Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Review: Out Of The Woods: A Journey Through Depression and Anxiety

Williams' experiments with alternative medicine
reviewed by Mike Rhode

I recently got an email from a publicist noting that they had sent me a book eleven months ago and I hadn't reviewed it yet. Whoops! When you buy as many books as I do, this happens all too frequently, but in this case it was also a big mistake. Out Of The Woods: A Journey Through Depression and Anxiety by Brent Williams and illustrator Korkut Oztekin (Educational Resources, 2017; ISBN 978-0473-39006-8; $28) is an excellent book and a worthy addition to the burgeoning field of graphic medicine.

'Graphic Medicine' refers to comics about illness or medicine, and are more and more often being done by cartoonists who suffer from the illness. The three main strands of the works are cancer, mental illness, or traditional educationally works (that aren't usually done by patients). This past weekend's Small Press Expo (SPX) had a panel devoted to the topic of bipolar disorder (details below)* which also highlights another aspect of the field - the comics are usually done by a single cartoonist with some experience of the disease.

Out Of The Woods is not. New Zealand's Brent Williams is a human-rights lawyer and filmmaker, who "in his late forties he found he could no longer do this work. It was like he had hit an insurmountable wall. That wall was depression and anxiety. Denial, shame, and a misguided belief he had to fight these illnesses on his own made Brent's situation worse."  His co-author, Turkey's Korkut Öztekin "has worked as editor and chief writer for The Turkish Graphic Design Magazine and freelanced as a comic book artist, cover artist and illustrator for several literary works.Korkut is known for his work on Deli Gücük, a Turkish comic series of ghost stories from rural Ottoman Anatolia. He worked on Clive Barker's Hellraiser: The Dark Watch series as support artist to Tom Garcia, and recently was the lead artist in Frank Miller's RoboCop: Last Stand series." The two men with very different backgrounds, experiences and lives build a surprisingly strong work.
Williams is diagnoses by a family practitioner.

Collaborative works of autobiographical graphic medicine are very rare. Our Cancer Year by Brabner, Pekar and Stack is one of the few that comes to mind, perhaps because it is also successful. Öztekin and Williams work well together and Out of the Woods is a generally seamless telling of Williams leaving his family, quitting his work, and hitting bottom, suffering anxiety attacks and being unable to get out of bed, while half-heartedly trying a variety of self-help meditation and alternative medicine cures, while generally refusing antidepressants and therapy. A major part of this must be due to Öztekin's art, which is clear, understated, but also poetic at times.

The book's oddest note comes from what I can only call Williams' 'spirit guide'. A middle-aged white man appears throughout the story, in William's thoughts, and offers support and good advice to keep him on a path towards wellness and health. I'm unsure who this person represents, unless it's supposed to be his better self; however, it doesn't look like him. Notwithstanding that, the spirit guide serves as a useful foil showing the reader how Williams' self-destructive impulses can be tamed and how his physical and mental state can be improved.

Williams' 'spirit guide' explains depressions effect on brain cells.
Williams eventually meets a therapist who helps him realize that his father was a controlling, insensitive (but rich) self-made man who treated his wife and children badly, and that Williams needs to move past thinking of him as a role model and loving father to get well again. The art and writing remain extremely clear, the causes and treatment of depression are examined, the various ways it affects one are effectively shown - in short, this book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in, suffering from, or trying to understand loved ones who have depression. It's one of the best works of graphic medicine that I've read.
Physical activity is always recommended to help with depression.

*Writing About Bipolar


As mental health is becoming a subject that's more openly discussed than ever, comics narratives are emerging about personal experiences with mental illness. Moderator Rob Clough will discuss with Lawrence Lindell (Couldn't Afford Therapy, So I Made This), Ellen Forney (Rock Steady), and Keiler Roberts (Chlorine Gardens) their  struggles with Bipolar Disorder, the choices they make they make in writing about it, and how this process affects how they think about it.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Meet a Local Cartoonist: Dennis Johnson and Dedsquad

by Mike Rhode
Scott McCloud and Dennis Johnson at Politics and Prose

Dennis Johnson, Jr. tabled at Smudge with his minicomics last month. I was dashing out to check the parking meter and missed a photograph (so all images are from his blog), but I did buy his minis before leaving. Priorities!

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I am a self-taught artist, and have tried to learn everything about making comics. Currently I am doing a little bit of everything. I am working on writing, drawing, inking, and coloring my own original comics such as “The Ded Squad”, and “The New Frontier.”  My stories tend to range from slice of life, to superheroes. I am very versatile, and have also learned other types of art forms such as acrylic painting, and digital art.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

When creating comics I use a combination of techniques but most of the time I start with traditional pencil and paper. I am a huge fan of using brush and ink because the lines come out livelier. Afterwards, I scan my artwork into Photoshop and digitally color it.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born December 6, 1988 in Maryland.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I have lived most of my life in Maryland. Currently I reside in Gaithersburg.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

Most of my education in cartooning came from reading and practicing. I never was able to go to school for it so I tried to learn from everything I could get my hands on.

Who are your influences?

My biggest influence has to be Scott McCloud. He was a crucial part of why I am committed to comics. Through reading many of his books, I realized that comics aren’t just great art or a great story, they are a form of communication. He made me realize that comics are more than just superheroes. After I read his books everything about comics and life just clicked. I also tend to draw inspiration from cartoons, manga, and animated movies.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

If I could roll back the hangs of time to improve my career I think I would have started to practice making comics earlier. Since I am a self-taught artist, a lot of my work has been trial and error. If I had taken more time to learn more about making comics when I was younger, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.
What work are you best-known for?

 At this point in my comic book life I’m not sure if anyone knows my work. I am working on self-publishing my comics, and networking at conventions to get myself out there. In the future I hope to be known for my comic “The Ded Squad.”

What work are you most proud of?

 Not too long ago I submitted a very personal piece to the 10th edition of the Magic Bullet newspaper. The one-page comic illustrated depression, stress and anxiety to the best of my ability. It was tough for me to write about the pains that I have experienced for years, but the comic turned out to be a great release for me. When it was completed I was so proud of the piece, and it felt like I reached out into the world. Although it did not get accepted, I have displayed the comic at various conventions. I decided that I wanted to connect to those struggling with the same disorder. I feel like this work could really make people think about mental illness and how they can help someone else or help themselves.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

My future plan is to cultivate and continue to grow the art community that I’m trying to build. I believe that comics have a great healing power within them just like any other creative art. It also wouldn’t hurt to get “The Ded Squad” underway!

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

When a creative block hits I normally just take a break. I try to switch up my routine to try to break the cycle. Often times I turn to other mediums when I have a block or I try to learn new tricks. I have learned that trying to push through a creative block normally only causes frustration.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

I think that comics will continue to grow in popularity. Especially the indie comic scene because right now publishing is the easiest it’s ever been. It seems like artists and writers are popping up everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before indie publishers like Retrofit and Koyama Press begin to acquire more talent and begin to compete with companies like Darkhorse and Image. The world also seems to take to movie or show adaptations of comics like The Walking Dead. Other industries seems to be taking more comic book writers and illustrators seriously because they are seeing that their work is no different from the work of a novelist or fine artist.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

So far I have exhibited at DC Zinefest 2014, SPX2013, Awesome-Con 2014, UFB-Con and Smudge Expo 2015. I will be exhibiting at Awesome-Con 2015 and Creator-Con 2015.

What's your favorite thing about DC? Least favorite?

I love how diverse the DMV is. D.C. is an amazing place to get to know many different people. My least favorite thing about D.C. is driving. The traffic lights, speed cameras, and one-way roads drive me crazy.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

I love to visit the Hirshorn and the National Art Gallery. It’s fun to see the contrast of styles and ideals.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

My favorite restaurant in the DMV is a little sushi place called Yuraku in Germantown. Everything always tastes exquisite!

Do you have a website or blog?

My website is dedsquad.tumblr.com or you can find me on facebook.com/dedinkart.