The graphic memoir. Arguably, it’s the one strand of graphic novel publishing most responsible over the last few years for persuading those unfamiliar with the form of its integral value as a storytelling device. Comics by their very structure, and by the intricacies of their relationship with the audience, have an intimacy that allows them to share and communicate ideas in a way that no other medium can. The experience of visually digesting a comic is unique in that the reader plays an intrinsic part themselves in both driving the narrative and interacting with the layout of the page.
In that regard we become almost a part of the story ourselves – we’re not just observers of events we’re also living them one person removed. Over the last decade we have seen an explosion in GNs that impart this kind of very personal experience; books that fully exploit the opportunities comics provide for eliciting an empathic emotional response with their protagonists through that special relationship they have with their readership.
Of all the graphic memoirs I have read in recent years few have impressed and moved me in the way that cross-media creator Ravi Thornton’s HOAX Psychosis Blues has. I reviewed the book for Broken Frontier back in May here and also conducted an in-depth interview on its themes with Ravi here in June. HOAX follows the story of her brother Rob in the last years of his life, employing a framing sequence that charts his struggle with schizophrenia on an annual basis. Each of these segments is punctuated by a visual interpretation of one of the many poems he wrote during that time. The graphic novel was complemented by a stage show HOAX My Lonely Heart which made its debut at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in June.
From left to right – HOAX Psychosis Blues team members Rozi Hathaway, Ravi Thornton, Ian Jones, Hannah Berry and Julian Hanshaw at an earlier signing this year at Manchester’s Travelling Man store
Those poetry sequences are illustrated by a whole host of artistic talent, many of whom will be available to sign copies of HOAX Psychosis Blues this Saturday 19th July at London’s Gosh! Comics between 2pm and 3pm. If you’re in Soho then and want to pick up a copy of a book that represents a remarkable use of the comics form – one that was described here at BF as “a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece” – and get it signed by the very talented likes of Karrie Fransman, Mark Stafford, Rian Hughes, Hannah Berry, Julian Hanshaw, Ian Jones, Rozi Hathaway and Ravi Thornton then there’s a Facebook group here with full details or you can visit the Gosh! site here.
Broken Frontier Managing Editor Andy Oliver introducing HOAX Psychosis Blues at the book’s launch in Manchester in June
Proceeds from the book go to mental health charities and this seems a good point to also mention Ziggy’s Wish, the publishing outfit set up by Ravi Thornton with a view to ensuring that a percentage of profits from her storytelling could be put towards charities relevant to specific work. You can find out about Ziggy’s Wish – HOAX Psychosis Blues is their first venture – on their website here, and please do consider following them on Twitter here as well and Facebook here. They’ve been tirelessly raising awareness of mental health issues on social media since the publication of HOAX and eminently deserve the small effort of clicking on that ‘Follow’ or ‘Like’ button!