Asylum Squad: A Comic Strip about Schizophrenia
My pen name is Sarafin, and I write and draw a comic called 'Asylum Squad' that I have been updating and posting on the internet since the beginning of 2009. Mentalhelp.net was gracious enough to allow me to present my work in blog format on their site, my strips commencing with the lives of four characters who appear to be suffering from what looks like schizophrenia.
As someone who has been clinically diagnosed with schizophrenia (and later re-diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder), I have experienced a myriad of cognitive, emotional, and psychic states since 2006. Prior to that year, I had been a long term sufferer of depression and self-destructive tendencies, both of which have since cleared up. In dealing with my current condition, I had to learn some self-disciplinary skills in order to regain my quality of life, which in the end made me a stronger, healthier person in the long run.
Some will consider me a radical (or perhaps just a bit deluded) when I say that I feel that half of my disorder was spiritual in nature, but I feel it's worth saying so. Prior to obsessive usage of automatisms like the ouija board and automatic handwriting (which seemed to be answering my questions remarkably smoothly, in perfect English, and without a second human partner to influence things), I had never heard voices, or shown any sign of psychotic behaviour. So I can't help but feel that what I was doing with the board, regardless of who or what it was I was talking to, had some impact on what later became a case of full-blown psychosis. Mental illness to this day remains a mystery in many respects, so I decided that the conditions of these four main characters should ultimately be left up to the interpretation of the reader. In another culture or in another time, they might have been deemed shamans, or perhaps witches, to be burned at the stake.
The first 44 strips of this comic were written and drawn while I was recovering in a long term psychiatric care facility, after my second psychotic breakdown. The facility I was in at the time lacked adequate recreational therapy groups, and not wanting to just sit around and vegetate (and to prove to staff that I was indeed making a recovery), I commenced with these stories. They are a complete overhaul of an older version by the same name that has little in common with the current comic, the older version being something I worked on when I was younger and dealing with a milder set of psychological problems. It's interesting to note that even though this newer take is much darker, it was composed by a happier person, and is ultimately intended to be an uplifting story about personal triumph and defeating the odds. Many of the earlier strips are quite wordy, which was an artistic choice at the time, but also a result of having much to say and little space to say it in. I later learned to limit the amount of text.
With each new post I will try to explain elements that could use some fleshing out, and/or provide the backing story behind them. This comic definitely is not for everyone, for it can be quite dark, heavy, confusing, even raunchy. As is so often the case with the psychotic experience. I wanted the reader to really feel the intensity of this state of mind, but in a way that didn't result in a "poor me" attitude.
I hope these are enjoyed, and I welcome any feedback that readers might wish to share!
Jonathan - Bonnie - Aug 26th 2010
My gorgeous nephew Jonathan was just diagnosed with schizophrenia, we are all trying to help him and to understand what he is going through. While doing some research I found this site and your comic strips. I told him about it, which is now reading, I think this will help him a lot. You are very talented and appreciated. Keep up the good work.
Thanks - Sean - Jun 9th 2010
I found your comic through this site and have read all of them (twice!). Love the work! Keep it up, please.
looks great! - Kathryn - Jun 2nd 2010
This looks great!
One little problem, though. The smaller print is hard to read, so I couldn't get all the "bios" of the characters.(And yes, my eyewear prescription is up to date.)
Dr. Dombeck's Note: Click the comic to see a larger version with larger text.