Cartoonist: Ross Murray
Publisher: Earth's End Publishing
WHAT IS IT?
A webcomic-turned-coming-of-age graphic novel where a chimpanzee navigates work, relationships, and career goals while suffering from social anxiety.
Rufus Marigold addresses mental health with the sincerity and dark humor of Bojack Horseman and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Rufus Marigold lives life beleaguered by acute social anxiety. Constantly on the precipice of a nervous breakdown, the anthropomorphic chimpanzee marvels at the social adroitness his co-workers possess. Rufus may work as a logistical data analyst, but he can't stop overanalyzing and replaying every interaction he has with anyone.
Surviving each day plagued by his own interior criticisms becomes increasingly difficult for the primate. Rufus's harrowing social anxiety causes him to retreat further into himself, avoiding unwanted socializations and self-medicating through alcoholism. However, his talent for sequential comic art brings him unexpected attention. Will Rufus's skills land him a dream job as a graphic artist? Can he even complete an interview?
Ross Murray tethered his original webcomics about Rufus together with social anxiety as the connecting thread. Rufus Marigold is the brilliant product of combining these 4-5 page vignettes, shaping Rufus into more than the sum of his parts.
Murray expands upon the webcomic's original content, beautifully weaving an interrelated story together. Rufus's spirals and triumphs in his social anxiety journey make logical sense within an episodic narrative format.
A Silver Age comic book aura fused with a vintage advertising look renders Rufus Marigold's art as light and nostalgic.
Washed with saturated colors and etched with simple lines, the comic evokes a melancholy tone. Fading greens and blues present a contrast to the narrative's subject matter, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere concordant with Rufus's mercurial emotional existence.
Murray's facial imagery is compelling, manifesting the range of Rufus's emotions through furrowed eyebrows or a thin-lined smile spread across his chimp face. Repeating panels show the wheels turning inside Rufus's head, the art alone telling a story devoid of words sometimes.
Readers feel close to Rufus, gaining access to his pervasive and constantly running interior dialogue. Murray broaches the sensitive subject matter inside through classic cloud-style speech bubbles hosting letters that look handwritten, wobbling unsteadily.
The 4-panel page layout is never broken. Although Rufus gets a happy ending, maintaining the identical panel structure is vital to telling Rufus's story.
Through the comics' consistent appearance, Murray acknowledges that breaking social anxiety's unrelenting chains hitched to Rufus is not an immediately conquerable feat. Living with or maybe eventually overcoming paralyzing anxiety is a learning process that takes more time (than merely one graphic novel!) to overcome.
Grim humor expressed through anthropomorphic animals is a comedic endeavor Murray nails. Akin to Bojack Horseman, Murray administers dark comedy in palatable doses without sacrificing his validating representation of social anxiety.
I made a random observation, yet a crucial one: Rufus's phone is colored yellow, and I can't help thinking of the color of a banana...often a food associated with primates! It's clever details like these that add to Rufus Marigold's endearing qualities.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This is not a book for kids. Although sweet and full of heart, Rufus Marigold depicts cursing, adult situations, throwing up, depictions of suicide, alcohol consumption, prostitution, and a joke about necrophilia.
Speaking of which, I know Rufus struggles with social situations, but the brief quip about necrophilia didn't sit well with me personally. It's a one-liner, and it may be due to my own personal tastes, but the joke could have been substituted by another uncomfortable subject that didn't have to do with that specific topic.
While Rufus Marigold is not suitable for children, older teenagers, especially those suffering from anxiety, may enjoy the comic. Still, parents should exercise caution based on their own discretion.
The office workplace setting and Rufus hiring a prostitute could also fail to resonate with a younger audience.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Rufus Marigold showcases social anxiety in its most ruthless, yet honest form. It's easy to read Ross Murray's comic like a graphic memoir, Rufus's story sculpted from Murray's real afflictions with social anxiety. Thus, Rufus Marigold works because Murray presents the subject matter both candidly and authentically.
Comic book portrayals of the truthful realities encapsulated in living with social anxiety are few. Often, characters with anxiety or mental illness are mistreated by authors without firsthand experience or shoved into a comic performatively (see: many mishandled storylines of Polaris from X-Men). This is not to say writers who don't suffer from illness or social anxiety cannot write about the topic. More so, it is obvious when a writer enduring the affliction reflects their own experiences. Such is the case with Ross Murray's personal portrait of social anxiety in Rufus Marigold.
Rufus Marigold is a funny, yet almost gut-churning read. As someone who deals with social anxiety on a daily basis, I chuckled in awkward catharsis reading about Rufus. I know I am less alone in my own mental warfare, gasping at exact depictions of my own struggles laid out on a comic page. Rufus Marigold will move all readers as they sympathize with Murray's nervous protagonist primate.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Shy Ninja by Ricardo Sanchez, Adara Sanchez, & Adrianna Florean
Bird Brain: Comics About Mental Health, Starring Pigeons by Chuck Mullin
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story by Debbie Tung
If you like the art:
Strange Tales From Summer Bay by Ross Murray
Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton by Kyle Starks & Chris Schweizer
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ross Murray – Writer & Illustrator
Ross is an illustrator by day and a comic creator by night who began publishing short strips online and in limited run zines.
He has worked for Lonely Planet, NASA, Disney, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Washington Post and Garage Project. He creates picture books for kids and adult-targeted comics.
Outlander: Ross is based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand.
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Rufus Marigold characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Ross Murray or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED