Comic, Nicki Sabalu, 24 pgs, P.O. Box 743, Olympia, WA 98507, USA, email@example.com, $3 ppd to Canada, $2 ppd to U.S.
One of the most magical aspects of zines is the unexpected connection of shared experience; when readers find zine makers who articulate the feelings or the realities that no one else has been able to understand. I expect this is exactly what Nicki Sabalu’s Shadow-Ghost will be for someone out there.
Sabalu’s distinct, charming comic style is recognizable here, as it is in her DIY or Don’t We zines, which I feel like I’ve seen in so many libraries and shops (a good thing!). Her minimalist illustrative charm couples well with her subject matter: her own anxiety. Instead of being portrayed as a ruthless monster, her anxiety is a boo-mouthed little ghost – sometimes larger than life, but mostly just always there – always, always there. We see ol’ Ghosty tagging along with Nicki on the bus, in the library, or in bed at night (wearing a head lamp, of course). It’s not a horror, but a presence: a perpetual reality to be dealt with. As such, it’s approachable.
I think the approachability is what makes Nicki’s zine work so well. It makes for an effective demystification of daily life with anxiety. At the same time, she won’t accept that anxiety will be with her forever – the zine closes with a hope that “one day I can find the thing that will finally set it free.” How considerate! No aggressive retaliation for years of underlying unease; just freedom and good wishes. Nicki takes compassion on her longtime companion the anxiety ghost, which of course means that she takes compassion on herself.
This is a beautiful zine, recommended not just for those living with anxiety and their allies, but for anyone living with a ghost or two. (Joshua Barton)