While we celebrate the ghouls and goblins of October, Elaine M. Will's webcomic Look Straight Ahead depicts a different sort of horror. High school senior Jeremy loses his connection with reality as he falls into the grips of bipolar disorder.
The only good thing going on in Jeremy Knowles' life is that he's ten months away from graduating from high school. He can't stand the cackling jocks who mock the other students. He's in love with his best friend's girlfriend, although he can barely get up the courage to talk to her, and his apathy toward school is causing tension between him and his father. Eventually, though, it becomes clear that there is something more behind Jeremy's trouble connecting with the people around him than teen angst.
Jeremy's annoyance with the school's jocks turns into paranoid delusions. He begins having violent outbursts at school. Psychedelic misfires in his brain grow into a dangerous sense of grandeur, and the negative feelings swirling around his head coalesce into a demonic creature that seems to follow him around. Jeremy is sick, and it takes some time before anyone realizes what is going on.
On her website, Will explains that she was inspired to write Look Straight Ahead because of her own experience with mental illness, and while Jeremy is not Will, she does arm him with an artistic ability that both provides him with solace and gives his experiences physical form. Comics can be a powerful medium for portraying mental illness, and here we're invited to experience Jeremy's delusions from the inside rather than judge what everyone else is seeing. Jeremy doesn't explain himself or defend his actions; he simply narrates his experiences as they happen.
But it is ultimately an optimistic comic, if sometimes a painful one. Jeremy can recover, he can manage his illness. But it will take work, a willingness to get better, and the empathy of the people around him to dispel the sometimes enticing delusions inside his mind.
The print edition of Look Straight Ahead is due in comic stores on October 30th and bookstores on November 12th. It's currently available for preorder from bookstores and from Amazon.