Call for Papers: Asylum Magazine plans special on Comics and Mental Health

The Spring 2014 issue of Asylum magazine

The Spring 2014 issue of Asylum magazine

Comics, graphic novels and sequential art are currently receiving critical attention in academic disciplines while enjoying widespread acclaim through popular culture. Many of the most acclaimed comics, and related tie-ins, utilise themes and characters that directly or indirectly touch on mental health in ways that are potentially thoughtful, challenging and provocative but also manipulative, voyeuristic and stereotypical. Key examples are the characters of Delirium and Despair in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series for Vertigo, and the Joker in both Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy of films and in the Scott Snyder-helmed “Death of the Family” story arc that recently ran across the Batman family of DC comics.

At the same time, the rise of media such as web comics, and alternatives to the classic comic genres which incorporate memoir, journalism and social history indicate the potential of comics, graphic novels and sequential art to portray lived experience in vivid tones. But does the representation of often deeply personal feelings, both painful and joyous, as expressed by individuals with their own experiences of mental health issues connect collectively? Can we identify shared themes and concerns in the work of comic artists who are concerned with, or, who have experience of mental health issues?

Asylum Magazine, the magazine for democratic psychiatry, is inviting 500-1000 word contributions that explore the intersections between mental health and other forms of identification and identity in comics, graphic novels and sequential art.

Submissions may address but are not limited to:

  • Personal reflections on your own favourite comic depictions of mental health issues
  • Excerpts from your own comics dealing with mental health issues (1 side of A4 max)
  • Reflections on how reading/writing comics has been part of your own experience of dealing with mental health issues
  • Descriptions of aspects of the history of mental health as depicted in comics
  • Consideration of the current role of web comics, for example in building communities, or increasing awareness of mental health issues
  • Explorations of the way therapy or asylums are depicted in comics
  • Discussion of comics which treat mental health (and the ‘mad’) as a metaphor for aspects of society to be critiqued
  • Reflections on comics which are not about mental health directly, but are concerned with relevant themes: alienation; difference; altered states; extremes of behaviour, breaking taboos, etc.
  • Consideration of comics which positively explore and celebrate psychological/emotional difference and diversity

Asylum magazine is a forum for free debate, open to anyone with an interest in psychiatry or mental health. The editors especially welcome contributions from service users or ex-users (or survivors), carers, and frontline psychiatric or mental health workers (anonymously, if you wish). The magazine is not-for-profit and run by a collective of unpaid volunteers. Asylum Collective is open to anyone who wants to help produce and develop the magazine, working in a spirit of equality.

• Submissions should be emailed by 30th September 2014 to the guest editors Meg John Barker megbarker@gmail.com, Caroline Walters carolinejwalters@gmail.com, Joseph De LappeJoseph.De-Lappe@open.ac.uk. Please include a short biographical note (50 words). It would be great to include images from the comics under discussion but unfortunately we are unable to chase copyright for these ourselves, so please do include images if you can obtain copyright permission (or if images are from your own comics). Otherwise just point readers to where they can view the comics.

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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