At Last Comics Are Relevant

Francisco M. Branco Germiniani, Neurologist,
February 14, 2012

Ian C. M. Williams' article on the use of comics as a suitable medium for medical narratives is a timely evaluation of the potential of the comicbook form to address several medical issues. For a medium that is roughly over a hundred years old (although some scholar might argue that comics had their roots in the inception of printed cartoons, whereas others trace back their origins as far as the Bayeux Tapestries or even prehistoric cave paintings), comics have surely evolved in content, variety of subject matter and format. As noted, comic studies are relatively new, but a number of books have been published, there are post- graduation courses focusing in comics theory (as the one offered by Opet in Curitiba, Brazil) or literary studies of comics (as the University of Dundee's, Scotland, that began last year), theses, Manchester's University International Comic Conference and even two peer-review periodicals; Studies in Comics and The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics.

As a practicing neurologist and life-long comics reader I had the opportunity to present last year at the 29th International Epilepsy Congress a poster based on Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon's graphic novel Tumor entitled TUMOR - A GRAPHIC NOVEL REPRESENTATION OF GLIOBLASTOMA MULTIFORME AND MULTIPLE SEIZURES TYPES. This is the story of a private detective who is diagnosed with GB, while solving his last case. A variety of seizure types and other symptoms, such as confusional state and space-time disorientation are presented in graphic form from the standpoint of the main character/patient, providing a layman's interpretation of seizure semiology.

Again, as mentioned in William's article, comics provide a rich source of material for medical studies. Even the so-called mainstream comics have featured characters with multiple medical conditions, such as Barbara Gordon's spinal injury in The Killing Joke, which ultimately led her to become the paraplegic heroine Oracle; David Lapham's Young Liars, where the main female character suffers a bullet wound to the frontal lobe and looses impulse control; or Sue Dibny's death in Identity Crisis as a result of a brainstem stroke caused by the murderous Jean Loring's stepping over her basilar artery in microscopic size.

Also, several characters are Medical Doctors, such as Marvel's Doctor Strange, Gotham City's Dr. Leslie Thompson, the X-Men's Dr. Cecilia Reyes or JSA's Dr. Mid-Nite. There will be more articles on the interaction between comics and Medicine in the coming years for sure.

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

Conflict of Interest

None declared