi:10.1111/maq.12172