The graphic narrative contains many possibilities when conveying a story. There is something quite distinct about the graphic illness narrative that does not exist within the traditional illness narrative.
The graphic illness narrative is able to represent illness in
an artistic form.
The writer is basically able to represent what the illness looked like to him. Readers are able to visually grasp the author’s personal representation of his illness. These representations of illnesss would not be enough with mere words.
An example of this are the following panels from David B.’s Epileptic.
Among the most thought provoking illustrations by David B. is the one above. David, from the very onset of the seizures depicts the epilepsy as another creature separate from Jean Christophe. David B. characterizes his brothers illness. It no longer is just a mental disorder rather it becomes material and becomes another being. In the image above it seems this serpent monster is taking over and wrapping himself around Jean Christophe. It is clear from the picture that he is being attacked and is not in control of his body or of what is happening to him. This image expresses David B.’s views of his older brother. The epilepsy was once separate from him and not apart of him. There was a time where Jean Christophe still tried to fight and survive and that is when this serpent was depicted as attacking him.
However towards the end of this novel, readers can see how David’s perception of his brother has changed drastically. He often draws the serpent close by, aiding Jean Christophe, rather then harming him. David B. subtly exposes how his view of Jean Christophe has changed. He visually expresses to readers that his brother is no longer a fighter, but has let his illness become him and overcome him. In the image above, Jean Christophe has officially become the serpent, and is the no longer separate from his epilepsy. He has finally let it take over his entire body.
Creating this monster serpent to depict Jean Christophe’s illness was an interesting choice that allows him to visually express how he actually felt about the epilepsy. It was a monster that not only took over Jean Christophe, but made its way in all of their lives.It is only through these visuals that readers are able to grasp David’s outlook on what the epilepsy represented to him.
These illustrations are what Hilary Chute would call “confessional mode of storytelling” because these graphic novelists allow readers in to their consciousness, not only verbally but visually as well.
Through a combination of verbal and visual style, graphic memoirs allow readers into the various mental states of the author. These mental states are easily understood by readers due to the expressive graphic medium.