[Edited Collection] Invisible Made Visible: Comics and Mental Illness

deadline for submissions: 
January 28, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Leah Misemer (Georgia Institute of Technology); Dr. Jessica Gross (St. Louis College of Pharmacy)
contact email: 

Call for Essays, Comics, and Course Designs 

(Proposals due 1/28/19; see below for specific details)

Invisible Made Visible: Comics and Mental Illness (edited collection under contract with Penn State's Graphic Medicine series)

The past few years have seen a greater interest in comics related to mental health.  For example, numerous journalists profiled both Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, which depicts depression, and John Porcellino’s Hospital Suite, which depicts the author’s struggles with physical health and OCD. Additionally, the 2016 publication of the Disability in Comics Books and Graphic Narratives collection includes several essays about comics and mental disability.  While these works have been important in drawing attention to comics as a space for depicting mental illness, there has not yet been an exclusive study of how comics provide unique opportunities for exploring mental illness.  

This proposed edited collection, Invisible Made Visible: Comics and Mental Illness, explores the paradox of how invisible internal mental and emotional states can be represented through the inherently visual form of comics, as well as how comics draw attention to individuals and communities who feel—or are—invisible within society. Building on previous scholarly, artistic,  and pedagogical conversations about form and identity in comics, this collection considers the intersections of form and mental illness, interrogating how the comics form provides a visual vocabulary for representing internal mental states.

We invite scholarly essays, original comics, and course design documents about comics and mental illness.

Contributions may choose to consider how comics explore the following topics:

  • The affordances the visual vocabulary of comics provides for representing internal mental states

  • How comics reinforce, question, or break stigmas surrounding mental illness

  • How comics have been, or can be, catalysts for discussions, online or in person, about mental illness

  • The history of mental illness in various genres (e.g. superheroes, memoir)

  • How depictions of mental illness have led to formal innovation

  • How both patients and caregivers can use comics as part of treatment in both medical and non-medical contexts

  • How comics trouble the boundaries between those who care for those who are mentally ill, and those who are mentally ill themselves

  • How other forms of identity (e.g. race, gender, religion, language) impact experience and treatment of mental illness

  • How comics negotiate the intersections of visibility and mental illness in different cultures

  • How comics question and reflect culturally and historically constructed definitions of mental illness

  • How comics about mental illness can be taught or drawn in undergraduate or graduate classes, or as part of medical training

Scholarly Essays:

We are interested in previously unpublished scholarly essays about comics and mental illness; these essays may engage with the questions above or with other issues. Although essays must be in English, we welcome the discussion of comics in any language. Final articles will be limited to 6,000 words and no more than three grayscale images. Please submit a CV along with a 300 word abstract.


We strongly believe that one of the strengths of Graphic Medicine and Comics Studies as fields is their willingness to put scholars and artists in conversation in a way that is often missing from academia. Therefore, we would like to include original comics that address mental illness in this  volume. These creative materials will be interspersed between sections to demonstrate the connection between form and content, scholarship and artistry. We are requesting comics that make innovative use of the form to explore any type of mental illness, whether they be from a caregiver’s perspective or the perspective of someone living with a mental illness.   

At this stage, we request that interested artists send thumbnail sketches for a 4-6 page comic and an artist’s statement of no longer than 300 words for a 4-6 page comic.  If we, the editors, select your work to be considered for the edition, you will be asked to send your 4-6 page comic either as a TIFF or in physical form.  Those included in the final collection after external peer review will be compensated.  Final comics will be printed in grayscale. If you wish to mail materials, please email lsmisemer@gmail.com and Jessica.Gross@stlcop.edu for a physical address.

Course Designs:

Comics can facilitate teaching about mental illness, serving as discussion tools that help students broach difficult subjects.  Comics creation has also become a frequent tool for training future health practitioners. Therefore, we seek teaching-themed essays that focus on the uses of these comics and themes in classrooms.  In addition to describing the activity or course, these essays should include a description of the teaching context, a theoretical explanation as to why you took that approach, and a critical reflection on what went well and what you might change in the future. See “Course Designs” in Composition Studies for further explanation and models: https://www.uc.edu/journals/composition-studies/submissions/course-desig.... We solicit 300 word abstracts and CVs for final essays of 3,000 words.

This volume is under advanced contract to be included in Penn State University Press's Graphic Medicine series. Completed essays and comics would be due November 2019, with a projected publication date of 2021.

Please submit abstracts, CVs, and thumbnails  or comics by January 28, 2019 to Leah Misemer at lsmisemer@gmail.com and Jessica Gross at Jessica.Gross@stlcop.edu. Questions before this deadline are also welcome.