Clay Jonathan at the Depression Comix blog provides a regular series of disconnected comic strips, each comprised of three to four panels, that depict the effects of depression on a half-dozen or so recurring characters. It’s an unconventional topic for an art form that’s more often associated with humor and action, but the artist portrays his subject matter with honesty and integrity while managing to work within the conventions of his medium.
Not much happens within each strip — a couple walk through a park, a woman laces running shoes, a man showers — and this banality underscores the lack of energy and enthusiasm routinely displayed by the characters suffering from depression. The latest strip, 286, shows a woman viewing a former friend playing in a band, and regretting her inability to feel happy for her friend’s success. Yet she’s able to talk to another friend about her reaction, and it’s small interactions like these that make this series engaging. The characters are depressed, but they communicate — with their friends, with themselves, and most importantly, the reader. Other characters in the strip also communicate with the depressed characters, sometimes with empathy but occassionally with indifference or anger.
Humor, as I mentioned before, is a common element in comics, but it’s difficult to write about depression in a manner that’s both honest and funny. Fortunately, Depression Comix doesn’t take the easy way out by relying on lame jokes or mocking stereotypes; if there isn’t a good punchline, the comic doesn’t try to force one through. It’s this integrity that makes the occassional attempt at humor, such as strip 277, all the more poignant.
If you struggle with depression, you’ll be able to see yourself in many of these strips, and perhaps gain insight you haven’t recognized before. If you’re fortunate enough not to suffer from depression but want to better understand how it can affect your family and friends (and yourself, if only indirectly), you’ll appreciate the candor of this strip. And if you just like comics, you’ll appreciate the unique achievement of Depression Comix.