World health is in the spotlight right now, however it’s a very singular focus. I think that during times such as these it’s important to remember that there are many types of maladies and ailments in this world, and those who have them must deal with them whether a pandemic is rampaging or not. Something that grounded me and showed stories of humanity that also educate on various human conditions is the Corpus anthology.
Corpus [A Comic Anthology of Bodily Ailments] was originally presented to the world as a Kickstarter this past year. Both the Kickstarter and the collection itself are curated and edited by Nadia Shammas. Nadia has assembled a massive collection of real stories and creators all with the common goal of raising awareness and understanding. Some of the talent includes Melody Often, Elaine Will, Mady G, Matt Erman, Ben Kahn, Vita Ayala… it’s a massive list. The book itself is broken into 3 segments (with at least 13 stories a piece) for each classification of ailment: medical, physical, and mental.
The first third of this book, dedicated to physical maladies, provided some fantastic imagery that caused a visceral reaction within me. The way certain symptoms are personified was one thing, but almost more of a shock was seeing some of the procedures that people have to endure. One of the things I noted early in my reading was the sheer mass of information in each story. Within the physicality section there were some illnesses you may have heard of before such as diabetes (though there is always more to learn) as well as more rare maladies such as Dupuytren’s Disease. Each story was illustrated with a keen understanding between the writer and artist about how these intimate accounts should be represented.
Given the way the collection started the mental health section of Corpus was also unsurprisingly well done. I thought that of the trinity of categories the mental was the most open to artistic expression. Both the medical and physical sections used scientific imagery to show various concepts, and while the mental section does that as well a lot of the actual experiences are more easily pin pointed with imagery than with text. Entries commiserate or introduce readers to OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, and many more in an accessible way that illustrates these broad concepts neatly. Many mental disorders are not physical felt so the pain is different, a distinction that was always apparent but not in a comparative way.
The final theme in the book is medical ailments and the mentality that comes with having a condition that requires consistent medical care. This was a heartbreaking section of the book. People going to the doctor but not getting better, the ambiguity of the testing process, and living with a prosthetic are some of the subjects you can expect to learn about. The accounts within these stories give you a look at the emotional toll it can take to be in the medical system both as a patient and as a caregiver. These aren’t tales that have protagonists and antagonists, these are meant to bring awareness to the mindset of those aided and those let down by medicine. One particular story, Light Reflected (written by Stephanie Cannon, Emily Pearson, and Micah Myers), was a conversation between a young woman who had a recent transplant and the donor’s mother and I couldn’t make it through with a dry face.
Corpus is a very special book. It manages to account for many types of ailments in ways that anyone can latch on to, and the transparency and knowledge of those behind the stories is admirable. Corpus is the beginning of a conversation that many people need to have. We can all do with an increase in awareness, and during a time when something invasive looms an increase in information about the human body is powerful. You can buy this book physically from Nadia at a con when they’re back up again or you can get it digitally here for as little as a dollar.