July 5, 2010

“Reich” a Comic Book Series

Blog follower Stephen Wahrhaftig is a comic book enthusiast. He recently contacted me about a current series he discovered entitled “Reich.” It is being created by Elijah J. Brubaker, a cartoonist living in Portland, Oregon. In the first volume of the series, Mr. Brubaker says he is attempting a long-form comic book biography of Reich, one he will tell from his own point of view. I have read the first six issues and find them to be fascinating. His “Notes on the Text,” in the back of each issue, are informative and these appear to me to be quite accurate. 
I tend to be quite skeptical of secondary source materials relating to Reich which purport to describe the details of his life and work. Although these may be well-intentioned and even well researched, they are all too often rife with inaccuracies. The problem is that so much has been written about Reich that’s just plain wrong! Once published in any form, these writings gain the stamp of legitimacy. When others use these materials for their own research and writing, they unwittingly pass along incorrect information, never realizing the published works they have drawn upon contain errors, often egregious.
Then of course there are the downright smears, full of distortions designed only to mock Reich and sensationalize his work. Reich’s scientific work concerning human sexual function is frequently portrayed in a lurid manner that does not reflect his actual approach. This is especially so regarding Reich’s discovery of the biologic function of the orgasm as a method to regulate the body’s energy.
Because of the problematic nature of secondary source materials, I encourage those first discovering Reich to put aside the many interpretations put forth as fact by others. Instead, they should just read his books. For those who do not speak German (many blog followers do), before Reich wrote in English, the original Theodore P. Wolfe translations of the German are the most accurate, as Reich worked with Wolfe to create them. Reich is a marvelous writer. He’s exceptionally clear, easy and enjoyable to read. While there are several biographies of Reich, the two I can recommend without reservation are "Wilhelm Reich and Orgononmy" by Ola Raknes and "Wilhelm Reich: Life Force Discoverer" by James Wyckoff. 
Despite my serious concerns about how Reich is and will be portrayed both in the comic series “Reich,” and by others who choose write about him, I am glad to know there continue to be individuals, such as Mr. Brubaker, who are introducing the science of orgonomy to a segment of the population that otherwise might never have been exposed to it. I realize comic books and graphic novels are no longer just for kids, and have the capacity to be taken seriously in the literary and artistic world, as evidenced by the comic book series "Maus," which won a Pulitzer Prize. Nevertheless, the comic book format lends itself to a younger and very different audience than is typically exposed to and aware of Wilhelm Reich. It is to be hoped that “Reich” the series, as well as Reich, the man, will capture the hearts and minds of this group.   
What follows is a short interview that Mr. Wahrhaftig conducted with Mr. Brubaker especially for this blog. 
Wahrhaftig: How did you become interested in using Reich as a subject for your series?
Brubaker: I first read about Reich when I was a teenager and always considered him an interesting person. The more one reads of Reich the more one realizes he was a deeply complex and conflicted individual and those are the descriptors I would use for most of my favorite literary characters. This means he's a joy to write and the literary voice I have for Reich is easy for me to access. Other reasons I chose Reich, apart from being a character, was the accessibility of his work. There are many documents available to me by and about Reich, making research relatively easy. Even though this research material exists, he remains pretty obscure historically. I can do the research and present Reich to a world that may not know who he is. 
Wahrhaftig: What kind of reactions (good and bad) have you gotten to the series?
Brubaker: Most of the reactions to Reich have been positive. Many comics fans have complimented me for putting out a small affordable comic on a semi-regular basis (something that is almost unheard outside of superhero/action/adventure comics) and many people that know of Reich have been thankful that I'm telling Reich in a pretty straightforward, mostly even-handed manner. I received one email from a gentleman warning me that I might be doing harm to Reich's legacy should I venture too far into the more controversial aspects of Reich's theories. It seemed like he was afraid that I might imply that Reich was a crackpot and begin dismissing him in a similar way that Reich's worst critics did. I have no urge to calm people's fears about how I'm treating the subject manner. I freely admit that the Reich comic is subject to my own interpretation of events and I have no doubt that my interpretation is going to conflict with how others see the man. I have no intention of labeling Reich or trying to explain him or the tragic events of his life. My only intent is to tell as compelling a story as possible.
Wahrhaftig: How many volumes do you predict the series to be?
Brubaker: I'm hoping “Reich” will go to 12 issues. I keep finding great anecdotes and stories about Reich that I want to put into the book while simultaneously wishing to cut out everything nonessential and finish this beast project as soon as possible. Issue 7 was just released at Mocca [the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art] and I'm optimistic issue 8 will be out by Comic-Con [a comic book convention]. 
Many thanks to Stephen Wahrhaftig for his contribution to this post. He writes about design and marketing at  www.stevewdesign.com. Those who wish to learn more about the comic book series “Reich” can visit Elijah J. Brubaker’s web site at http://elijahbrubaker.com


rich schulman said...

Dr. Schwartzman,

Two points:

1. First off Mr.Brubaker can not understand Dr.Reich or his Therapy without having been in Orgone Therapy.

2. A comic book on Dr. Reich feels wrong. I didn't like the first one that came out as a book about 20 or so years ago.

Richard Schulman

esaruoho said...

Richard Schulman,

on your second point:
Which comicbook came out "20 or so years ago"? Also, have you read the (currently 7) issues of Brubaker's Reich, before saying "it feels wrong"? :)

rich schulman said...


The Comic Book was called Reich For Beginners, by David Mairowitz.

Dr. Reich in one of his correspondences to an English Psychologist who was writing a book on Orgone Therapy (I have to paraphrase)that Dr. Reich would not communicate with him until he was in Orgone therapy. He invited the therapist to America.

Rich Schulman

Psychiatric Orgone Therapy

One of Wilhelm Reich’s most important and lasting contributions is a unique treatment for emotional disorders called psychiatric orgone therapy. Reich began as a psychoanalyst and was a member of Freud’s inner circle, but moved away from Freud’s method of free association when he developed a more effective verbal approach he called character analysis. Later he came to recognize the existence of a specific biologic energy in living organisms that he called “orgone,” which was coined from the word “organism.” With this discovery Reich was able to combine his verbal method with a technique that could normalize a person’s energy. The result was an entirely new approach to treating emotional disorders that he named orgone therapy.

Reich’s work with patients convinced him the disturbance in an individual’s energy state is caused by contractions in the body, especially in the musculature. He called these contractions “armor,” and established that they begin to develop in infancy as a way to block out emotionally painful events.

Past traumatic experiences are locked in the body--and they remain throughout life. How this happens is not fully understood, but there is no question that anxiety, anger and sadness, as well as the other upsetting feelings and emotions from childhood are not forgotten. Armor not only holds the disturbing past, causing it to remain alive but out of consciousness awareness, but it also affects how one feels and functions. Because living a natural healthy life depends upon whether a person’s energy flows freely or is blocked, the aim of psychiatric orgone therapy is to free up energy by breaking down armor. As these areas of holding dissolve, patients release their long buried feelings and emotions in the safety of the therapist’s office. They most usually surface spontaneously with the specific method Reich innovated, without the need of urging or any intervention on the part of the treating psychiatrist. However, occasionally, pressure needs to be applied to spastic muscles, or other techniques used to normalize the body. Because this treatment combines a verbal approach with a physical technique, it addresses both the mind and the body to bring about profound changes in how one thinks, feels and functions.

Today almost all people seeking treatment from a psychiatrist are given medications to reduce their symptoms. However, with psychiatric orgone therapy it is usual that patients, over time, find themselves able to wean themselves off medication and function without pharmacologic treatment. Reich’s therapy is unique in that it not only relieves distressing symptoms, but also does much more. It enables individuals to expand and feel pleasure, and better enjoy the many satisfactions life has to offer.

There are people who claim to practice some form of “Reichian” or “orgone” therapy, even though they have had no formal training in medicine or psychology. Often the techniques used by these self-proclaimed therapists have little or nothing to do with the very specific methods Reich developed and taught. The value of such therapies is questionable and may even harm those who get involved in them.

Qualified psychiatric orgone therapists have extensive training. They are physicians who have gone on to specialize in psychiatry and then in the very unique subspecialty of orgone therapy. They practice in much the same way as Reich did more than a half century ago. Ph.D. Psychologists who have had proper training can practice a form of orgone therapy safely and effectively. However, it is crucial they have supervision by a qualified psychiatric orgone therapist.