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The Globe and Mail cartoonist Cinders McLeod has profiled the works of other women cartoonists that deal with their personal demons, including depression, anorexia, domestic violence, drug use, and the deaths of loved ones.  Though many of these women’s works went on to be published in some way, they were almost all created first and foremost as a means of healing from these traumas (or in the case of Sandra Bell-Lundy’s mammography-themed comics, encouraging vigilance in one’s healthcare), in what McLeod terms “graphic medicine”.

Works profiled include:

  • Nicola Streeten’s Billy, Me & You, about the death of her two-year-old son.
  • Sarah Lightman’s Devastation, about her struggles with depression.
  • Lesley Fairfield’s Tyranny, so named after her comic’s personification of her anorexia.
  • Rosalind B. Penfold’s Dragonslippers: This is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like.
  • A three-part story line about mammography in Sandra-Bell Lundy’s Between Friends, which you can watch as motion comics at the Canadian Cancer Society’s “Thingamaboob” website.
  • M.K Czerwiec’s webcomic Comic Nurse, chronicling her day job as a nurse for HIV/AIDS patients.
  • Sarafin’s Asylum Squad, which she started during her year-long stay in a psychiatric hospital.

I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of most of these comics.  One of the reasons I believe so strongly in comics is their ability to be used as a coping and healing mechanism— comics can be raw and immediate in ways most other media just can’t be.  Look at Fairfield’s “Tyranny”— a jangled mess of lines in a wire-frame stick-figure, personifying her inner voice of self-destruction.  You can’t put that kind of feeling into words.  You can’t convey that sort of mindset in a paragraph.  But you can scribble on a piece of paper and everyone who looks at it will instantly know how you feel.  That’s the essence of comics, and all of these women have cut straight to the core.

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