Director’s Commentary – Darryl Cunningham on the expanded Psychiatric Tales
Darryl Cunningham is no stranger to this blog – his Super Sam strip graced the site weekly for a good, long run, and as he worked on a very different beast, Psychiatric Tales, we became more excited about his work, eagerly reading the short excerpts from pages he would post up on his blog. Eager to read the finished book from the then-new kid on the publishing block, Blank Slate Books, I was not disappointed. Beautifully told in a deceptively simple fashion to allow the people and stories to come through more clearly it was one of the finest comic works of that year. In fact we loved it so much we ended up reviewing it twice here, one from Richard and one from me.
Yes, it got to us that much – not just because it was well executed work, well researched and drawing on personal experience, but because it felt so emotionally valid, often painfully so. We were also impressed at how deftly a good creator could use our beloved medium to talk about often taboo subjects in a clear, accessible, understandable and sympathetic way – qualities which commended it to many readers. There’s a brand new expanded edition of Psychiatric Tales out from Blank Slate, complete with new material from Darryl, and he’s been kind enough to take some time to talk to us a little about the new edition – over to Darryl:
Why did I choose to add material to the new editions of both Psychiatric Tales and Science Tales, I hear you ask?
It wasn’t a deliberate choice. It was a decision that came out of a series of events. With Science Tales, when Abrams picked up the book for the U.S. market, (known there as How To Fake A Moon Landing) they asked for a number of changes. They dropped the chapter on electroconvulsive therapy, and they asked me if I would write a new chapter on gas Fracking. This subject has hit the news here in the UK recently, but it’s a big deal in the States and Canada, where Fracking has exploded into a multi-billion dollar business and is hugely controversial because of environmental concerns. So reluctantly I said yes. I wasn’t that interested in the subject to be honest. But do you know what? After researching Fracking I found that it was fascinating after all.
So, having done a whole new chapter, I couldn’t think why it shouldn’t go in the new UK edition. I added a few more pages to the new chapter to make it relevant to UK readers. There’s a little bit about the Coalition government’s connections with big oil and gas companies.
With Psychiatric Tales I’d always intended that there be a second volume at some point. There still could be, but it’s probably years away for reasons that are mostly personal. I started drawing up new chapters for a second volume, and then found I couldn’t continue for these personal reasons which I can’t discuss. Anyway, I ended up with two chapters that had no home to go to. There’s a chapter on psychosis and a chapter detailing the different types of dementia. People tend to think only of Alzheimer’s when considering dementia, but there are other forms of this illness. Even worse, you can get more than one type of dementia simultaneously.
So it seemed obvious to me that I should just slot these extra chapters into the new edition. I’ve drawn all-new, full-page chapter headings for for the book, and I’ve done a new introduction. So there’s around forty pages of new material in there.
I also took the opportunity to redesign the cover. Way back when I first did Psychiatric Tales, I didn’t know what I was doing, frankly. Many people like the cover of the first edition, but after awhile I began to hate it. The image still exists in the new version as a chapter heading, slightly tightened up where the line work annoyed me. I’m much happier with the new cover, which echoes the cover of Science Tales, and is more dynamic.
Do I intend to add further material to future editions?
No, I don’t think so. These are both factual books, so they will need revising, but I’m not going to make a habit of adding huge chunks of material. It’s a drag to have to keep working on old projects when you’re keen to go forward with new ones. Down the line, I’ve got two volumes of my all-ages epic, Uncle Bob Adventures, due from Blank Slate this year, and beyond that, a big book on the lead up to and after effects of the 2008 financial crisis, and the rise of the New Right, which will be out from Myriad Editions in 2014. This will contain by comic strip biography of Ayn Rand that’s currently being serialised on ActivateComix.
FPI would like to thank Darryl for taking the time to share some of his thoughts on the newly expanded Psychiatric Tales, which should be hitting the shelves of our branches imminently and can be ordered from our site now. The new edition of Science Tales came out from Myriad recently. You can keep up with Darryl at his blog (where he regularly posts pages from upcoming work) and his Twitter.