I thought I'd post about the progress of the second issue of my comic as certain stones have started to be unturned while scripting and drawing this that I think are interesting to discuss, if not at great length.
Firstly bare in mind that most of these images are rough, incomplete, and liable to change, although it'll give you a general idea. The focus of this issue is an event in my life that happened a number of years ago which is forever referred to in my medical notes as 'massive Hemoptysis', which in laymen's terms means that I was coughing up a lot of blood, over the course of one weekend.
The story branches out from there and touches a little more on how my friends dealt with it at the time, and how the way in which my friendship dynamic worked and why it was good for me in terms of my illness and how I wanted to be treated, and I indulge myself a little more in explaining my ego and my failings. Despite what could be considerably a downbeat subject I have tried to go into it with humour again, talking about my feeble attempts to wipe bloody fingerprints off the walls which still showed up weeks later, trying not to get blood on the leather upholstery in my dad's car, and (how could I forget!) having my pubes shaved by a male nurse called Moses on my birthday.
(The nurses found it very amusing that my birthday present was a dry shave and itchy balls, but they did get me two birthday cakes for after the procedure)
(I thought I was being ultra considerate trying to clean up the blood that I got in the bathroom as and when it happened, turns out I'm a pretty poor cleaner, my friends were finding blood fingerprints everywhere for weeks!)
I also try and touch upon the often conflicting memories and perceptions of the event in question by myself, my friends, and my parents.
(abstract/psychedelic representation of procedure I had done on my inflamed/bleeding arteries, it was either called (something) embolisation or bronchial angiography)
However drawing and writing this event as well as thinking about it did mean that I touched upon an issue which I know I am going to have to talk about in greater detail in the future: Death. (If your not a fan of self-indulgence I suggest you stop reading now)
(This image to be used in a later issue)
At the end of the issue I plan to relay a conversation I had with a friend following a piece of good news from my liver doctor. When I was diagnosed with CF-associated liver disease at the age of 10 I was given approximately 4 years before they estimated I would need a transplant. Since then my liver function has improved dramatically, due to nothing but oral medication (and certainly not due to my nun like aversion to alcohol *cough cough*). I was told that I would most likely never have any real trouble with my liver, that I seemed to be one of those select group of CF patients who was diagnosed young but who fully recovered. I still needed to see him every two years to be sure but everything was fine, there was no scaring at all, and the latest test results were just back in the normal range (that is the normal range for everyone not the normal range for people with liver disease). When I told this to my friend over a drink (very apt!) she was overjoyed:
This got me thinking about catharsis. For me the process of making these comics is almost the opposite of catharsis, I'm not working through things with words and pictures but rather holding them a distance. When writing and drawing these comics I am not thinking in terms of 'these are things that have actually happened, could happen, or will happen' but simply as creative problems to solve. I think about it in terms of the best way to tell a story, of the most creative and interesting way to represent it visually. It only really dawned on me lately when I was trying to think about the best way to draw myself vomiting blood at the side of a motorway and I had to stop and ask myself if that thought process was weird.
For me (and I guess I'm very lucky in this respect) and for my friends, my CF hasn't felt too real most of the time, which is why I sometimes worry that researching CF, and writing and drawing about my CF, might just be pouring salt in the wound. I'd be interested to know how other comic artists feel about this, which is why I think the whole process of creating these stories and the effect it has on yourself as well as those around you is an important thing to include in the story itself. This is something I thought was underrepresented in comics but going back through a lot of the medical themed graphic narratives I've read it does pop its head up more often than not. Sarah Leavitt reading her creative writing piece to her mum in Tangles, Darryl Cunningham talking about how the reaction to his comics online in a sense 'saved him' from depression, are just two examples I can think of off the top of my head. Of course you probably need to be sparing with this and not go into over blown self-indulgent postmodern meta-fiction overdrive, but still its something worth thinking about.
Finally to end things on a more upbeat note, I am quite flattered (but also equally anxious) to have had The CF Diaries Issue 1 selected as the small press comic to be examined and scrutinised by Mike Medaglia and Mark Haylock's monthly comic reading/discussion group Comic Gosh! in April alongside Nicola Streeton's excellent graphic memoir Billy, You, and Me. This group has been endorsed by much more heavyweight members of the small and mainstream comic press than myself and I have only heard good things about it. I intend to attend and might attend March's session as well as they will be discussing David B's Epileptic alongside transatlantic woman's comic The Strumpet. My ego will either take a bruising or will have to get it's own chauffeur, we'll have to wait and see. Read the rest of the reading list here.
(speaking of ego's, here's a funny little section I drew for my comic, not entirely sure where to place it yet)
I will also be concentrating on drawing the second issue of my good friend Emma Mould's second autobiographical comic about living with Borderline Personality Disorder in time for her presentation at next months Laydeez Do Comics alongside Karrie Fransman and Dr Ann Miller (author of the fantastic theory book Reading Bande Dessinee) on the 20th of Febuary at the Rag Factory in Brick Lane. Starts at 6.30, £1.50 to attend, homemade cookies, beer and wine, great talks, and the chance to go out for a curry afterwards.