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The Bad Doctor: The Troubled Life And Times Of Dr. Iwan James

The Bad Doctor: The Troubled Life And Times Of Dr. Iwan James back

Ian Williams


Page 45 Review by Jonathan

“If I tell you something, would you promise to keep it secret?”
“Of course.”
“It’s just that, while doctors must keep their patients’ information confidential, there is no reciprocal agreement. II’ve had a few patients with OCD over the years but I’ve never told them any of them this... Nor any of my partners, nor many friends, and I’m not sure why I feel like sharing this with you... but I’m about the same age as you and I had OCD when I was younger.”
“Oh... right... that’s...”
“It developed in my teens and I had it right through medical school.”
“What sort of treatment did you get?”
“None, I hid it. It was hellish. I thought I was insane. I just tried to act as normally as I could. It wasn’t until years later that I sought help. Oh, and I drank very heavily... but that wasn’t unusual at medical school.”

Ahh, Dr. Iwan James, our titular doctor, I don’t think he’s so bad, but he might think otherwise. For whilst his OCD is under control these days, it’s clear it colours significant aspects of his everyday view of life. He’s aware of it, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less real, or emotionally comfortable for him, as people who have ever suffered from any sort of mental malaise will know. That mild, if that’s the right word, continuing undercurrent of personal torment aside, he’s actually exactly the sort of doctor you’d want if you were able to choose. He listens, cares about his patients, and wants to help them, rather than just paying lip service and prescribing pharmaceuticals.

He also has an apparently unrequited crush on fellow practice doctor Lois, last seen with travails of her own in DISREPUTE, as together they battle against the bureaucracy and general bone-idleness of senior partner Dr. Robert. Not the Dr. Robert of Blow Monkeys fame I probably have no need to add, just in case you were momentarily confused... but music of the metallically heavier and, in his mother’s eyes at least, considerably more Satanic variety, has certainly played a big part in Iwan’s upbringing and issues with OCD. Just as well he’s into mountain biking in a big way, his rides into the countryside with his best mate Arthur his own stress-busting therapeutic release.

I was speaking with Ian a few months ago regarding this forthcoming, as it then was, book, and I’m delighted to say it’s everything I was sure it would be. It has genuine parochially British humour observantly highlighting our peculiar cultural fascination with illness. It’s mordant in some senses, but Ian’s not being mean. The Americans might like to shout about cosmetic surgery, but I can certainly think of a few British folks that are never happier than when lamenting i.e. whinging about their various day-to-day ailments, and Ian captures the GP’s eye of it here perfectly.

Plus in Iwan we have a character of real depth and complexity, having been through the emotional maelstrom himself, he’s perfectly placed to help those still in its midst. Not that he’s capable of that empathy towards all his patients mind you, but then the resident town weirdo / potential serial killer Aneurin Cotter is the sort of chap who would make anyone uncomfortable, and thus also neatly points out that GP’s have to engage and encounter all corners of their communities whereas most of us* do not. I also liked the fact we get a real insight into the roots of Iwan’s OCD, its effects upon him, particularly in the early days. I found that aspect of this work alone quite fascinating.

A mention too for Ian’s black and white art style, which upon first glance appears relatively straightforward and simplistic, but the more you study it, is in fact intensely detailed and varied in places, primarily in the composition of the panels and pages themselves. For example, whilst I note that a significant proportion of the panels, typically those which involve talking head conversations, are entirely bereft of background, where there is a background required for the purposes of exposition, it’s usually richly illustrated, which provides a nice subconscious, subtle juxtaposition as one is reading.

Similarly, you could conclude his character’s faces are quite plainly drawn, but there’s a lot of expression there, which is a neat trick to pull off, and I can see similarities with Kevin GLENN GANGES Huizenga in that respect. Panel borders, or lack of them, rounded corners, speech bubbles without borders, simple single lines apportioning text to a character, it’s clear Ian has put a lot of thought into the anatomy of this book, how the sum of the parts draw together to produce the whole, and I admire that attention to the construction of this work. I have no idea whether Ian considers himself an accomplished illustrator, but I certainly think he is a very clever artist.

*Although retailers get all the freaks of humanity through their doors too, rest assured.