Ootastic: PCOS in pictures

July 18, 2017

Collected infertility comics

Filed under: comics, TTC — ootastic @ 7:50 pm

I first started drawing comics when I was struggling to get (and stay) pregnant.  Given that fertility problems affect an estimated one in six couples and that up to a quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage, it should be of no surprise to find so many comics on these topics. This is the second of two posts collecting links to relevant comics and other illustrations. Please feel free to point me to any I’ve missed!

The tortures of trying to conceive (TTC) have been captured in the comic memoir Good Eggs by Phoebe Potts, which is reveiwed on the Graphic Medicine website.  Similarly, Broken Eggs is an autobiographical visual narrative by Emily Steinberg, which is further detailed in Cleaver magazine.  One book I was able to read in full is One Good Egg, Suzy Becker’s illustrated memoir about the “Baby Decision” and undergoing IVF.  Got Pins And Needles is an illustrated essay exploring the limits of fertility treatment for “social infertility”.  Meanwhile, the male perspective is covered by The Infertile Man by Drs Aniruddha and Anjali Malpani.  The same authors also offer the Comic Book for Infertile Couples, which is reviewed on the BioNews website.  Finally, the amusingly named Cranky Vagina has a couple of one-panels about fertility treatment.


May 12, 2017

Collected miscarriage comics

Filed under: comics, miscarriage — ootastic @ 9:38 pm

I first started drawing comics when I was struggling to get (and stay) pregnant.  Given that fertility problems affect an estimated one in six couples and that up to a quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage, it should be of no surprise to find so many comics on these topics. This is the first of two posts collecting links to relevant comics and other illustrations. Please feel free to point me to any I’ve missed!

Diane Noomin’s groundbreaking comic “Baby Talk: A Tale of 4 Miscarriages” was published in the now defunct Twisted Sisters anthology (though can be glimpsed on the web here and here) and has inspired many, including LaydeezDoComics (LDC) co-founder Sarah Lightman.  Fellow LDC member and Paula Knight recently published her graphic memoir, The Facts Of Life, which deals not only with recurrent miscarriage and long-term illness (ME/CFS) but also societal expectations of women and motherhood.  Kate Evans often provides illustrations for the Miscarriage Association (e.g. Partners Too and Teens Too) and Unravelling never fails to bring a tear to my eye.  Lucy Knisley shared a similar experience in A Record Playing By Itself and LDC Glasgow co-founder Anna Brewer did likewise in Sad News and subsequent posts. Non-fiction comics website The Nib published A Lost Possibility by Ryan Alexander-Tanner.  Ryan has also drawn What To Say (Nor Not Say) and Grieving a Miscarriage in collaboration with psychologist Jessica Tucker, who spearheaded the #IHadAMiscarriage social media campaign and also launched a range of pregnancy loss greetings cards.  Meanwhile male perspectives of miscarriage are show in this sketch by Curtis Wiklund and the episode Loss of the web-comic Crtl+Alt+Del by Tim Buckley.  In fact, the latter spawned an internet meme – and while miscarriage is no laughing matter, wider acknowledgment of its impact can only help.  Finally, while not comics-related, Marjolaine Ryley’s Arts Council funded project thethinbluelinethedeepredsea explores pregnancy loss in the arts.

April 28, 2017

“Fish And Slide Rules”: the Bille Tutte board game

Filed under: comics, science — ootastic @ 4:02 pm

I pass by the Bill Tutte memorial on a regular basis and wanted to draw something to celebrate the upcoming centenary of his birth.  As usual, any errors are my own.

February 20, 2017

Collected cardiovascular comics

Filed under: CHD, comics — ootastic @ 5:22 pm

Over the past decade, there has been an increasing wealth of graphic narratives around subjects such as cancer and mental issues. However, as I’ve been researching and drawing about my own congenital heart defect, I’ve found a relative lack of comics around cardiovascular conditions.  I’ve summarised what I’ve found so far below and would love to hear any other recommendations.

Two graphic memoirs touch on heart issues, both recently published by the excellent Myriad Editions.  In Hole in the Heart, Henny Beaumont charts her daughter’s Down’s syndrome – including the diagnosis of and successful surgery for a congenital heart defect.  The so-called “dead baby story that is funny”, Billy, Me & You, sees Nicola Streeten dealing with bereavement following her young son’s death after heart surgery.

The Annals of Internal Medicine journal publishes an ever-expanding collection of graphic narratives and comics in their Annals of Graphic Medicine.  These include Missed It about a missed diagnosis of aortic stenosis,  the self-explanatory Atrial Flutter and Judgement Call which considers pacemaker therapy for an elderly relative.

Scientific cartoons sometimes make it into the popular press, including this one on xenotransplantation in Wired magazine (page 103).  There are also numerous newspaper-style one-frame cartoons viewable various archive websites such as CartoonStock and the Cartoonist Group.

Medical Tales Retold is an 25-episode online webcomic dealing with all matters medical, including an excerpt from Palpitations – full version accessible via the Tapastic app on iTunes or Google Play.  The same author, The Awkward Yeti, also has a series of over two hundred comics featuring the lovable recurring character Heart (plus his friend Brain) – although these are more humorous then medical!

Finally, as we all know, the Marvel comics character and lead Avenger Iron Man famously uses a magnetic field generator to prevent shrapnel from fatally reaching his heart.  I’m also amused to discover the lesser-known Marvel character Cardiac, a vigilante physician/entrepeneur battling corporate greed. Could he be the next entrant to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?


August 2, 2016

Graphic Medicine 2016 Conference

Filed under: comics, conference — ootastic @ 10:10 pm

Last month I attended my first Graphic Medicine conference in Dundee. I followed the 2015 event in California on Twitter (it even inspired me to get a comic finished), so I thought embarking on an eight hour train journey was the least I could do.  Surprisingly, the trains all worked – hopefully you’ll recognise Cambridge, Peterborough and Edinburgh in the doodle below left.  The train was too wobbly to draw on so instead I finished reading the excellent Graphic Medicine Manifesto which I later got autographed (in comic form, so autodoodled?) by two of the co-authors (and Graphic Medicine website co-managers) MK Czerwiec and Ian Williams, and which I will hopefully review in the near future.

My attempted sketchnote below right shows one of the reasons why that epic train trip was well worth it.  The Saturday afternoon session of lightning talks titled Moving Stories – featuring comics mostly drawn from the perspective of patients, family and/or friends around topics including bereavement, depression, miscarriage, Alzheimer’s and cancer – left me feeling more than a little emotional (and this was before the conference wine was opened).

train_small stories_small


The closing keynote speech (or should I say song?) of the conference was given by renowned American cartoonist Lynda Barry  (depicted below as Medusa), who discussed the biological basis of creativity and the fact that “anyone can draw”, even/especially(?) if they use their non-dominant hand or an icing bag!



One of the Saturday morning sessions featured a trio of academics demonstrating the power of comics medium to communicate both the physical and mental sequelae of disease.  I should mention that I failed to find room in the right-hand image to include the details of the weighty book, i.e. the harrowing Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green.


amy irmela paul


Finally, to end on a classy note, the enlightening workshop on graphic facilitation and sketchnoting included this clip of the BBC hospital-based sitcom Getting On for which I was obliged to draw the following visual pun (possibly influenced by the current potty training of my son).


During the feedback session we were asked to summarise the conference in one word and I chose “participation”, of which I’ve encountered several escalating varieties as described more fully in my recent not-conference-talk.

  • Read comics – there are now so many comics available to read both online and in paper that it’s hard to know where to start.  Like many I’ve asked, I’d recommend Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies.  Also, a big thanks to Suffolk and Cambridgeshire libraries for their range of comic books.
  • Talk about comics – book club, social media, in the pub, etc!
  • Draw comics – as Lynda Barry says, “anyone can draw”.  JFDI, where the “D” stands for “draw”!
  • Attend a comics conference – don’t forget to talk to people, even just to say “nice t-shirt” or “what are you reading?”.
  • Give a conference talk – maybe I’ll be organised/brave enough next year!


Happy reading/talking/drawing!

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.