Designer: Kim McLean
Everything is Going Wrong: Comics on Punk & Mental Illness, an anthology edited by Mark Bouchard, brings together a diverse group of comic creators and punk musicians. The collection aims to highlight how punk music has played (and continues to play) an important role in the destigmatization of mental illness.
From the outset, the editors wisely include not only a content warning but also a disclaimer that no contributors to the collection claim to be a mental health professional or the like. It is simply a group of people brought together by their love of punk music and their experiences with mental illness. And from autobiographical pieces to works of fiction, there’s no shortage of interesting perspectives included here.
After opening with a gorgeous Jen Hickman print, Shelby Criswell’s comic “Anxiety Punk” discusses how punk rock has saved their life on more than one occasion. From My Chemical Romance to Jeff Rosenstock to Against Me! — to name a few — Criswell deftly narrates how these bands facilitated their self-acceptance. Criswell’s black-and-white sketchbook style comic is followed by “There It Is,” by Brian Level. This short comic, with minimal dialogue, is a deeply affecting piece with moody colors, heavy shading, and a claustrophobic horror weight that grips you from the first panel. It’s a comic that you feel more than you read. Next, “Through the Stars to the Pavement,” by Kate Sherron and Ryan Ferrier, beautifully adapts the song “Map Change” by Every Time I Die to the comic medium, so whoever thinks punk rock can’t be elegant is dead wrong.
These early pieces do a nice job of showcasing what readers can expect to encounter in Everything is Going Wrong: Comics on Punk & Mental Illness. Each piece is deeply personal whether it’s autobiographical or not, as they’re all brought together by the belief that punk rock helps us, especially those of us who have a mental illness. There is a nice balance of work that is lighter in tone (e.g. “Opposing Forces” by Jackie Reynolds) and those with full blown horror elements (e.g. “Ship of Theseus” by Matthew Erman and Sam Beck). And no one story is the same. Spread throughout the collection, in between comics and prints, there are notes from band members as well — such as Stephanie Knipe (Adult Mom) and Jeremy Hunter (Skatune Network, We are the Union). This is one of the most diverse, unique anthologies I have read, and it makes turning each page such an exciting experience.
Not only does Everything is Going Wrong: Comics on Punk & Mental Illness relate comics, punk music, and mental illness together on a literal level based on those involved, but it also does a tremendous job of using the comic medium to visually express that which is hard to communicate otherwise. Emotions and mental illness are, for the most part, invisible, so rendering them in a tangible way is such an important step for spreading awareness and building empathy (e.g. after reading “Rhythm” by Amit Chauhan and Eli Powell, you might have a little more compassion for someone with depression who spends a few days in bed).
As Jackie Reynolds eloquently puts it, “We need to look out for each other. We need to be kind. Tenderness is punk as fuck.”