A lot of people — myself included — have that little voice in our heads. What we don’t have is a little blob on our shoulders.
Marie, the protagonist in Toronto cartoonist Jenn Woodall’s Marie And Worrywart, isn’t so lucky : her anxieties — specifically, the various manifestations of near-crippling OCD that have taken root in her mind — have externalized themselves and become her constant companion. And wouldn’t you know, this little creature they’ve congealed into simply will not shut the fuck up. But can it be prevented from growing?
Anxiety isn’t unique to cartoonists or to comics readers, of course, but damn if it’s not well-represented within our ranks, so Woodall’s willingness to address it head-on is certainly welcome, as is her overall level-headed approach. No matter how big and boisterous Worrywart becomes, she has a deft touch that somehow manages to draw attention to the fact that it (and the things that make “it” up) are blown entirely out of proportion, while never minimizing its effects nor casting Worrywart’s host, Marie, in anything less than a sympathetic light. This is no easy task : Worrywart’s a cartoonish figure, necessarily exaggerated for purposes both comic and far less so, and so it would be damn easy to lose the delicate balance this mini maintains and to just err on the side of “relax, kid, ya really got nothing to worry about.” It’s to Woodall’s credit that she avoids this sort of condescension by default while also offering practical guidance without ever once sounding either preachy or cloying. In short, she probably only had one way to pull this off exactly right, tonally speaking, and she not only manages to do so, she makes it look effortless when, in fact, it’s anything but.
Additonally, Woodall’s cartooning in this Silver Sprocket-published mini is exceptionally fluid and exudes a timeless quality : not overly stylistic by any means, but fundamentally strong in every aspect, its effects are accentuated by her wonderfully thought-out use of color, a truly anxious red offering stark contrast to the blacks and reds of the “real” world. Woodall’s page layouts and sense of composition take care of the rest, balancing the practical and fantastic (not always in the good sense of that term) in a way that invites the eye to take everything in and avoids visual information overload no matter how much the situation may allow for precisely that. There’s a real sense of both confidence and discipline in this art that directly bypasses the need to be flashy in favor of simply doing what’s right — and I always feel like we could do with a little bit more of this in today’s indie comics world.
This book isn’t just a therapeutic tool for readers, though — it was also a therapeutic exercise for its creator, and one that’s had some legs : originally printed and distributed in Woodall’s native Canada “way back” in 2018, this new second edition gives it another well-deserved lease on life, and it’s almost certain to end up in the hands of more people who will benefit from knowing that they’re far from alone and that there’s room for laughter on their road to healing. Woodall doesn’t trivialize Marie’s suffering by any stretch, nor does she offer “magic bullet” solutions to it, but she offers methods for coping with it that don’t insult a reader’s intelligence and don’t drain all the joy and wonder out of life — even a life where those things are in short supply.
This is an absolute gem of a comic, then, no doubt about it — and hey, it’s a public service, to boot.
Marie And Worrywart is available for $5.00 from Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club at https://store.silversprocket.net/products/marie-and-worrywart-by-jenn-woodall
Review wrist check – Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 53,” in the sleek-looking “Blackout Edition” that I can’t seem to keep off my wrist for more than a couple of days.