Miscarriage comics – talking about it

Last week, The Miscarriage Association began a campaign – It’s time to talk about miscarriage. Of course, not everyone wants to talk about it and that’s fine – either they find it too difficult or prefer to keep that part of their lives private. However, the taboos surrounding miscarriage mean that many women who do want to be open about it feel that they can’t. Perhaps they are afraid of upsetting others or making people feel uncomfortable. This further compounds their isolation and grief.

I’ve been making comics on the subject for a couple of years now, based on my own experiences of repeated unexplained early miscarriage. I also wrote a post about the language and euphemisms used to refer to miscarriage. As well as a natural urge to express myself through creativity, my hope has been to express something that others can’t, and to help break taboos. Comics can do this because pictures replace the need for words which are hard to say – or it seems that the symbiosis of words and pictures can speak louder than words alone and the impact is more immediate. And perhaps this could help in breaking the silence surrounding miscarriage. Here is most of the work I’ve done on the subject so far:

Or does it have a positive affect? I’m not sure. The response to sharing this work has been varied: From supportive other creatives doing similar to befuddled relatives telling me I just need to ‘get counselling’. The funniest response was at Comica Comiket last autumn when a guy did a double-take at my comic Spooky Womb: he pointed at it, looked at me, pulled a ‘scary’ face, then ran away! I guess he wasn’t ready to come face to face with anthropomorphic female reproductive parts at a comics fair. Poor chap!

It has been very connecting in that women I barely know have spoken to me about their own experiences of miscarriage and not having children. Not that I’m offering myself as a comics creator-counsellor by any means – not equipped! But I appreciated these connections.

However, I often worry about offending people who’d probably rather not know or upsetting others who’ve had similar experiences. Of course this reflects some of the reasons women in general don’t/ can’t talk about it. In fact, I’ve read articles about comics mentioning that comics should be all about cheering people up and the lighter side of life. But a couple of years ago I was excited to find that there’s a whole website about the intersection of comics and medicine/ illness (Graphic Medicine) where it’s accepted that comics can play an important role in empathy, understanding and education. Hello! I thought.

I’ve started writing warning messages on posts recently. But perhaps that’s me pandering to the taboo – just another way to steer it off the radar. Though I feel it’s mainly out of respect. I’ve discussed these issues with Mita Mahato and Katie Green recently (comics creators also sharing emotive work). On conclusion, I’m inclined to think that people have a choice as to whether or not they look, and this recent campaign by The Miscarriage Association has given me cause to believe that perhaps it’s OK. After all – not all my social networking updates are about this subject – there’s a peppering of other interests too – music, wildlife, politics, goats shouting like humans etc.

Here’s an interesting post by artist Lily Mae Martin, about sharing intimate, honest and often difficult details of her life as a mother. I met Lily when she spoke about her work at Laydeez do Comics.

Comica Festival Comiket

I have a half-table (No 36) at Comica Comiket on November 10th which takes place at The Bishopsgate Institute, London. It’s my first comics fair so feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I started my creative career selling hand-made cards on stalls and at craft fairs in the early 90s, so it’s been a long time hiding in my studio… Here’s what will be available:

Spooky Womb (A true-ish uterine tale) A 12-pp story about a woman’s relationship with her uterus (see my previous post). B&W with hand-coloured cover elements:

A Fray A few years ago I found some beautiful vintage newswraps (used to wrap around newspapers). I made one or two birthday cards with them but always wanted to make them into a booklet.  I’d occasionally take them out of the drawer to stroke them and wonder what to do, but was waiting for the right thing. Inside there is an adhesive strip which says ‘Strip-easy’ so it had to be something comicky!  It also had to be something to do with communication – related to the idea of news, perhaps. I used to make some of my cards using hand-carved rubber stamps so I made some new ones for this. It’s a very small story about friendship and miscommunication. Handle with care: The paper is over 30 yrs old and the creases are brittle!

It’s a fold-out 8-page story, hand-stitched with embroidery thread into a vintage newswrap and home-made rubber-stamped. Each one varies as to paper colour and, er, stamping errors! Strictly limited number-stamped edition of 8 small and 4 tall  (all I have and no idea where to find more). The inserts will be available separately and you get one free (to give to a friend?) if you buy the newswrap. The first one sold will be wrapped in original labelling, as shown:

And finally, to lighted up (sort-of) with cheesy puns, Comixmas Card 001, A6 with red envelope

I’ll also be taking the first few pages of my graphic memoir in progress, The Facts of Life. And, a comic each by Smoo and Misinterpreted Complications – we’re doing a Thought Bubble/ Comiket swap.

See you there? Come and say hi!

Spooky Womb comic

My first printed comic, Spooky Womb (A true-ish uterine tale), is back from the printer. I’m just hand colouring the covers. I’ll be taking it to Comica Comiket on November 10th which takes place at The Bishopsgate Institute, London. After that, I’ll make it available online.

The grey covers have hand coloured elements – painted whites of eyes and rosy cheeks (Karisma pencil ‘Scarlet Lake’). The cover paper came from a local recycled paper wholesaler, only a ten-minute walk from my house. The comic is printed on 100% recycled stock.

I knew I wouldn’t be quite so busy with paid freelance work in October, so I gave myself last month to write, draw and get a comic printed – with a Halloween deadline (I made it but the printer didn’t!) And I had to get the whole ‘anthropomorphising a uterus’ thing out of my system. It’s been quite a learning curve but one I wanted to get on, so I could take part in comics fairs etc.

Spooky Womb is a short autobiographical 10-page spin-off from my work in progress, The Facts of Life. The story isn’t all that spooky in reality. ‘Spooky’ in this context refers to the nature of our bodies, which can behave in unexpected, mysterious and hidden ways that we can’t necessarily control, especially hormonally.

It was a good exercise in sorting out how to draw myself for the graphic memoir – something I’ve been struggling over. Still not sure I’ve cracked it, especially continuity-wise, but it’s getting closer to what I want. A friend once said that I draw ‘lollipop heads’ i.e. out of proportion (too big) with the rest of the body. It was an observation rather than a criticism but it’s something I’m trying to avoid. Some illustrators do this on purpose to achieve a ‘cute’ style. For me, it’s probably a habit formed from years in children’s illustration where head-to-body ratio is smaller (children’s heads being larger in pro to the rest of their bodies than adults’ heads are).

Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with the comic but plenty learnt for next time! After Comiket, I’ll be getting down to The Facts of Life again, so to speak.