The Wellcome Collection, a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we all think and feel about health, is seeking out new stories for its web site and other outlets, including comics, about health and human experience.
Aiming to attract a wide range of storytellers, who are paid for their contributions, the library hopes that, through words and pictures, they will encourage visitors to make connections, provoke new thinking and share lived experiences.
The organisation, part of Wellcome, which supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone, hopes to create opportunities for people to think deeply about the connections between science, medicine, life and art, through exhibitions, collections, live programming, digital, broadcast and publishing.
You can find out more about how to propose a story here, each commission going through a collaborative editorial process – and the Wellcome Collection pay you for your work.
One contributor already providing material is Brighton-based comics artist, writer and doctor Ian Williams, founder of the not-for-profit Graphic Medicine International Collective and co-author of the Eisner-nominated Graphic Medicine Manifesto, published in 2015.
His work includes two graphic novels, The Bad Doctor and The Lady Doctor, published by Myriad Editions, and is working on a third, provisionally entitled The Sick Doctor. He named the area of study called graphic medicine, building the eponymous website in 2007, which he currently co-edits.
Ian’s series of comic strips for Wellcome, “Sorry to keep you waiting”, which launched in August, examine the human vulnerabilities and blind spots of doctors and the systems in which they work.
“With the NHS under pressure it is easy to see doctors (if you can actually get to see one…) as the detatched and privileged functionaries of a rather unwieldly and overloaded system,” Ian says of the series. “It is easy to forget that these individuals have their own histories of illness, trauma or emotional pain, as well as their own idiosyncrasies and blind spots, and that they are working, under trying conditions, within a framework designed by politicians, using computer software that can perpetuate stigma and social inequality.
“You don’t have to pity them, just understand why they are what they are.”
You can read the strips here, one strand of many paid contributions, most published under a Creative Commons licence (but the Collection appreciate this is not always possible with visual creatives).
“We work with lots of different storytellers of differing levels of experience and from varied backgrounds,” say the Wellcome Collection.
“We are always looking for new writers and image creators. We are particularly interested in hearing from contributors from ethnically minoritised communities, and disabled, d/Deaf and neurodivergent writers because we are committed to publishing stories that represent the wide diversity of experiences with health.
“This doesn’t mean we are only keen to hear about your lived experience of, for example, being disabled; we are also interested in your distinct take on whatever topic or story really interests you.”
Graphic Medicine is a site that explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare. It’s a community of academics, health carers, authors, artists, and fans of comics and medicine. The site is maintained by an editorial team under the direction of the Graphic Medicine International Collective
Cartoonist and doctor Ian Williams takes his stethoscope to Dr Iwan James, a rural GP in need of more than a little care himself. Incontinent old ladies, men with eagle tattoos, traumatised widowers, Iwan’s patients cause him both empathy and dismay, further complicated by his feelings for his practise partners: unrequited longing for Dr Lois Pritchard and frustration at the antics of Dr Robert Smith, who will use any means to make Iwan look bad in his presence. Iwan’s cycling trips with his friend and mentor, Arthur, provide some welcome relief for him.
The Lady Doctor focuses on 40-year-old Lois Pritchard. She is currently single, despite the attentions of her many admirers, and is, by her own admission, ‘not very good with relationships.’ Starting guitar lessons on her 40th birthday does not become the release she hopes from life’s vicissitudes.
When her estranged mother makes a dramatic appearance on the scene, Lois must look to something far more radical to sort out her personal life. From the moment the readers see Dr Lois nipping out of the back of the surgery for a fag, they know they are in for a behind-the-scenes warts-and-all comedy drama.
With thanks to Matt Badham for the tip
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.