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‘The Mind of James Svengal:’ Advance Graphic Novel Review

When the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is mentioned, one might immediately associate the mental disorder as an effect of combat. According to clinical studies, although the term came into use during the diagnosis of returning soldiers from the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, symptoms have been documented since ancient Greek times. It is not just a combat induced disorder, though; a person encountering a life-threatening event, such as sexual assault or accidents, can develop symptoms of PTSD, most often in adults. A National Institute of Health article from 2015 reports that “about 3% of the adult population has PTSD at any one time.” Therapy and medication are cited as treatment methods.

What does the journey of a person with PTSD look like? Meet James Svengal. He is an artist living in London, and, initially, one would believe that James is sabotaging his career and his relationships through a self-absorbed attitude; however, as James spirals downward, readers follow James’ journey into anxiety, avoidance, and guilt. Although James attends sessions of therapy, he is not committed to the process. Instead, he self-medicates with an addictive hallucinogenic substance; his career and his relationship with his girlfriend are collateral damage. After hitting rock bottom, James does find strength and a path to recovery.

This story is The Mind of James Svengal, and it is the brain child of illustrator Lyndon White and writer Jordan Sam Adams, two rising English talents. They are joined by Simon Birks, the editor and co-founder of Sussex-based independent publisher Blue Fox Comics. Incidentally, Blue Fox Comics is the publisher of this 180-page graphic novel that explores themes of PTSD, addiction, and mental health. According to White’s Kickstarter video, these are themes that he and Adams have experienced personally. Additionally, on their “About” Section of the campaign, they state that “mental health is either underrepresented or misrepresented […] we wanted to draw from our own personal experiences and present an honest, respectful account of a person struggling with these issues, with a view to starting an open and positive conversation around mental health.” In this, the Englishmen excel in both the narrative and the visual representation.

Adams’ dialogue is concise and with an ease that sounds natural. Unique is the general lack of font differentiation to denote changes in vocal pitch, but it does not diminish the tension and anguish that is often reflected in the conversations, especially between James and his girlfriend Beatrix. While the narrative is understated, White’s visuals are phenomenal, and if his artistic style seems familiar, he reveals the influence of Kabuki writer/artist David Mack. White expertly incorporates elements of horror, and he fills the various dream sequences with symbolism on par with any Dali surrealist painting. White’s inks are “sketchy,” and he finishes off with vibrant lush watercolor palette. Absolutely gorgeous!  

The Mind of James Svengal is currently being offered through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, now through November 21. There are several samples of the art and narrative at the campaign page – go and take a look. Be overwhelmed by the visuals and lulled in by the themes sensitively explored in this graphic novel. This is a gem that should not be missed.

Michele Brittany, Fanbase Press Contributor



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