Skip to content

Zine review: The Nursing Comic

December 5, 2011

As I said a couple of posts ago, a lot of the zine reviews I do now will be going straight to Sticky’s new blog, but I thought I’d re-publish my first one for the site here as well. I mean, why not. There’s also a lovely review of this zine from Lillie Laceby over there too.


The Nursing Comic, by Anonymous
Price: $10

There’s a number of reasons why I love The Nursing Comic. And here are some of them:

1. It’s not drawn especially well

I know that’s a weird thing to start off with, but there’s something about the naivety, or rather the lack of evident illustrative skill, that makes me warm to this zine. That’s not to say the drawing is repulsive or anything (well arguably the bits where medical complaints like ‘vomiting’ and ‘blood in faeces’ are being portrayed are a bit, but you get what I mean), it’s just there are some panels where I can’t really even tell what’s going on, and yet it doesn’t feel like much of a problem. Yes, I do know that the level of technical prowess displayed by a comic artist is no barometer for how ‘authentic’ it is, and I don’t subscribe to the idea that a lack of it automatically means there is more ‘heart’. After all, detailed and intricate graphic novels can look sincere and beautiful, while hastily-scribbled comics can look like they just don’t give a toss. But there’s no real feeling of ‘will this do?’ with The Nursing Comic, especially as it’s bound so well, and talks about heavy issues with such frankness. In other words, there’s an inherent sense of self-worth in this zine that isn’t arrogance. I hope this doesn’t sound patronising, but it feels like the (perhaps wisely anonymous, considering patient confidentiality rules) author is drawing to the best of her abilities, because she knows that telling people what being a nurse is actually like – in a medium that, for these purposes, has arguably more impact than just writing – is important.

2. It’s occasionally funny without being ridiculous

Most people I know see hospitals more often on television than in real life, but I can’t think of any TV shows where the portrayal of a hospital’s daily running is given the right balance of ‘funny’ and ‘sad’. (Except Getting On. That’s brilliant.) If you’re into things likeGreen Wing or Scrubs, and for some bonkers reason took them as documentaries, you’d think that hospital was a place where a naked man on a motorbike might suddenly ride down the corridors, or your surgeon will turn into Grover from Sesame Street. Their comedy, perhaps understandably, occurs largely from the sacrifice of believability; yet, at the same time, actual documentaries on the subject range from either constantly, harrowingly gloomy, or showing everyone looking incredibly bored. I know this is a place where disease and death occur everyday, and that anyone considering going into medicine needs to know it’ll be stupendously stressful, but it seems risky to show hospitals as a place of work where there’s absolutely no potential to have a laugh – we need more doctors and nurses to want to be there!

Although The Nursing Comic isn’t hilarious, it at least balances amusing comments and imagery (e.g. pointing out that the two most famous people in the world that have anisocoria are David Bowie and Crazy Frog) with expressions of tedium (daydreaming about sexing a hot intern just to get through the day) and horror (hearing one of your co-workers got stuck under a urine-soaked corpse for half an hour).

3. It doesn’t feel like the graphic novelisation of Greys Anatomy (thank Christ)

In other words, it feels ‘real’. Despite what I’ve said in point 2, I think it is vital that nurses are honest about how tough their job is. I like that The Nursing Comic is forthright but doesn’t read as if it’s over-exaggerated, or asking for the reader’s pity – it just states how things are. It depicts effectively the problems sleeping, the exhaustion, the problem patients, the favourite patients that die, the delirium, the hectic time schedule that means you’ll find half-finished lunches behind the toilet cistern because a member of staff had to multi-task eating and shitting simultaneously. A lot of these things might seem obvious to anyone sensible, but considering nurses are probably the most underpaid and under-valued workers in the world – particularly in Victoria – it’s obviously something that still needs pointing out.

And, ultimately, nurses are people who on a daily basis care for us, so it seems decent and polite to spend a bit of time caring about them, surely? Therefore, the reason I love this zine the most is because it convinces me to care about the person writing it. That’s a good sign of any comic book character of course, but for what is essentially a crudely-drawn diary going on about how exhausting the author’s chosen career is, that’s actually fairly remarkable.

I think it works because, whenever anything happens in this zine, it feels achingly and overwhelmingly human. When talk of balancing a love life with a career in nursing comes up, it doesn’t feel like a soap opera or badly-drafted amateur ER script detached from reality; it feels like a reminder that the person writing/drawing it has the same needs as you do. When colleagues are criticised for bigoted remarks, it doesn’t seem like aimless potshots; rather, it feels simply like disappointment at prejudice in a workplace meant to care for all (plus the lack of energy, after a day of sorting out blood transfusions, to argue about it). And, when the author leaves her boyfriend and her dog to work as a nurse in Central America at the end, all I can think is that I really, really want to know how she’s getting on.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: