Drawing Invisible Wounds: War Comics and the Treatment of Trauma
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Since the Vietnam War, graphic novels about war have shifted from simply representing it to portraying avenues for survivors to establish psychological wellness in their lives following traumatic events. While modern diagnostic medicine often looks to science, technology, and medications to treat the psychosomatic damage produced by trauma, my article examines the therapeutic potential of the comics medium with close attention to war comics. Graphic novels draw trauma in a different light: because of the medium’s particular combination of words and images in sequence, war comics represent that which is typically unrepresentable, and these books serve as useful tools to promote healing among the psychologically wounded. Graphic narratives, both fictional and non-fictional, illuminate the ways that the unseen wounds of traumatic experience affect public health by compromising the ability of communities, individuals, and survivors to create and maintain meaningful relationships with others.
KeywordsTrauma Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Comics Graphic medicine Graphic narrative Vietnam War Iraq War Afghanistan War
Thank you to John Said for introducing me to the concepts discussed in this paper and to Professor Susan Merrill Squier for her Graphic Medicine class at Penn State which taught me a great deal about comics and their therapeutic value. Thank you to Professor Kit Hume, Dr. Sarah Salter and Michelle Huang for reading the draft. Most importantly, I want to thank my wife Michelle for carrying me along.
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