Marbles, a cartoon based book by Ellen Forney, explains her journey throughout her bipolar diagnosis. The book starts out with showcasing the normal scenarios Ellen faces on a daily basis, then leading into her being diagnosed, and continues with her struggles and meetings with her therapist to help her find a medication that suits her. The most shocking parts of the book that surprised me were the illustrations, her extreme sexual desires, her communication with her mother, obsession with Von Gogh, and the overall cover and title of the book itself.
The illustrations are a huge part of the book. The doodles can tell apart her structured self and her mania experiences. The part of the book that can explain the organized aspects of her life are when she is meeting with her therapist, at those moments the illustrations are done is a comic book form with equally proportionate boxes in two columns. When she is in her mania sense the boxes can seem scribbles, she draws a characters that resembles herself with twinkly eyes, the facing pages are one huge abstract drawling, etc. The most important part I began to zone into is where the page is predominantly white, which in a comic sense means a lot of silence. This is when she is accurately taking her meds and her mind isn’t going a thousand miles a minute. One of the illustrations I really enjoy is on page 20 of the book. This page has a square of text that constantly recites, “let’s take a look at the symptoms” , these words are then covered over by scratched out pen marks which forms a huge blob of black overtop. This explains her lack of understand or lack of want to continue to forgo and to be diagnosed. The process is overdramatic and she sees herself as “Crazy” which is then written over the blob of black “YOU ARE CRAZY”. Overall she feels as if no matter all her symptoms, she will still be looked at as a crazy person, which is shown through her frustration on this page.
Early on in the book you begin to see many scenes of naked people. The incident of when Ellen goes into kiss her tattoo artists and when she is having a naked photo-shoot (Forney, 31-38), which turn into much more. These incidents are very risky and in your face, but are there to show that Ellen finds confidence and acceptance in those types of incidents. Having sex or being with another person can be lifting. It can be lifting in the way that each of you are in your purest form with no clothing or accessories to hid your true being. Having nothing to shield oneself they rely on each other for compassion, which ultimately helps Ellen to feel loved and confident because others seem to want her. Want can lead to confidence, which is what ultimately gets ripped from Ellen not soon after her diagnosis.
We finally realize that, diagnosis like Ellen’s are fairly common within her family. On page 58 there is an illustration that is done by her mother. The illustration is done of a family tree where many of her aunts and uncles can be found; they are labeled with disorders similar to Ellen’s. The disorders range from bipolar, suicidal, depression, and constant nervous breakdown. Overall these disorders have been hidden from Ellen because her mother, being a doctor, thought she could deal with her daughter’s case on her own. It surprised me that being a doctor of a child with a more than known disorder was not given proper treatment, which untimely lead to a delay of diagnosis in her thirties. This lack of treatment could have injured Ellen’s developmental stage, all which could have been sorted out as a child.
Throughout her diagnosis you are able to see many of her abstract mania doodles and self-portraits. Also, when she is first diagnosed, on page 22, you can see herself try to connect with other artists who have similar disorders. The main artists that she vibes with is Von Gogh, through her mania pieces, self-portraits, and passion for art. I find it surprising that she believes, in the beginning, that medication will skew her art work so she wants to be accepted like the other well known artists and to let her creativity flow throughout. She sees her diagnosis is some ways as a gift to help with her work, but finally she sees the light and resided to taking medication because it does not impairer ability to produce. But the most interesting aspect of resisting is because she wants to be different and not at all mainstream, which is why she ultimately did not want medication because is was seen to her as “uncool”.
The book cover, the first thing you see, intrigued me. I find it interesting that Michelangelo was within the title when Von Gogh is untimely more interesting and a bigger part of Ellen’s life. So why him? I also find it intriguing that her characters face on the front is more on the mania side, which could link to the flowing of looping colors at the top, however the looping of circular scalloped colors are based within two colors pallets. The scalloped array of bright colors is positioned above/ontop of the scalloped colors of depressing blues and greys. Overall this links to her back and forth of being happy and being within a depressed state, her characters is looking up as if she is unsure of what is coming next, which most certainly is common in bipolar attitudes.
Overall, Ellen is faced with many hardships with her newfound disorder, but ultimately stems from her not being treated at a young age. She finds reassurance within artists like Von Gogh and sexual partners. Her medication was a very important concern within her ability to produce sufficiently as an artist, she does not want to be defined as being crazy but wants to be known as an amazingly “crazy” artist. Finding oneself and being truthful is already hard enough without a disorder, which is why Ellen continues on her path of switching medication to ultimately feel as normal and comfortable in her skin as possible.
- Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir. New York: Gotham, 2012. Print.