At its best, comics can be a powerful storytelling format, especially when thought balloons are utilized effectively. Seeing character’s inner thoughts allows the reader to make additional observations on the dialogue, setting, and action in the narrative. Many mainstream comics have all but abandoned thought balloons, but they are an essential element in Depression Comix — and for good reason. Silence is a common side effect of depression; I know when I get down, I don’t want to talk about it, or anything else for that matter. And if I succumb to that instinct, my mood tends to become more acute, which makes me want to talk even less. It’s one of many vicious cycles that come with the disease, along with loss of appetite (I get depressed and don’t want to eat; being hungry makes the feeling worse, which further reduces my appetite… and so on).
Clay Jonathan, the artist of Depression Comix, often has his depressed characters not say anything to the people around them, or has them refrain from talking until the final panel. But in their thought balloons, these characters reflect on their experiences in a way they can’t verbalize to their friends and family. (Comic 394 is a good example of this technique.) This is how depression works — we can explain it to ourselves, but lack the power to explain it to others. By not forcing his characters to speak, Jonathan allows them the dignity of their silence, while still revealing the truth of their struggle.
In addition to being insightful, Jonathan is also a talented artist — his depictions of characters looking into mirrors, as in Comic 400, are visually stunning. And like any great cartoonist, he draws fantastic furniture. There’s a lot to like about Depression Comix, and I hope the artist continues with the site for a long time.