The trend for medical graphic novels continues with Bloomsbury’s The Inflatable Woman by Rachael Ball (22nd October, £18.99).
Ball, who wrote and illustrated the book, was diagnosed with breast cancer while working as an art teacher and cartoonist. She said: “Part of me was utterly rational: I talked about doing a cartoon strip about my experiences, while emotionally I was in utter turmoil.” Ball started posting instalments of her story on her blog and it was picked up by Bloomsbury after 14 chapters when Ball’s agent, Kirsty McLachlan at David Godwin Associates, sent them to Alexa von Hirschberg, Ball’s editor.
Von Hirschberg said: “Rachael’s pencil packs an almighty punch - she doesn’t rely on text to tell her story. I think this is rare.”
Bloomsbury hopes the book will appeal outside the existing graphic novel market. Ball said: “I’ve tried to accommodate all tastes - it’s romantic, funny and has a life and death scenario. And there’s penguins and a monkey in a tutu.”
On the growing popularity of the medical graphic novel, Von Hirschberg said: “If there is a trend here my hope is that it is because British readers are beginning to wake up to the wealth of comics talent we have in this country.”
Myriad Editions is building on the success it has had with previous titles in this genre, notably Nicola Streeten’s Billy, Me & You (2011, £12.99), about the author recovering from the death of her two-year-old son, and Ian Williams’ The Bad Doctor (2014, £12.99). Williams’ title was particularly influential in terms of kickstarting a new facet of the genre; medical professionals exploring issues via the medium. The Bad Doctor goes “behind the scenes” of a GP surgery and was shortlisted for the 2012 First Graphic Novel Competition.
Myriad Editions has several titles in this genre, which have been acquired by editor Corinne Pearlman. Upcoming is Hole in the Heart by Henny Beaumont (June 2016, £14.99), about the author, an artist and portrait painter, dealing with learning that her third child would have Down’s syndrome. Beaumont cites Streeten as a direct influence. Just announced is The Facts of Life by illustrator Paula Knight (2017), which “tackles family expectations, miscarriage and what it takes to become a mother”. Both Hole in the Heart and The Facts of Life were acquired after being shortlisted for Myriad’s First Graphic Novel Competition, judged by a combination of authors, cartoonists and comics experts. Pearlman said: “There has always been a strong autobiographical strain in independent comics, looking back you can see that nothing was too personal to be conveyed in comics.” She added: “I pride myself on Myriad’s eclectic list. I find the different visual worlds of modern comics creators enormously exciting.”
Joe Gordon, the editor of the Forbidden Planet blog, who also looks after books for the webstore, said: “The graphical nature of the medium makes difficult subjects far more accessible. The text is still there, explaining, but the imagery, in the hands of a good artist, can evoke much in and of itself, provoking emotional resonance and reactions.” He added: “It’s certainly not a new genre but we do seem to be witnessing a real growth in the field.”