Interview: The Funny Animal History of Healthcare
Aug 29, 2022
Interview by Troy Allen
We talked with the cartoonist and co-creator James Sturm about the upcoming release!
PREVIEWSWorld: So what made you want to focus on healthcare for younger readers?
James Sturm: Though the book is drawn in the style of a children’s book, it’s meant for audiences of all ages—hopefully, the children’s book style helps make this material more inviting.
I wanted to do a comic book about healthcare because I wanted to contribute something—even if it is just helping a few more people understand the growing crisis. The US has the highest overall healthcare costs in the developed world but ranks close to last in healthcare quality, efficiency, and access to care.
PREVIEWSWorld: Do you both have a background in this sort of thing?
James Sturm: Only as a patient. And because I didn’t have much background, I asked all the dumb, obvious questions. Like so many others, I found navigating the healthcare system frustrating and incomprehensible. Putting together this book was my attempt to understand the healthcare system, how it works, and how we got here and to share this information with readers.
PREVIEWSWorld: Why tackle this subject in graphic novel form?
James Sturm: Comics are an incredible medium for organizing a lot of information in a way that’s easy to absorb. For something as complex as the US healthcare system, I knew my cartooning abilities would be tested.
PREVIEWSWorld: What made artist Kazimir Lee the perfect artist for this project?
James Sturm: Kaz is an amazing talent who can work in a range of styles. I worked with Kaz on the Harriet Tubman, Toward Freedom graphic novel and that book has a completely different look. Kaz is fun to collaborate with and their sense of play and keen wit is evident in every panel of the comic.
PREVIEWSWorld: What new challenges do you think this upcoming generation faces when it comes to healthcare?
James Sturm: In this broken, fragmented system, this younger generation either won’t have access to the care they need or be given care at a price that will bury them and their families in debt. As Health and Wealth illustrates, this is happening right now and is only getting worse. That’s why it’s so important to understand how the system works: both to better navigate it and to help change it.
PREVIEWSWorld: As a writer writing for younger readers, was there a particular subject that was very difficult to navigate?
James Sturm: Writing about how hospitals charge for their services was hard. It’s a really secretive process that even most people in the medical professions don’t understand.
When I started working on the comic, my goal was to send a copy of the comic book to every member of the US Congress (which we did). Polls show that across the political divide, healthcare is the number one issue they want their representatives to address. Having written for young readers prepared me to write in a way that even a Senator could understand!
PREVIEWSWorld: What has the response been to the book been like so far?
James Sturm: The response has been good. The book is circulating in medical schools, conferences, and organizations dedicated to healthcare reform. I‘m really grateful to Diamond and all the comic book shop owners who will help distribute the book and make this comic more accessible to a larger audience.
Health & Wealth: A Graphic Guide to the US Healthcare System by James Strum and Kazimir Lee is available September 28, 2022!
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Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.