What the Body is For – Madeleine Witt

Reviewed by Juan Jose Fernandez.

This is a poetic collection of 41 four panel comics that, as self-described, are about the body and what it is for. These comics were drawn daily in Massachusetts between Valentine’s Day & April Fools Day 2018.

The juicy, production information you should know is that this is beautifully risograph-printed in two colors, Federal Blue and Red. At 48 pages. 5.5″ x 6″ it is a good size to slip into your pocket or under your friend’s pillow.

Witt has harnessed something incredible in these comics. They exhibit discipline, playfulness, pain and awe. I shiver with my mortality and feel blessed by the gift of my humanity reading these comics. Mortality, rebirth, darkness, light, hope, despair, blood and water. It’s all here.

Witt’s use of the 4 panel grid is deft, as is the relationships she builds between images, texts, and colors. This is a standout example of the new school of comics poetics in North America. This work may appear muted on the surface. Nevertheless, what appears muted is actually a set of considered symbols, used sparingly that repeat, echo and resonate to form loud truths about life on earth for humans. Witt builds a pattern language across these strips and turns that language to song.

When I think about these comics I think a lot about Madeleine’s daily process: during Lent, during the transition from the dark Massachusetts winter into the awakening brightness of spring. These were composed as daily meditations and prayers, and it shows.

What is brilliant in Witt’s work is the way that these strips come together to form a greater piece. In speaking to Witt I learned that what was started as a personal challenge, akin to #30dayscomics in November, wound up taking a life of its own. By the middle of the 40 days, she saw several strands that she could weave together to make these pieces form a whole. She serialized these strips on her personal instagram and they served as a daily meditation for readers.

As a fellow poetic strip cartoonist, I find this an inspiring feat. Read across 40 days or in one sitting, these comics really deliver.

Want a copy for yourself or a loved one?
You can buy a copy of this limited edition beauty from Madeleine Witt online, HERE.

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