Saturday, 21 October 2017

Formal Complaint to NHS Education for Scotland: "I've been judged on hearsay and tittle tattle"

Dr McLeod on left, 13May13 [Innovations at Lighthouse]
Today I sent a formal complaint by Email to Ms Judy Thomson, Director of Psychology, NHS Education for Scotland, about the bullying letter I received from Dr Hamish McLeod, DClinPsy Programme Director, Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit, Gartnavel, University of Glasgow:

Strapline: Fwd: Letter about involvement with the Glasgow DClinPsy programme: raising an Official Complaint with NHS Education for Scotland

"Dear Ms Thomson

Please see forwarded letter from Dr McLeod, Programme Lead at the DClinPsy MHW unit, Glasgow, which I received on 11 October and read on Friday the 13th.  I expected it would be negative and it was worse than I'd imagined.

I wish to raise a complaint about this letter, the tone, the slanderous attacks, the undermining of my character and the upset it caused me, and is still causing me.  I want to complain about the fact that Dr McLeod has never sat down and spoken with me about these allegations.  He hasn't interviewed me or invited me to defend myself in person.  I've been judged on hearsay and tittle tattle.  It's very unfair.

I don't deserve this disrespectful letter from a Clinical Psychologist senior academic in Scotland.  I contend that Dr McLeod is unfit to lead a training course of would-be Clinical Psychologists.  Scotland needs well-trained CPs who can listen to people with lived experience, and their carers.  To listen and not judge.  To listen and care.  DClinPsy programmes need survivor voices teaching and leading, a variety of stories, to inform trainees and prepare them for therapeutic listening.

For over 8 years I've tried to be meaningfully involved voluntarily in the Glasgow CP training programme and have continually been marginalised.  I'm an unwaged Carer and pensioner of 65yrs.  I write and campaign voluntarily so as to improve MH services in Scotland.  So that other Mothers won't be blamed for psychiatric abuse.  To promote safer alternatives to coercive drugging and risky practices within psychiatric settings.  To research and develop Safe haven crisis Houses in Scotland so that my family and others will be free from harm and lack of care when experiencing psychosis, altered mind states and emotional distress due to life trauma.  

Please accept this Email as an official complaint which I want NES to investigate on my behalf.  I am concerned that CP trainees will be at risk of receiving the same bullying treatment if they speak out about the teaching or have an independent voice.  They deserve better.  And so do I.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)

cc Paul Gray, Geoff Huggins, Prof Gumley, Professor Pell

Pages 367-368 | Received 11 Sep 2017, Accepted 11 Sep 2017, Published online: 06 Oct 2017

Protesting peacefully at Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit Glasgow 21Sep17:

Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, public lecture Cupar, Fife, Scotland, 19 November 2011:

Chrys Muirhead
Safe Houses for Psychosis
writer, researcher, activist; cyclist, photographer, gardener, swimmer


'Hard to reach: Coercive system or defective gene?' DCP-Scotland Review Aug17

Saturday, 14 October 2017

"your behaviour is deemed unacceptable" DClinPsy Programme Director @UofGMHW

Here is a letter I received by Email on Wednesday 11 October 2017 from Dr Hamish McLeod, Programme Director, DClinPsy, University of Glasgow.  At first I decided not to read it because I thought it would be undermining, based on past experiences of engaging with Dr McLeod since January, over the phone and by Email.  Then yesterday I changed my mind and looked at the letter.  It was even worse than I imagined:

I have made a response to this letter by Email, yesterday, and will be making a formal complaint about Dr McLeod.  I think this letter demonstrates that he is not fit to be the DClinPsy Programme Director.  Attacking an unwaged Carer and psychiatric survivor for no good reason is unacceptable.  I was not interviewed about these allegations.  

Dr McLeod has never sat down and spoken to me in person in the 6 years that I have "known" him, either in the MH Wellbeing unit or for a cuppa.  I don't know him personally, know nothing about him because he's never spoken to me personally.  Whereas I know Professor Andrew Gumley personally because he has shared personal experiences with me, mostly by Email and a few times in person.

Because of this personal attack by Dr McLeod I will have to raise a complaint with the University of Glasgow, and with NHS Education for Scotland, highlighting why I think he is unfit for the post of Programme Director.  I will also be raising concerns about the Programme's teaching and practice supervision, based on the 4 July meeting and the behaviour of a trainee.

Clinical Psychology Doctorate trainees deserve the best of teaching and training, to prepare them for the task of supporting people/patients in mental distress.  Above all, in my experience, they have to be good listeners, non-judgemental, fair, transparent, clear thinking, seeing the person as they are, not based on the opinions of others or what's written in the Notes or in tweets or blog posts or any other social media. 


Surviving Psychosis/Psychiatry teaching 8May17 Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit Glasgow


Prof Gumley's reference for my PhD 5Dec16: "I believe that Chrys has what it takes"

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Clinical Psychology in Scotland: the impossibility of level playing fields

Thinking back over 8 years of trying to be meaningfully involved in Clinical Psychology training at both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, and how impossible it has been to be treated as an equal, a professional, someone who had a life before and after "mental illness".  The label has gotten in the way.  The clinical gaze.

There was, and is, in my experience, containment and division.  Lack of trust.  Silencing of voices.  Hierarchy.  Favouring some over others.  Conferring status on some over others.  Saying one thing, doing another.  Lack of congruence, openness, transparency.  

What do they have to hide?

I don't know.

But it's detrimental to the wellbeing of mental health services in Scotland and undermines the Expert by Experience who has endured iatrogenic drug treatment and survived mental illness.  In my opinion.

And I'm entitled to have an opinion and to express it.  Regardless of some clinical psychologists who may find my words offensive.  I say to them: Walk in my shoes, try them on for size and see if they fit.

Psychiatric survivors deserve respect and to be heard in Clinical Psychology settings, both academic and practice.  We have a lot to offer and it's way beyond time that the corridors were widened and the playing fields levelled.


My presentation teaching on Psychosis module DClinPsy programme Glasgow 8 May 2017:
Surviving Psychosis/Psychiatry: Resilience, Resistance, Recovery; Rescue, Respite, Risk, Renewal


Published on Sep 22, 2017

Five short talks to camera outside the University of Glasgow MH & Wellbeing Unit, Gartnavel Hospital grounds, about my experience of trying to be meaningfully involved in the Clinical Psychology Doctorate training course, from the lived experience, psychiatric survivor perspective.


PhD Clinical Psychology University of Edinburgh - Withdrawal of Offer 9May17

24Jan16: clinical psychology in academia: the lack of learning, level playing fields and therapeutic relationships

from 2002: "Are you tearful?""No. I'm flat" [correct answer]; anhedonia

This was the usual script at psychiatrist appointments in 2002 after I had been put on, coercively drugged with, Risperidone in Lomond Ward, Stratheden psychiatric Hospital, springtime, which took away my agency and gradually made me clinically depressed.

1977 oldest son
I had experienced a menopausal psychosis, altered mind states at the change of life, in my 50th year.  It wasn't unpleasant, rather at times it was spiritually uplifting (I'm a Christian) however not getting sleep was a major problem as my mind became overactive and my body got tired.  So my two older sons took me into Lomond acute ward and I went in voluntarily, to be detained for 72hrs until I agreed to swallow the antipsychotic. 

I knew the score, having been a mental patient twice before, in 1978 and 1984, with pueperal psychosis, forcibly injected with Chlorpromazine, separated from my babies, had to stop breastfeeding, I still very much resent that, at 65yrs of age.  They stopped me feeding my child.  I'd breastfed my first son for 10 months until he got teeth.  It's a special bond between mother and baby.  Psychiatry invaded the space between my younger two sons and me, by interfering.  

my 3 sons c1986 taken in Perth on day out
My 3 sons were all forced out of me at childbirth, by nurses and doctors using oxytocin by drip to hasten the births, to deliver on the day shift.  Traumatic experiences, extreme pain during the labour of my younger two sons due to insufficient pain relief.  My reactive psychoses were forms of post-traumatic stress.  I got punished for externally expressing my distress by more drugs forced in when I resisted.  I determined to get off the drugs/meds within the year, making a full recovery, and so I did, getting back on with my life, without interference.

1998 with my 3 sons
In 2002 after the antipsychotic depressed me, unlike in earlier episodes where I just was left to get on with it, the psychiatrist put me on Venlafaxine antidepressant, which caused suicidal impulse and I swallowed a bottle of them, being rushed by ambulance to Ninewells Hospital, on oxygen.  

me aged about 11
Psychiatrist upped the dose to maximum despite my request to be put on a different antidepressant.  The "Are you tearful?""No. I'm flat" [correct answer] routine went on for a while and so he prescribed Lithium to "augment" the antidepressant.  Whatever that means.  Well it didn't do anything.  I was still flat as a pancake, couldn't sing, had very little sense of humour, was most unlike myself, and so I had to do something about it.  I had to take charge of my own mental health.

I didn't like being flattened.

1999 with my 3 sons at my middle sister's wedding in Fife; I was Maid of Honour
this summer on ferry to Rothesay with bike; day trip from Springfield, Fife

Published on Jul 27, 2017
"On the island, walking around Arinagour, from Tigh-na-Mara guest house, seeing Border Leicester sheep, at Church of Scotland, on way to An Cridhe for Barbara Dickson fundraising concert."

Monday, 2 October 2017

my latest submission to @EMPOWER_EWS app survey on "hearing voices" messages

Had already completed the survey, doing it in a oner.  Thought I'd have another go, taking it slower, reflecting more during the process, thinking back to my own experiences of psychosis and coming through.  This may be useful to other folk.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Prof Gumley's reference for my PhD 5Dec16: "I believe that Chrys has what it takes"

Was reflecting again on my PhD aspirations which came to nothing, at the University of Edinburgh, Clinical Psychology department.  And in particular the very good reference which Professor Andrew Gumley gave about my suitability for the PhD, researching safe haven crisis houses in the UK and abroad.

In which he said:

"Chrys brings considerable and important strengths from her experiences in community development, as a survivor of mental health services and as a carer of family members who themselves have experienced mental health services. Through her work as a blogger and writer, Chrys has been an active campaigner for culture change in mental health services. This experience and energy places Chrys in an exceptionally strong position to pursue her interests in developing Crisis Houses / Safe Havens as an alternative to psychiatric admission, which is the topic of her PhD application."

Here it is:

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Surviving Psychosis/Psychiatry teaching 8May17 Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit Glasgow

I was invited by Professor Andrew Gumley to teach on the Psychosis module, 2nd year Clinical Psychology Doctorate (DClinPsy) at the Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit, University of Glasgow, 8 May 2017, for which I received an honorarium and travel expenses.

Here is a link to my presentation, delivered from 10am to 4pm with an hour for lunch:

Surviving Psychosis/Psychiatry: Resilience, Resistance, Recovery; Rescue, Respite, Risk, Renewal



I had expected to be involved in module planning and in co-writing papers but this never happened.  It's disappointing but I'm not surprised.  I first attended a Service User Research Group meeting with Dr Ross White and Prof Andrew Gumley in the MH & Wellbeing unit, 9 September 2009, over 8 years ago, and this came to nothing.  Wasn't invited back or included in any research.  In a sense I've got used to being excluded although it doesn't stop me speaking out and expecting at some point that my voice will be heard, respected and included.  I'm not worth less.

"Walking from Haugh Park, Cupar, to the Garden Centre, by River Eden, reflecting on my preparation for Psychosis module teaching, 8 May 2017, to trainees on the Clinical Psychology Doctorate programme, Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit, University of Glasgow, Gartnavel Hospital: 

Topics of Resilience, Resistance, Recovery, Rescue, Respite, Risk, Renewal. I was invited to teach, facilitate learning, from the lived experience or survivor perspective. My qualifications include postgraduate reflective practitioner awards in Community Education and Teaching in Further Education, Care subjects."


"Speaking out about my attempts to be meaningfully involved since September 2009 on the DClinPsy (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology) programme, University of Glasgow, based in the Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit, Gartnavel Hospital. About feeling marginalised."

"Two short talks to camera after speaking out in front of the Mental Health and Wellbeing unit, University of Glasgow, Gartnavel Hospital. Talking about expectation and hopes, resilience and worth. 

"I think everyone should be treated the same. I'm not worth less because I'm stronger or more resilient. It just means I'm still here."

Thursday, 28 September 2017

groupthink; reaching a consensus; dysfunctional decision-making outcomes

Yesterday I received an Email from an academic which seemed to be, yet again, promoting "groupthink", a misrepresentation of groupwork, with the aim of silencing independent, survivor voices.

"Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences." Wikipedia

Here is what the senior academic said:

"I don’t want the group to feel rushed, but that we can take the time we need. If the group collectively feel that we can briefer then we will do what the group needs." (bolding is mine)

The "group" mentioned consists of academics, mental health survivors and carers.  I've been a member of this group, since 2011, having left for a spell due to feeling marginalised and fodder for research.

In my experience of this group it's the academics who dominate the discourse and silence voices at will.  It happened at a meeting this week.  The survivor voices were shut down.  They can't seem to help but close conversations and redirect.  It's the culture and learned behaviour.  I think they also teach this, practise it, in their relationships with others, which is concerning and one of the reasons as to why I've come back into this group and will persist with speaking out independently.

In my response to this academic I said:

"it's about the person in the group. About keeping everyone onboard.

Think about ways of involving each of us as an individual. We each have different strengths and abilities. .."


"The gist of my argument was about being accommodating to the person before the group."

To which the academic responded:

"I see my approach to this as attempting to bring along every individual who is a member ..., giving them the opportunity to engage with the curriculum."


I am still concerned that Clinical Psychologists (CPs) in Scotland may be more concerned about the group than about the person.  That was my experience in Fife, from 2003 until 2012, engaging with NHS Fife CPs, as a patient, a carer, a colleague.  They didn't appear to see me as an equal.  Rather it felt that in their eyes I was "less than".

That's a problem which requires attention, in my opinion.  


Groupthink by Irving L Janis, 1971

"The main principle of groupthink, which I offer in the spirit of Parkinson's Law, is this: The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups."

The role of prescribed persons? CabSec for Health giggles & defers to DG Paul Gray

The role of prescribed persons from omphalos on Vimeo.

"Health and Sport Committee, Scottish Parliament, 26 September 2017: NHS Governance

Miles Briggs, MSP, asked this question of the Cabinet Secretary for Health and the Director General for NHS Scotland:

"I wondered if you could outline to the committee your role as a Prescribed Person within the Public Disclosure Act"

Definition of Prescribed Persons(

"Prescribed persons, as prescribed under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, are independent bodies or individuals that can be approached by whistleblowers, where an approach to their employers would not be appropriate."

Full coverage of this parliamentary committee can be watched here:

[Full minutes can also be accessed from this page]

Music credit: "Collapsing time" by Dexter Britain (under common license)"

Sunday, 24 September 2017

my Advance Statement: will request meeting with Psychiatrist to update

My Advance Statement written c2013 in conjunction with a Fife Psychiatrist, now retired:

I plan to update this Statement requesting a Safe House for Psychosis, and will arrange a meeting with a Psychiatrist to discuss.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Switching Antipsychotics by MMH for CME in NHS Scotland

Here is a link to presentation slides for a Continual Medical Education (CME) session 'Switching Antipsychotics' delivered to NHS health board psychiatrists in Scotland last week, by John Donoghue, Clinical Pharmacist, fictional book author and owner of company Medicines in Mental Health Ltd.

On the first slide Mr Donoghue promotes his fictional book 'The Death's Head Chess Club' using the opportunity of a captive audience to rake in more money from his links to big pharma:

Second slide Donoghue pushes his business:

Finally third slide the Clinical Pharmacist sets out his objectives:

I contend that these objectives are not achievable.  Antipsychotics are powerful, toxic chemicals and there are no safety guarantees when it comes to "switching" the drugs.  It's the patient/person who has to "manage" and live with adverse side effects which do occur every day they are on these mind and brain altering drugs.  I know this from personal experience of taking Chlorpromazine and Risperidone, managing to taper and get off the drugs on 3 different occasions, against "medical" advice.

As a psychiatric survivor and carer of family members who have been disabled and abused by coercive psychiatric drug treatment I am disgusted by the profiteering of this "clinical pharmacist".  Science fiction masquerading as "medical (medication) education".

Saturday, 9 September 2017

an appealing protest: speaking out for safe houses at MH & Wellbeing Glasgow 9Sep17

Published on Sep 9, 2017

Travelling with bike on train from Springfield to Glasgow via Edinburgh, to speak out at the Mental Health & Wellbeing unit, Gartnavel, Glasgow. This unit is part of the University of Glasgow and 8 years ago, to the day, I first attended a Service User Research Group in the red brick building where Clinical Psychology is based. 
First segment was filmed in Kelvingrove Park. Other talks were in 10 parts, emphasising my commitment to being meaningfully involved in teaching and facilitating learning on the DClinPsy programme and in research. 
It was a bit of a protest and at the same time an appeal for help and support with my proposed research into Safe haven crisis Houses for psychosis, alternatives to psychiatric inpatient treatment.

Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, public lecture Cupar, Fife, Scotland, 19 November 2011

Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, public lecture Cupar, Fife, Scotland, 19 November 2011 from Chrys Muirhead on Vimeo

Thursday, 7 September 2017

On Jeff Hawke: Overlord, by Sydney Jordan and Willie Patterson (1960)

On Jeff Hawke: Overlord, by Sydney Jordan and Willie Patterson (1960)


“Adult” all too often has a different meaning now. But in the very best sense of the term, Jordan and Patterson’s Jeff Hawke was a newspaper science-fiction comic strip for adults. In an age in which fantastical fiction was still largely regarded as brain-rotting pablum for the young, the culturally deprived, and the supposedly congenitally feeble-minded, Jeff Hawke had become, by the turn of the ’60s, a rare and precious example of what the genre might achieve in a popular form designed to appeal to a post-adolescent audience. In the words of Dave Gibbons, it was “one of the best newspaper strips ever published.”

Hawke himself might not, at first, appear to be anything other than a typically British adventure hero from the more dour end of the breed. Though handsome, calm, brave, commanding, and restrained, Hawke’s hardly what might be seen as a charismatic character in the terms of today’s culture. His sense of humour is gentle and slight when it’s present at all, with a great deal of the comedy in his adventures coming from the characters that he plays straight man to. His obvious competence never once threatens to tip over into the darkness and machismo of a my-phasers-against-the-universe protagonist. Indeed, the absence of the slightest trace of the anti-hero about him leaves Hawke appearing initially to be nothing more compelling than a one-dimensional man of the officer class, there on the page to be admirably, comfortingly decent and day-winning.

But it’s the very absence of the easy and over-familiar markers of heroism that make Hawke such a quietly remarkable lead. In Overlord, for example, which played out over 115 days in the pages of The Daily Express in 1960, he first appears as an expert called in to investigate the appearance of an alien spacecraft that has crashed somewhere in North Africa. In a near-future marked by the likes of beautifully-envisaged ram-jets and flying-sauceresque hovercraft, Hawke liaises with government scientists and military big-wigs in order to take charge of the search effort. It’s not until the thirteenth daily chapter in the sequence that his most distinctive qualities become subtly emphasised. Having discovered not one but two alien craft in “the Egyptian desert,” Hawke’s methodical attempts at what we’d now call first contact reveal that a form of execution is about to occur. A gigantic beetle-like creature has apparently been condemned “in accordance with High Intergalactic Law,” and a relatively small off-world craft has arrived to carry out the sentence. Hawke’s response is deliberate, smart-minded, and entirely without teeth-gritting or speechifying:

“Whoever you may be, understand this! There will be no ‘execution’ on the sovereign territory of Earth!”

Though he undemonstratively draws his gun, it’s quite obviously done in a way that’s as lacking in Hollywood manliness as could be possible. To Hawke, as it soon becomes plain to the neophyte reader, violence is a strategy of the very last resort, and it’s in that adamantine conviction that the character’s untypical and inspiring qualities as a lead become clear. Patterson’s stories weren’t constructed to quickly burn through more cerebral solutions to overwhelmingly threatening dangers while at the same time cranking up the reader’s longing for a laser beam or a good and strong right hook to solve the problems. Quite the opposite was true. When Marines arrive on the scene in response to a loss of communications with Hawke’s team, a show of force results only in the destruction of its commander’s weapons along with, it appears, a significant proportion of his good health. For Jeff Hawke was a science-fiction strip designed to emphasise if not pacifism, then the most principled of restraint matched with the most rigorous of thought. And for all that Hawke might seem to the casual glance to be an entirely familiar fighting lead, he was actually the exact opposite to the breed. In that, he was the rarest of science-fiction types; the diplomat as hero, the peace-maker as protagonist, the man of ideals and science who really would rather rely upon his conscience and his mind before reaching for a conveniently big gun.

Patterson and Jordan could often appear to be engaged in a campaign against the broad strokes and dense-headed assumptions of so much pulp sci-fi. Jeff Hawke was saturated with the conventions that characterised so much of the pop science fiction of the period, and yet those traditions were constantly being reframed and reinvigorated. The flying saucers in Overlord are everyday terrestrial hovercraft, the other-worldly executioner nothing more than a machine programmed to spout bureaucratic legaleese. Most tellingly, the huge beetle that, at first glance, appears to be nothing more than the terrifying Other is revealed to be neither enemy not potential ally, but an “intelligent” creature “impatient” to be killed because it has “the mentality of a pawn in a chess game.” At each step of the plot, the reader’s expectations are smartly subverted. This is true to the point at which Hawke is compelled by the evidence to reluctantly leave the condemned alien to its fate, a twist of the plot which surely no-one then, as now, could have anticipated. This is authorial gameplaying of the highest level, and it comes with a complete absence of either smugness or the cold-hearted knowingness than tends to accompany comics meta. “Come on Jeff — there’s nothing we can do…” calls Hawke’s assistant, Mac, to his boss, and even now, the idea that there really is nothing that the heroic lead can do, and that the only option really is to fly away and let such unpleasantness occur, grinds thought-provokingly against genre expectations.

For a strip that’s so deliberately undemonstrative, that’s so purposefully designed to side-step the barnstorming clich├ęs of space opera, it’s remarkable how many images there are on the page that still catch the eye and burn their way into the memory. The world of Overlord is quite clearly that of 1960 in most of its broad strokes and its fine detail too. Yet it’s also a time of the most incredible and yet apparently taken-for-granted super-science. Sydney Jordan had the remarkable ability to present the most futuristic of technology as an everyday fact of life while also accentuating its strange beauty in contrast to the everyday. A jet decades ahead of its time is shown being raised to the deck of HMS Centaur using technology that would’ve been in operation in World War Two, while soldiers looking little different to those who might have been serving in Britain’s turn-of-the-decade conscript army engage startlingly alien intruders. It’s hard not to believe that Jordan was somehow capturing the reality of 1960 as it might have been seen if only the reader could have just glimpsed things from the right angle.

As such, there’s a dozen and more such eye-catching panels in the sixteen daily chapters that mark just the opening act of Overlord alone. The tiny spacemen walking on a huge satellite in Earth orbit, Hawke’s ramjet landing on an aircraft carrier while dawn rises in the background, the interruption of the stand-off between alien and otherworldly technology caused by Hawke’s colleague Laura receiving a telepathic message; Jordan consistently placed his characters into situations that were simultaneously outlandish and yet also entirely believable. To have had Hawke behaving as anything other than his thoughtful and somewhat buttoned-up self in such a world would’ve reduced the strip to parody. For Jordan’s art, as with Patterson’s scripts, works against the very idea of the indomitable hero. Theirs is a version of reality which carries such a sense of verisimilitude that a suggestion that conflict can be defeated with a single, desperate act of brute blokeishness would inevitably appear out of place. It’s not that Hawke and his colleagues of the strip’s golden age weren’t often shown being brave and ingenious, but it is that their world, like ours, is anything other than a Saturday-morning picture show romp.

In the eighteenth episode of Overlord, Hawke, his team, and the Marine task-force abandon the beetle-alien to its lamentable fate and head northwards. It wants to die, its would-be killer is too powerful to stop, and there simply is no option but to retreat. Hawke himself is appalled at what’s going to occur, but the narrative doesn’t focus in an obvious manner on either his frustration or the killing itself. In what might initially seem a counter-intuitive choice on the part of Patterson and Jordan, the small fleet of hovercraft travel fifty miles northwards before a colossal explosion reminiscent of an atomic bomb is shown in the far distance. Today’s storytelling orthodoxy would insist that the reader be shown the execution or at least Hawke’s response to seeing it. In 2012, the sentimentality and the spectacle of the moment would most probably be what such a scene would be milked for. At the very least, we might be given a scene that focuses upon nothing but the excesses of Hawke’s angsty despair or be shown the hovercraft racing desperately to escape from the blast radius.

But Patterson and Jordan were writing for an audience of adults, and their focus wasn’t upon spectacle but story. In showing the human cast’s safe journey away from the killing field, they create a sense of numbed anticipation and allow the audience to feel what a terrible thing it is that’s going to happen. Each mile that the hovercraft cover is a mile further away from an abandoned, hopeless sentient being that is about to be slaughtered. The point here isn’t the blood and terror of the moment but the fundamental horror of an unavoidable loss of life. And when the sky’s shown blackening in response to the terrible white light of the slaughter, the security that Hawke and his fellows inhabit only emphasises the terrible fate of the creature they were compelled to leave behind. This, Patterson and Jordan appear to be stating, is how important and how catastrophic every single unnecessary loss of life is.

“We should have prevented that… the insect creature should have lived...” says Hawke as the flash of the explosion fades, and it suddenly becomes obvious. For it’s impossible to name more than just a few mass-market comics or strips today that are as passionately humane, as fundamentally concerned with common decency, as Jeff Hawke was some half-a-century and more ago.

We might have expected better of the future."


1 May 2015: remembering my father Willie Patterson: author of sci-fi strip Jeff Hawke; one in a million; 1986 dedication Titan Books