Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner is a biographical comic about a man and his wife coping with the fact that the man has been diagnosed with cancer.
Chapter Five of the comic opens with the man, Harvey, preparing for the surgery he is to have on a possible hernia. He is evidently very nervous and wakes up hours before his surgery. When he finally makes his way to the hospital, the doctors take him in while his wife, Joyce, sits in the waiting room. It’s not long before Harvey’s doctor appears in the waiting room to give Joyce some upsetting news: the surgeons have found a tumor. Joyce isn’t able to get much more information from the doctor before he rushes off.
Harvey and Joyce are notified that Harvey will need a CAT scan and will not know any further details for another 10 days when the test results arrive. Joyce gets in contact with several people for advice and further information about cancer, while Harvey seeks out a lawyer and begins filing a will. The 10 days pass and Harvey has a follow-up with his doctor, who informs him that his cancer had not spread. Both Harvey and Joyce find it difficult to continue with their “normal” lives as their friends try offering counsel.
The comic closes with Joyce and Harvey conversing with their carpenter, roofer, and electrician, all of whom have been, in some way, affected by cancer. Their insights help Joyce realize that she and Harvey are not alone.
Our Cancer Year refers back to Scott McCloud’s idea of art as a means of self-expression. McCloud asserts that comics -- or any type of art, in fact -- are a very effective way for humans to achieve emotional balance and help assure “the race’s mental survival.” Our Cancer Year is a great example of self-expression being put to use. This is a very serious comic, dealing with a very serious, real issue. In this case, the comic was likely meant as a way for the authors to help cope with Harvey’s diagnosis. I definitely agree with McCloud’s assertion, as I also use art as an emotional outlet.