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It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth
Image Comics

Comic Books

‘It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth’ wields formal mastery in the service of self-examination

An impeccably crafted study of the cartoonist and her life.

There are pages in Zoe Thorogood (The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, Rain)’s It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth that take my breath away. And while the general reason — Thorogood’s a stupendous cartoonist and her work with comics-as-a-form is just so goddamn cool—remains constant, the specifics vary. In one case, it will be because of how she uses color to convey the sensation of listening to a song. In another, it’ will be’s because of the clarity she brings to writing about her experiences as a cartoonist and with mental health and suicidal ideation. In another, it will be the way that she shifts from style to style in her cartooning—sketchy, lifelike, caricatured, grotesque—and the way that she maintains continuity of feeling across those styles. In craft and content, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth demands attention be paid.

It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth
Thorogood uses a variety of styles to depict herself —enough for the assorted Thorogoods can carry on a running conversation with each other. I’m really taken with the way she approaches hopping from style to style, and in the case of this early page, blending them in It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth from Image comics.

Tracking six months in Thorogood’s life, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth is, in her words:

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…obviously beyond personal, it‘s mostly an exploration of the chronic depression I started developing as a child, and how that along with an obsession to make art has in itself created a bit of a monster. The story follows the last 6 months of 2021, after I’d convinced myself I wasn’t going to live anymore, I manically decided to start this project and record myself in the hope I could figure myself out- like a storyteller would do with a character, right?

Zoe Thorogood, Instagram

Over the course of the book, Thorogood examines her past and documents her present—closing on a reflection on the project as a whole. To do so, she deploys comic modes ranging from the documentary (a flashback to a key moment in her life that would become her first webcomic) to the comedic (her cartoony life-could-be-like-a-comic self’s interactions with her fellow Thorogoods) to the surreal and terrifying.

It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth
Thorogood is one of the very few comic creators I’ve encountered to successfully capture not only the experience of listening to music but the sensation that a song can have when it resonates with you for ill and good—as happens with her and Cake’s “Open Book” in It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth from Image Comics.

Thorogood’s impeccable control of It’s Lonely‘s visual tone is matched by her control of its narrative. It’s an intimate, often heavy, self-portrait—the book opens with a content advisory for suicide and self-harm—and a successful one. It’s an active, probing study that traces the continuing effects of Thorogood’s past on her present and examines why and how she moves the way she does in that present. It’s consistently thorough and thoughtful on both fronts, particularly when it comes to the feel of things. By shifting her drawing style and placing those assorted styles in active conversation throughout the book, and by deploying color and monochrome in specific moments, Thorogood taps into sensation and the way that it is experienced (as seen in the image above) in a way that is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s astonishing.

It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth
Thorogood approaches autobiography seriously, but not dourly. The intimacy with which she tells her story results in a book with space for surreal nightmare imagery and morbid comedy in It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth from Image Comics.

Moreover, the specificity with which Thorogood crafts It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth renders it a humane work. She does not claim her experience as universal, and her awareness of her perspective’s edges allows the comic to thrive on the specifics of her life, rather than try for grand sweeping generalizations of the sort that can easily become banana peels leading to open manholes. And in that specificity, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth offers its audience space for recognition. To use myself as an example, while Thorogood and I lead quite different lives, I can recognize the commonalities between my experiences with depression and navigating the grey and her own. And as someone in the process of rebuilding after a year whose first half was hell, the commonalities and the knowledge that I am not the only person to have navigated heavy places and heavy times is welcome.

This is a hell of a book from a hell of a cartoonist. Read it.

It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth
‘It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth’ wields formal mastery in the service of self-examination
It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth
Zoe Thorogood's six-month autobiography is an impeccably crafted study of the cartoonist and her life. Thorogood's craft is breathtaking—especially her style-hopping and depiction of sensation—and she navigates the fraught art of writing about oneself with care and precision. The resulting comic is unforgettable.
Reader Rating1 Vote
9.1
Thorogood's comics craft is, put simply, stupendous.
Her characters—human, anthropomorphic animal, and otherwise—are wonderfully expressive.
Her stylistic flexibility—and her ability to bridge those styles when they interact—conveys not only voice but sensation.
Her script navigates its often heavy subject matter with precision—this is both very much a comic about Thorogood's specific experiences with (amongst other things) mental health AND a comic that contextualizes those experiences so that others might recognize their own experiences in reading it.
10
Fantastic
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