cover image Ten Days in a Mad-House: A Graphic Adaptation

Ten Days in a Mad-House: A Graphic Adaptation

Nellie Bly, Brad Ricca, and Courtney Sieh. Gallery 13, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-982-14065-6

Sieh’s detailed ink drawings, reminiscent of 19th-century etchings, coupled with a hard-boiled adaptation by Ricca (Super Boys), retell the groundbreaking journalism of Bly, a reporter who went undercover to expose abuses at Blackwell’s Asylum in 1887. Bly begins feigning paranoia and memory loss at a women’s workhouse and lands in Blackwell’s, where she meets other women condemned for such crimes as “nervous debility,” poverty, and not speaking English. She’s a bit surprised that her ruse works: “I felt sure now that no doctor could tell whether people were insane or not.” Blackwell’s is anything but therapeutic. Women are starved, beaten, subjected to icy baths, forced to sleep without heat, and required to sit in silence for 14 hours at a stretch; if they weren’t mentally ill upon admission, they soon become so. Almost as frustrating is the gaslighting that happens after Bly is sprung from Blackwell’s by her editor and testifies before a grand jury. When officials visit, they find a suddenly clean institution and doctors who blame bad-apple nurses. Nevertheless, Bly’s muckraking advocacy leads to increased funding for treatment of the mentally ill. Though well documented, this history bears repeating. Agent: Scott Mendel, Mendel Media Group. (Apr.)