This is the story of my work in progress, Coma Comic and how it’s evolved since it was last presented at the Graphic Medicine Conference 3 years ago in Dundee.
Back in 2016 I was interested in simply telling my story.
That being. The emotions & physical sensations of Strep throat developing in Necrotising Myosistis and the internal world of the subsequent drug-induced coma.
I aimed to focus on 2 clear memories of when I woke from the coma
1, I had no blueprint for this experience
2, If there’s Purgatory, this was it & it’s manmade.
In an attempt to make sense of this other, internal, world, I journeyed into the creative dreamscapes of other artists.
I focused on the No Blueprint and attempted to visually pin down and unravel the maze like structure of my experience. Capturing Fear & confusion.
Aside from relying on metaphor, my maze involved a lot of corridors.
This page is from a preliminary 4 page comic called, Don’t Pick The Flowers.
However, I literally found myself down a rabbit hole, going along a few dead ends.
The was a primal experience with primal emotions, so early on I’d decided to use animal symbolism to express myself…which was and wasn’t a good idea.
I spent more time trying to figure out the anatomy a rabbit than moving the story on.
I realised that I needed more structure. I needed a timeline.
And I found that in Dan’s diaries.
They are a day by day account of life from the day the infection turned severe. He documents everything: of friends & family rallying; bedside vigils; his shock, hopes & fears and how the children coped.
So even though I’d previously got confused with the direction & focus of my work, there were a lot of drawings and nothing went to waste. With Dan’s diaries I felt I had enough & was confident enough to work up the introductory pages and apply for the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition last year. I’m really glad I did because it was shortlisted.
Moving forward Coma Comic keeps time & alternates between Dan’s diary and my purgatory in the coma.
The roots of my purgatory are Medieval, the reason being that at the point at which my mental state changed I’d just seen a Medieval skeleton spiral across my path. This happened just when I’d woken up within the Coma, I knew I was awake & not in a dream but I was somehow trapped in darkness. I’m guessing this is my mind showing me what me what my body already knew.
Bewilderment, soon becomes Fear, and my fear begs the question Why?
I don’t know where I am, what is happening or why.
I search for answers, ask logical questions, what have I done to be here?
This questioning of myself manifests into seemingly external accusations, blame & guilt. A perfect storm.
Visually I reference Dante to Map my personal journey through Purgatory, if Dan’s account is in words, mine is in picture form. Spiralling layers ascending from the base of my being, incorporate the progression of my experience and treatment, and culminate in a spinning disc. Interestingly throughout the journey I refuse to admit a guilt, however, when spinning on this disc, or the wheel of life, I know that I can’t break through the surface unless I admit to something.
Immersed in this visual world, I take inspiration from medieval illuminations decorating the page borders. I use animals from the original version to reflect pain, fear and death and start creating a lexicon of creatures to represent different aspects of the journey. The headless animal is the coma itself, my virgil, my protector and guide through the series of harrowings.
At this stage I’m feeling confident. I’m thumbnailing the book, alternating between mine and Dan’s version of events. And then I make an unexpected connection with Underworld myths.
I watched a film called, Gods of Egypt. It was so bad, it was good. But the scene that interested me most was one with the feather of Truth.
The Feather of Truth is a feather used in the Hall of Judgment in the Land of the Dead to determine if souls of the deceased are worthy for the afterlife. If your soul weighs more than it does, you are unworthy, and Ammit the Devourer eats your soul.
So the reason this interested me so much was that midway through my coma story I find myself balancing on the edge of a feather, over a body of water. It was here that I find out I’m going to life, despite the skeletons, I was unaware that I might die.
Soon after this I make connections with my visions & other underworlds.
The Godness, Hel from Norse Myths, who greets the sick & elderly.
Chinese gods and the wheel of life. The spiralling disc that either returns you to your present life or you’re born into a new one.
And characters from Greek myth.
Some of these stories I realised I knew & some I didn’t. However, having started with no blueprint I realise it was there all along, as long as there’s been humankind it’s been there. Our relationship with nature, our nature & workings of the mind have provided a rich source for all myths and religion that we feed our collective consciousness in the form of stories.