Dangerous Liaisons - UW Libraries

August 8, 2017

Graphic Medicine—Comics Are Not Just For Kids!

Ann Glusker

One of the more exciting recent trends in communicating about health care and medicine is that of “graphic medicine”.  As Dr. Ian Williams, who coined the phrase, writes:

“It has long been known that comics are ‘not just for kids’… comics and graphic novels [can] be used as a resource for health professionals, playing a valuable role in:

  • Reflecting or changing cultural perceptions of medicine
  • Relating the subjective patient/carer/provider experience
  • Enabling discussion of difficult subjects
  • Helping other sufferers or carers”

Seattle recently hosted the eighth annual Comics and Medicine conference (#comicsmedicineseattle), held at The Seattle Public Library.  It featured not only academic talks, but workshops on creating comics, film screenings, keynote talks with riveting (and graphically illustrated) personal memoirs, and a brown bag lunch specifically aimed at librarians.  Sessions included: “Giving Voice to Displaced People, Communities and Cultures Through Comics”; “Drawing How the Brain Experiences Trauma”; “Shifting Power, Shifting Genre: Representations of Repressed Agency”; and “Psychobabbleography: The Examination of an Absurdly Mentally and Physically Challenging Life.”

If you’re intrigued, there are many resources for learning more and getting involved in this movement! To get started, go to www.graphicmedicine.org, for definitions, podcasts, book suggestions and more (as well as a great discussion of the context of comics and medicine).  Next, check out the recording of librarian Matthew Noe’s “Introduction to Graphic Medicine” talk, and his blog, “This Week in Graphic Medicine”.  Then you may want to move on to an excellent LibGuide from NYU on graphic novels and comics research.  It doesn’t focus on medicine specifically, but has a helpful tab for journals and online resources.  If you’re still hooked you can move on to a piece about how comics can be used to highlight research findings, and one on graphic social science.

Happy viewing!