Psychiatry isn’t generally seen as compelling material for a comic book series. (It’s mostly just good existential maintenance, like eating enough veggies or cleaning your bathroom semi-regularly.) But in the hands of writer Chuck Brown (who penned the excellent Bitter Root), the topic becomes something all the more strange, bloody, and compelling.
The series in question is Flawed, which follows the psychiatrist Gem Ezz. Operating in the “Kafkaesque city of Setham,” Ezz spends her days helping patients via therapy and counseling sessions and her nights taking a “more direct—and sometimes deadly—approach.” (There’s a reason they describe this book as “Frasier meets The Punisher.”) But much like Bitter Root, amid all the insanity and violence resides a deeply human story about healing, growth, and the ways we help one another find our way in the world.
Ahead of issue #1 debuting next week (September 28), Brown answered a few questions via email. That includes working with the series artist, Prenzy, why he became interested in exploring psychiatry, and building the city of Setham, among other tidbits.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Flawed? And do you think the book has the greatest tagline ever with “Frasier meets The Punisher“?
Chuck Brown: I always try to break down the concept of my comics into just a couple of words. “Frasier meets The Punisher” pretty much sums it up. The tagline is “Psychiatrist Gem Ezz listens to her patient’s problems by day and solves them with deadly force by night.”
AIPT: What did the work of Prenzy bring to the story of Flawed in general?
CB: As always Prenzy’s work brings kinetic energy and vibrant colors to Flawed. He and I love a little gore and guts in our comics. And Prenzy is the best at delivering raw and beautiful pages.
AIPT: I feel like this could either be a commentary on or a direct endorsement of therapy. What drew you to this very specific kind of story?
CB: I definitely endorse therapy. It’s more of a commentary on our society as a whole. Speaking with different therapists is what inspired the story. Also, just an overall observation of people and how they interact with others. We all have biases and traumas that make up our personality. I wanted to explore that in Flawed.
AIPT: Why was it important to have a story about a therapist? Is this a subject maybe comics doesn’t really touch on in any sort of meaningful way?
CB: I think we could all benefit from some form of therapy. We should take a deep dive into our own lives and be aware of our mental health. I think it’s important to introduce this kind of comic to the industry. Because it’s something I wish existed when I was younger. Like Bitterroot, Flawed will feature essays. These essays and tips will focus on mental health and will be written by a license professional.
AIPT: There’s a kind of “supernatural” aspect here. Without spoiling it too much, why’s that matter in what seems like a “straightforward” tale?
CB: I think a lot of us wish we could tell our problems to some and they magically disappear. The supernatural elements are there to challenge Gem and force her to question her actions.
AIPT: The city of Setham feels very much like a proper character in this book. Why is that so important?
CB: I thought it would be a fun and challenging element of the book. Also, environmental racism of our cities and states affect our mental health. That’s part of what Setham represents.
AIPT: Did you do any extended research for a book like this? Or pull perhaps from any of your own experiences with therapy?
CB: I pull from my own experiences. I struggled for a long time with therapy. It was a stressful journey trying to find the right therapist and medications. It’s an ongoing fight but it’s one worth fighting.
AIPT: What other tidbits and high points can we expect from the rest of the story (without too many spoilers, of course)? Why should anyone pick up issue #1?
CB: Readers are going to have fun! There’s lots of action and weird and wild characters. And Prenzy’s artwork will blow you away!
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