By Susie Gander
Lettering and Logo by Robin Jones
Self published full colour – 42 pages
Out: 14th October 2017
“Perry Winkle is your own personal strong, fearless, cancer killing superhero… and let’s face it, not too bad on the eyes either.”
The Book: Perry Winkle Comic was created as a web comic during Susie Gander’s battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2015. She drew it during treatment to help keep her mind off what was happening.
After sharing it with the patients, who said it also helped them, she and partner Chris ran a successful Kickstarter and Perry Winkle has been redrawn and being re-released as a print comic.
The Story: Susie is in the hospital with her husband Chris. They are waiting to hear the results of some tests. At this moment of stress Perry Winkle appears in front of her. Is this curvy yet tough super-hero real? Believing this to be a medicine and stress induced hallucination, she ignores it, brushes it aside and gets on with her life.
Susie is diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She fights back with the help of her heroine Perry. With Chris on one side and Perry on the other, Susie faces the disease head on. This is the story of that fight.
“They are your battle scars, wear them with pride.”
The Review: Perry Winkle started life as a webcomic. Susie then took the decision, the perfectionist she clearly is, to redraw it and put it out as a print comic, which will soon be available to buy.
Cards on the table. Susie is a pal of mine. But we first met after I got a chance to read the first half of the story and later interview her on a panel at the Leamington Spa Comic Con earlier this year. I am always impressed with this woman. She is not only brave but also talented and this comic attests to both these facts.
The comic (in my humble opinion) reflects not only the refusal of Susie to be beaten by the illness but also that cheeky sense of humour that imbeds itself into the pages. (A moment when Chris points out that his wife just farted always raises a smile).
The way that the story is told has a feel of the traditional, the bond we have developed over the years with those super-heroes that we are used to reading. The creator weaves the elements of the illness affecting a couple into this trope and makes it much more personal by doing so.
This brings a familiar feel to the images that also, when required, smacks you in the face with moments and images of two people dealing with a life threatening illness. This is a real feat of artistic skill in my opinion.
The art style has a contemporary capes and cowls feel to it. There isn’t the usual use of overly melodramatic shadowed images or ponderous navel gazing. This is a pragmatic and practical look at dealing with a terrible event. It has style and an emotional wave that will crash down on to the reader.
Cancer is something that has touched many families and in reading this, I can’t help but feel emotional myself through the story that is told on the page. Susie manages to bring home the real and heartbreaking gut punch this disease is – and how it affects her and those around her. There is one panel that hits home with the impact a diagnosis and treatment has. Susie curls herself up into a ball and utters the line…
“I just lay there… vulnerable and broken…28 years old, life was going well, married, saving up for a deposit….why now?'”
Listen. I’m a man in his forties. I’ve seen a lot of shit over the years. But nothing has ever brought home the strength of an individual and that life can be emotional and fraught with danger to the undeserving than this comic has to me at every single reading.
As I put the book down, I am genuinely more than a little broken. This is a work of strength and humour and drama and tears and joy. What more can you ask. And at the end a big old ray of hope.
Buy this book. It’ll be getting a launch at Nottingham Comic Convention on the 14th October 2017. Head over to www.nottinghamcomiccon.co.uk for details of this event.
This book also raises money for Bloodwise, a research charity that looks in to all types of blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. They are also a charity that provides support for those affected, their families and friends and supply expert information. Head over to www.bloodwise.org.uk and donate.
Many thanks for reading.