Thursday, 5 August 2010

Darryl Not Richie: Psychiatric Tales

When I started getting involved with small press comics in the early 90s, I always felt I was an outsider. Only a few of us seemed to be creating mainstream style comic stories while the majority of the small press seemed to focus on alternative, avante garde and more personal fare. As a member of the latter group, Darryl Cunningham was a frequent contributor and I was aware of him rather than his work. Recently, Previews solicited a book he had drawn called Psychiatric Tales, a graphic novel informed by Cunningham's own experiences as both a mental health professional and sufferer. I managed to pick up a copy from FP in Wolverhampton last weekend and read it on my train trip home.

Usually, I buy comics for the artwork and while Cunningham's cartoony art is not the sort of thing I'd pick up, it services the subject matter very well. Following a line through from the art of Scott McCloud, Cunningham's simply rendered art is open and inviting and easily accessible to non-comic readers, easing them into the book's subject matter, which is what I was really interested in.

Split into various chapters covering subjects such as suicide, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the book sounds heavy going but is actually very uplifting. By explaining a few simple facts illustrated with a few examples, Cunningham relieves the stigma from various mental afflictions without downplaying their serious effects. Having read this book now, I think I know one or two psychopaths: Cunningham makes it clear without ever belabouring the point that there are many psychopaths in our society and far from all devolving into murderers (though still remaining people you'd sooner not hang out with), some have attributes actively valued by certain professions.

Illuminating and humanising, Psychiatric Tales is well worth your attention...

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