Troubled Comics

A Squishface Studio exhibition of “serious” comics/graphics

David Blumenstein
3 min readNov 18, 2019
Riso print tests of Ben Hutchings’ piece “Infectious”

Justify my love

The time is long past that “comics” as an art/writing/communication medium needs to be justified artistically or compared to others.

Which is better, poetry or paintings?

Which is for “smart” people, film or books?

Stupid, right?

Yet, this recent tweet from Leela Corman:

“Comics aren’t literature” is a bad-faith argument that indicates lack of experience beyond corporate comics. I thought comics academia had gotten past their unfortunate focus on superhero product. Don’t @ me if this you, I mean it.

So — from this we learn that I am wrong. Comics obviously does need to be justified, even to so-called academics, maybe for ever and ever.

That’s OK. People without much comics knowledge deserve a little context and hand-holding, and we can always tell the most snobbish, egotistical or abacus-brained academics to go stick something up themselves, in the nicest possible way.

(This year I was told a proposal I submitted was rebellious for the sake of it! Can you imagine?)

Framed pieces by Badiucao, ready to be hanged

Storytelling by professionals

What I’ve learned from working in institutions/organisations in the last few years is that most people can’t tell a story worth a damn, even when it’s about them, and especially when it’s important.

That’s where comics (and comics artists) come in.

Riso prints of Safdar Ahmed’s piece “Imaginary Bodies”

Call it “diagramming”, “sketching”, “storyboarding”, “mapping”, “visual scribing” and a hundred other things, but stories told with pictures (and, usually, words as well) are comics, and they are as powerful a communication medium and artistic practice as we have.

They create understanding where there was none. They tell stories more effectively and cheaply than any other medium. In the hands of talented practitioners, comics are magic.

This exhibition collects the work of eight such talented practitioners, and they’re such an interesting group I get the internal giggles whenever I look at the list.

From “Cry Wolf Girl” by Ariel Ries

One thing that connects the artists is their sheer need to tell you these stories. Some stories are fiction, some non-fiction. All are troubled, and all are political in their way.

They’re stories about the emptiness inside us; the dangerous fullness of our cities; the demonisation of Muslims (and their meat); homelessness and mental health; the things politicians will do when they think we aren’t watching.

All the works you’ll see come from a deep desire to connect, and to say not only, “Look. Look at this. This is fucked,” but also “… and we can fix it.” Or at least acknowledge it on the way to fixing it.

Test printing my piece “The Simple Journey Out Of Homelessness”

Troubled Comics features the works of dissident/international activist Badiucao, graphic novelists Ben Hutchings and Ariel Ries, service designer/visual communicator David Blumenstein, ethnographer Alex Pavlotski, urban planner Rebecca Clements and artists/community activists Jo Waite and Safdar Ahmed. It opens at The Motley Bauhaus in North Fitzroy on Thursday 21 November at 6pm.



David Blumenstein

David works in service/strategic design: He draws comics at Squishface Studio: Other stuff: