Obsessive-Compulsive Comics

Confessional Comics: Part 3 of 4

Equally intriguing as Green’s original masterpiece “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” originally published in 1972, is the “Apocrypha” included at the end of the Binky Brown Sampler (Last Gasp, 1995), which walks the reader step by step through the rationale behind Green’s irrational acts, as he now understands them since having been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and having spent over thirty years learning to manage his obsessions.

In the “Message to Parents” in the Binky Brown Sampler, Green acknowledges that modern medicine has developed solutions that may help individuals suffering from OCD, a point that did not find its way into Binky Brown. Green goes on to self-identify as a “fugitive from the church and the A.M.A, (American Medical Association)” and concludes that he continues his lifelong quest for equanimity. (8).

“Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary” gave implicit permission to a new generation of comic artists and cartoonists to explore their inner worlds without restraint. Perhaps not coincidentally, OCD also plays a central role in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and in Need More Love Aline Kominsky-Crumb makes mention of her own obsessive-compulsive tendency as a young girl to arrange her dolls to sit perfectly straight, with the threat looming that her family would fall apart if the dolls were not properly lined up. Kominsky-Crumb also includes mention of “Binky Brown Meets the Virgin Mary” as inspiration for her work in her memoir.

The combination of word and image has proven to be a highly accessible and powerful medium through which the storytelling tradition—and the expression of neurosis—has assumed a new vehicle for expression. Artists plagued with varying degrees of mental affliction continue to revolutionize what the term “graphic memoir” can mean, and remain welcomed by their readership with open arms.

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