10 must-read mental health comics
The best-selling titles in comic books are those about superheroes. However, the comics industry covers much more than crime-fighting caped crusaders. Many comic book creators use this medium to tell stories about serious topics, and some produce comics about mental health.
These comics vary from autobiographical tales of mental health struggles to writers using the classic capes to tell stories about mental health through the lens of a superhero. These stories present mental health in a relevant and accessible way, which helps readers feel represented or allows them to better understand others.
ten ‘Daredevil: Born Again’ tackles depression
Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock) has suffered from depression his entire life, and Daredevil: Born Again written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli deepens his experience. Considered one of Daredevil’s best arcs, born again focuses on Matt’s descent into a darker place through the Kingpin’s actions.
Upon discovering Daredevil’s true identity, the crime boss sets out to ruin Matt’s life. Matt loses his job and his house and starts picking on his friends. Fortunately, he is able to return from the dark depths of the Depression and expose the Kingpin for the criminal that he is. Although most people aren’t superheroes, Daredevil’s depression is still relevant and realistic.
9 Millennials Love “Adulthood is a Myth” by Sarah Andersen
Sarah Andersen’s webcomic, Sarah’s doodles, is a semi-autobiographical comic about the daily life of millennials. The webcomic is so popular that Andersen published a collection of comics under the title Adulthood is a myth.
Andersen’s comics explore the common stresses of millennial life, including feelings of inadequacy, poor body image, and social anxiety. His comics are very relevant and tackle serious subjects with humor. Readers feel safe knowing they’re not the only ones feeling weird all the time.
8 Jessica Cruz struggles with anxiety
Green Lantern Jessica Cruz suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes her anxiety is so strong that she is unable to get out of bed. In all of her comedic appearances, Jessica manages her condition with the support of her partner, Simon Baz. An excellent example of this support is illustrated in Green Lanterns: Family Matters by Sam Humphries, Ronan Cliquet, Blond and Dave Sharpe.
Baz invites Jessica to dinner to meet her family, and at first her anxiety drives her to look for ways to skip dinner. However, instead of arguing with her, Baz persuades her to help him make dessert. Her appreciation for food helps her overcome her anxiety long enough to meet her partner’s family. Jessica’s struggles help people with anxiety feel seen and inspire hope that they too can work through their feelings.
seven ‘Hyperbole and A Half’ went from webcomic to graphic novel
hyperbola and a half by Allie Brosh started out as a series of webcomics and blog posts before transitioning into graphic novels. Brosh’s simple art style became hugely popular, and many of his comics about the realities of the Depression were shared on the internet. His work is bizarre and often surreal, drawing inspiration from meme culture and rage comics to create relatable stories. They often expose the funny side of living with depression and break down the classic stereotypes more commonly seen in the media.
6 Red Hood seeks redemption and heals from trauma
Red Hood is one of the most complicated members of the Bat-Family, but Red Hood and the Outlaws by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort explored the theme of redemption and recovery with many of its main characters.
Throughout the story, Jason is able to begin to forget the trauma of his death. He also works on this grudge against Batman with the support of Starfire and Arsenal. Arsenal works through his own issues at the same time as a recovering heroin addict, and his friendship with Jason and Starfire is an important part of restoring his self-esteem. This arc shows how important friendships are for people with mental health issues and how recovery is a long and difficult journey.
5 Darryl Cunningham shares stories from his work
Artist Darryl Cunningham previously worked as an orderly in a psychiatric ward. His experiences and knowledge of mental illnesses and their various symptoms led to his work Psychiatric Tales, which is a collection of mental health stories told in graphic form. His austere art style, combined with a mix of science, history and anecdotes, combine to create a series of moving and compelling graphic stories. Inspired by his patients, Cunningham aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and educate his readers.
4 Iron Man was an alcoholic who managed to turn things around
One of the first times superhero comics dealt with mental health was in the 1979s. Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle by David Micheline and Bob Layton – an arc that dealt with Iron Man’s alcoholism. In this famous story, Iron Man’s armor malfunctions, leading to him accidentally killing a foreign ambassador. Traumatized by this mistake, Tony turns to alcohol to cope. He begins to drink heavily, hoping to forget his problems, and isolates himself by chasing away his friends and colleagues. His then-girlfriend, Bethany Cabe, confronts him and forces him to accept that he has a problem, which leads to his recovery. This arc paved the way for superhero comics to tackle topics such as drug addiction and other mental health issues.
3 Ellen Forney worries about creativity
Being diagnosed with a mental health condition often comes with a lot of fear and shame. When Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she was afraid of what the drug would do to her creativity. These types of fears are not uncommon for many people living with conditions like bipolar disorder. Marbles: mania, depression, Michelangelo and me explores Forney’s relationship with his diagnosis, his journey of acceptance while undergoing treatment, and his determination to maintain his creative life. This graphic novel is a fascinating look at one person’s bipolar disorder and the weirdness that comes with seeking treatment.
2 Captain Marvel has its share of demons
Captain Marvel is a mighty hero who has faced many hardships throughout her storied history. The Life of Captain Marvelwritten by Margaret Stohl with art by Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage, delves into these struggles and explores Carol’s childhood issues and difficult relationships.
The story shows that Carol’s trauma manifests in panic attacks, which begin with her punching a bad guy so hard that Captain America has to pull her away. Carol admits she has anger issues and returns to her childhood home to confront them. There, she deals with her memories of an abusive father and her relationship with her mother. This poignant story deals with Carol’s issues with sensitivity and makes her seem more human in the process.
1 Ink In Water is honest about eating disorders
ink in water by Lacy J. Davies and Jim Ketter is an unwavering graphic memoir about eating disorders. This is the true story of Lacy’s journey through multiple eating disorders and her battle to balance societal bodily norms with her riot roots. What begins as bodily worries quickly escalates into anorexia, an obsession with healthy foods and an addiction to exercise. Unfortunately, when Lacy asked Overeaters Anonymous for help, she found it didn’t fit her punk and feminist beliefs. This honest memoir is just as brutal and funny. It tackles the conflicts that eating disorders and the road to recovery often bring.
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