By Wes Jones
Brain Shoodles isn’t much of a comic book in the traditional sense. It doesn’t really have a plot or character arc. Instead, it's a collection of doodles called “shoodles,” a portmanteau of “shit doodles” originally used by creator Emily B. Owen as a way of coping with her depression and anxiety. Emily represents herself and others with extremely minimal black and white doodles that, to me, most resemble a baby Tamagotchi or probably more appropriately, the little meringue-shaped figure from old Zoloft commercials.
Owen covers common neurotic symptoms that many readers can relate to on some level, whether or not they’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder or depression. As she describes the mental difficulties that can arise from everyday activities, such as getting out of bed or going grocery shopping, she also illustrates methods to help combat her self-deprecating thoughts and emotions. Each small scenario is broken up by a white page containing a single line of advice and a relevant graphic, such as “listen to your favorite song” accompanied by a cassette tape. Each scenario is formatted the same way with four panels per page and no more than a few pages per entry, resulting in short but concise strips detailing Owen’s perspective.
While there isn't much going on from a technical standpoint, the simple nature provides an impactful and almost soothing vibe. Though characters consist of no more than a few lines, the simple smiley faces convey the intended emotions perfectly and allow the reader to relate to those emotions, instead of Emily or other little blobs personally. The plain white or black backgrounds provide a space for the reader to easily insert themselves and somewhat reflect what it can feel like to be alone with your thoughts.
Daily life and mundane occurrences can sometimes prove to be seemingly insurmountable challenges for a lot of us, and even more so for those struggling with mental illness. Brain Shoodles is an honest and heartfelt look into one woman’s struggles with these innocuous, yet debilitating events that are deeply personal but infinitely relatable. Anyone who has ever had bouts of self-loathing and hopelessness can look to this book and Owen’s own experiences and find solace in the fact that they aren’t alone. Owning your pain and creating something beautiful from it is something I find supremely inspiring and I cannot recommend this book enough for those who could use a little light in what can seem like never-ending darkness.
Writer/Artist: Emily B. Owen
Letterer: Rob Jones
Publisher: Happy Clam