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REVIEW: Draw Stronger

Kriota Willberg's Draw Stronger, a guide to injury prevention and first-aid for cartoonists and other visual artists, is a must-have for nearly every library collection and comics maker.

Draw Stronger: Self Care for Cartoonists & Visual Artists
Kriota Willberg
Uncivilized Books, 2018
publisher site | WorldCat

Gathered and refined from a series of self-published minicomics, Draw Stronger is Kriota Willberg's generous gift to comics-makers everywhere. Willberg, whose comics career is informed by decades of work as a massage therapist, dancer, choreographer, and educator, first saw the need to share this information during a residency at the Center for Cartoon Studies, as she reported on an episode of the Virtual Memories Show. "I would watch my students draw, and they would have a sketchbook in their lap, and then they would be hunched over their lap, and they'd be drawing inside a three-inch panel border, and the amount of flexion that was going on was just unbelievable. [...] I know some cartoonists who literally can't straighten up -- young people who can't arch their backs because they just don't have that kind of range -- and they don't feel a limitation, but I can see a limitation in these young bodies. [...] Someone's gonna have to write the book, so I will do it."

The result is a clear, concise guide to the bodies of cartoonists (and other visual artists), the common afflictions they face, and the best ways to prevent and recover from common injuries. Willberg clearly knows what she's talking about, as well as how to explain it -- both verbally and visually -- to an audience with no medical background. While the book isn't about comics librarianship or especially likely to inform the field per se, it's such an important tool that every library should acquire a copy of in order to support the comics-makers in their community. Its lessons could even be incorporated into programming -- a quick stretch at the beginning of a workshop? interludes in a library-sponsored 24-Hour Comics Day? -- without any pain whatsoever. In some ways Draw Stronger couldn't be farther from the practices of collecting, promoting, and interpreting comics in library settings, but it's by far the easiest book to recommend yet!