Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #218: Sitting at the Center of the Panel

How do you write about wanting to die? Is it through writing down everything happening in your life to act as a demonstration for the need? Or is it talking about it frankly? Or is it showing those feelings as various forms of the self shadowed by something giant, dark, and dreadful just at the edge of things? Why not all of those? It’s how Zoe Thorogood writes about six months in her life where these feelings were at their worst in It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth.

The six months logged through this auto-bio-graphic-novel are before a major trip Thorogood is taking to the US for a major comic convention. But there’s mounting pressure. Thorogood is called the future of comics multiple times throughout this auto-bio-graphic-novel and has to contend with that throughout. There’s impostor syndrome and then there’s the pressure of an industry looking over your shoulder to see what trick you’ll pull next. And to follow up her first major work, The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, there’s every comic eye watching. But how do you contend with that kind of pressure? Through making another graphic novel about making art and how that’s the one thing that can sustain you. Beyond the depression saddling itself on your back, beyond the lack of connection you feel to everyone and everything around you, beyond the disappointments of meeting someone in another country for the first time, there’s making things. 

While much of It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth deals with the encroaching darkness that threatens to consume her—and while she also pokes fun at the idea of this kind of character arc in an autobiographical comic—it’s the last few pages that feel like a revelation in the self. As an artist and creator, it’s looking back at yourself. Thorogood represents herself in half a dozen ways throughout, but the most striking is the child she used to be. This odd little kid that was too weird to even bully in school and that’s what she has to confront—both on the page and in reality as she sits in her apartment surrounded by the pages she had just drawn for this book. But it’s through that confrontation, the acceptance of what she was and is currently that acts as a propeller forward. Even after every piece of her life that we’ve seen previously, it’s here on the floor looking at the old sketches and childhood ideas that we see the most relatable honest version of who we’ve been reading about. 

It’s hard to understate what else It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth is besides what it says on the cover. It’s a book that plays with form, character, and composition more than most zines I subscribe to; an unflinching look at the author; a glimpse into the hopes and disappoints and reaffirmations of life. Despite everything we still push forward though art, or something we can put our hands on, and that’s just enough. 

Get excited. Get less lonely.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

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The Drunken Odyssey is a forum to discuss all aspects of the writing process, in a variety of genres, in order to foster a greater community among writers.


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