Radical visions: The iconography of illness in comics and graphic novels
The proliferation of image based media has ensured that iconographic representations of health, illness and disease have become more important in western societies. Medical imaging and illustration, traditionally the preserve of medical professionals, could be seen as constituting the 'official' visual rhetoric of the discourse of healthcare, shaping the mental schemata of illness in the minds of professionals and laymen alike. The medium of comics, particularly that section which has developed from the radical underground, acts to some extent as a counterweight to this official iconographic control and it could be argued that the makers of autobiographical illness comics, by portraying their own diseased bodies, are seizing power and changing the illness experience of others, altering their expectations and perceptions.
Ian Williams is a comics artist, physician and writer. He has studied Medicine, Medical Humanities and Fine Art and he originated the website GraphicMedicine.org, coining the term that has been applied to the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare.