When abandoned by words, muted or silenced, Comics Art allows for different strategies to represent -or allude to- ‘invisible/invisibilized’ inner wounds, health and mental issues. These -usually overlapping- meaning-making strategies include, but are not limited to, the narrative use of colors, art/line style, textures and techniques (pencils, ballpoint pen, digital paint…), graphic embodiment of the characters, space-time interplay (space as time; contiguity of various moments/spaces/panels), braiding of visual motifs and visual metaphors, panels’ sizes and shapes, page composition (segmentation, layout, negative space…), text spatialization, speech balloons’ shapes and lettering, multi-modality (text-image dynamic; anchorage/relay, intertextuality), abstraction or suggestion (closure, gap between the panels). More on ‘the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare’, and the representation of (psychic) trauma, can be found on the website Graphic Medicine, and books such as Documenting Trauma in Comics: Traumatic Pasts, Embodied Histories, and Graphic Reportage (Palgrave Macmillan), Hillary L. Chute’s Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (Harvard University Press), Harriet E. H. Earle’s Comics, Trauma and the New Art of War (University Press of Mississippi) and Eszter Szép’s Comics and the Body: Drawing, Reading, and Vulnerability (The Ohio State University Press) among many other publications.
Harriet E. H. ‘Earle suggests that comics are the ideal artistic representation of trauma. Because comics bridge the gap between the visual and the written, they represent such complicated narratives as loss and trauma in unique ways, particularly through the manipulation of time and experience. Comics can fold time and confront traumatic events, be they personal or shared, through a myriad of both literary and visual devices. As a result, comics can represent trauma in ways that are unavailable to other narrative and artistic forms.’
The following 17 ‘Traumics’ (comics on trauma) or Graphic Medicine narratives were produced by Thai or exchange students from various faculties (Psychology, Architectural Design, Language and Culture, Communication Design, Communication Arts, Engineering) at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, during the Covid-lockdowns in 2021 and 2022 as the final creative projects of two of my courses: Imaginative Media, a comparative course on the representation of Refugee Narratives and Psychic Trauma in various media (literature, comics, movies, tv series, dance/choreographies, paintings…), and Visual Media Studies, a ‘General Education’ course mostly dedicated to the study of Graphic Narratives and Comics Art. Both courses include the study of Psychic Trauma and its representations through a series of lessons based on the seminal works of psychiatrists François Lebigot, Louis Crocq and Sándor Ferenczi, and on my conferences on Comics as a Language of Symptoms of Psychic Trauma. All students were made aware of the challenging nature and content of the courses on the first lesson (and could choose to drop the course, or skip the triggering content/lessons); they were free to select their graphic narrative’s topic, but it had to be related to psychic trauma or any other mental/health issues, and to change their topic at any point, if the ‘graphic’ composition felt too challenging. Some stories are based on personal experiences, other are based on research by the students. In preparation of the composition of their graphic narratives, we’ve analysed pages from a dozen trauma-related short comics or graphic novels from the US, Canada, Taiwan, Vietnam, Belgium or France. Along the semester, students worked on various (constrained/experimental) comics composition assignments. During the last weeks of the semester, individual consulting sessions with yours truly were held, one to discuss the first layout and a second to improve some elements of the advanced draft of their comics. Most of the students had no prior art/comics training, and the following stories are usually their very first comics narratives. Most stories reveal the crushing weight of social pressure/conformity in Thailand (and Asia), and that -if comics studies were rightfully considered and fully integrated in the university curriculum- students would be able to produce many more sophisticated and meaningful graphic narratives on social issues and as a means of self-expression and of mindful communication.
My deepest thanks to all my students as they were always fully dedicated to the ‘unconventional’ content of my courses and to the comics assignments they were given. More comics have been produced during these two courses, but some were either redundant with the stories presented here or need some additional editing before publication. More graphic narratives should be published online soon.
These ‘graphic’ narratives contain depictions of domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, child abuse, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, body shaming, [cyber-] bullying, disasters/mass shootings, discrimination, nudity, offensive language, and more…
Reproduced with permission. All rights remain to the authors/artists.
During the second semester of the 2021-22 academic year, we welcomed spearheading Thai artists Peeraphat Kittisuwat, Faan Peeti, Superfah Jellyfish and Isaree Pipatpongsa who held workshops in three different courses, with the goal of introducing our Inter CommArts Thai and exchange students to new graphic and narrative techniques in order to develop their visual literacy & composition skills in preparation of their final creative projects.
A) “TRANSITION WORKSHOP” with Thai designer & cartoonist PEERAPHAT KITTISUWAT
February 22, 2022. First on-site guest lecture/workshop in 2 years! The Inter CommArts students of my Creative Writing (Section 11: Experimental Comics) course welcomed Thai designer and cartoonist khun Peeraphat Kittisuwat, founder of P. Library Design Studio. After introducing us to his different works (in experimental and live-drawing animation, mural painting, book design of The Art of Thai Comics…) related to his stunning cutout & double-sided non-linear comics leporello in-between, khun Peeraphat invited our students to play with his book’s print proofs to compose new looped graphic narratives by cutting/pasting/rearranging sequences with new “twists”. The 11 students presented their narratives at the end of the workshop, getting comments and feedbacks from our guest. PS: it felt good to get back to a communal creative experience with the students (while respecting all Covid safety measures).
Some works by guest artist Peeraphat Kittisuwat:
Students at work during Peeraphat Kittisuwat’s workshop:
Students’ presentations in front of the classroom, and some graphic narratives produced during the workshop:
B-C) “SHAPE & TEXTURE DOUBLE WORKSHOP” with Thai illustrators FAAN PEETI and SUPERFAH JELLYFISH
March 07, 2022. The Inter CommArts students of my Creative Writing (Section 10: Non-Fiction Graphic Narratives) course welcomed Thai artists Faan Peeti(book illustrator and cartoonist who explored creative panel layouts in her Manustrip series for a day magazine) and Superfah Jellyfish (painter, tattoo artist, and author of challenging old-school zines such as Having Sex First Time and The Intimates). They held two creative workshops exploring the symbolic use of comics panels/borders and body positivity through acrylic painting with markers. These were wonderful and inspiring midterm workshops meant to prepare the students for their final creative project. [All safety measures were respected with mandatory masks, hand-washing, and ATK tests before the lesson for all participants].
A short introduction, by yours truly, on creative uses of comics panels preceded Faan Peeti’s workshop.
Some works by guest artist Faan Peeti:
Some works by guest artist Superfah Jellyfish:
Pictures from Faan Peeti’s talk and workshop on the creative use of comics panels/borders. Students were then asked to compose an autobiographical or autofictional comics page playing with the symbolism of comics panels/borders.
Pictures from Superfah Jellyfish’s talk and workshop on the creative use of acrylic painting and black markers to address body positivity.
D) “SHŌJO MANGA & RAPE CULTURE” TALK & WORKSHOP with Thai illustrator ISAREE PIPATPONGSA
March 29, 2022. Fourth and final guest lecture/workshop for the semester. The Inter CommArts students of my Imaginative Communication course welcomed Thai artist Isaree Pipatpongsa (Izary P. Pipat). Khun Isaree talked about her thesis Rape culture awareness campaign through the female perspectives and Shojo Manga influences (School of Fine and Applied Arts, Bangkok University), with an introduction to the history of Shōjo Manga, her take on the genre to address the issue of Rape Culture in Thailand, her thesis process and design concepts, and a presentation of the resulting [and stunning] A1 comics digital prints, animation and journey kit. The students then participated in a workshop, revisiting Shōjo Manga pages with various techniques (drawing, tracing paper layers, screentones, diplopia effect, collage…) to reveal insidious aspects of the Rape Culture. It was a fascinating talk and highly meaningful and creative workshop! [All safety measures were respected with mandatory masks, hand-washing, and ATK tests before the lesson for all participants].
Pictures from Isaree Pipatpongsa’s talk, with an introduction to the history of Shōjo Manga, her take on the genre to address the issue of Rape Culture in Thailand, her thesis process and design concepts.
The students got the opportunity to take a close look at Isaree Pipatpongsa’s stunning A1 comics digital prints and thesis journey kit.
Students were provided with relevant manga pages, and their tracing paper versions as well as screentone sheets. Applying various techniques (drawing, tracing paper layers, screentones, diplopia effect, collage, black-out poetry…), they composed new pages addressing the Rape Culture issue and the victim’s traumatic experience. Here are some pictures of the workshop, with guidance by Isaree Pipatpongsa, and of the class presentations and the resulting graphic narratives.