REVIEW: ‘Everything Body’ by Ro Daniels

I was out of the comic book and graphic novel reviewing game, I told myself. It was where I had earned my chops and cut my teeth, but my time was up, I thought. Don’t get me wrong, few things will ever hold a place in my heart quite the way comics do, that hallowed antechamber will be theirs until my heart itself stops beating, sure, of course, but reviewing? Well, I thought I’d hung up my pen for good.

Then though, I read something that made my reviewer’s brain twitch, something I needed to talk and write and shout about so as many people as possible could see it, because it needs to be seen. I found my muse, I unlocked that creaky door to that antechamber and unleashed hell on a Google Doc to talk to you all about Everything Body by Ro Daniels, because it made me want to do this again.

Everything Body is nothing short of a modern masterpiece, but then again that can also be said of its creator, Ro Daniels. Started and completed during a world-altering pandemic (you know the one, right?) and the culmination of a Masters degree in Creative Writing, Everything Body strikes chords that are deeply personal and quietly universal. 

An exploration, examination, and excavation of, quite literally, everything body, this graphic novel plumbs the depths of the messiness of the human experience in a singular way. Part memoir, part graphic novel, part essay, part vignette of the everyday, Everything Body feels like raw catharsis on paper. Daniels navigates the topics of body dysmorphia, nostalgia, self-destructive behaviour, and critical literature with an almost intimidating ease. Above simple illustration you will find analysis of the human psyche, among leaves you find poetry, among pain you find hope. With whispers of Barking by Lucy Sullivan and Disorder by Erika Price (both of which are must-reads if you haven’t checked them out already), Everything Body possesses an openness and honesty that are as refreshing as they are gut-wrenching. 

Despite its origins, Everything Body doesn’t read as an academic submission. Academia often carries the cross on its back of seriousness, coldness, pretension, exclusion…but there is none of that to be found here. Even within the pages on which Daniels reflects upon academia itself, there is no distance created between author and reader – if anything, you’re pulled closer, like when a friend whispers an anecdote in  your ear so you can best enjoy the story they are about to tell. Daniels has a knack for closing that distance, for pulling you in to whisper, for letting you in on the joke, for being that friend that slaps your leg when you are both laughing too hard at something. It might be the easy use of conversational language, it might be the drawings of boobs and periods, it might be the sum of all its parts, but this graphic novel feels like an emblematic piece of creativity from the crucible of the past couple of years. Everything Body feels salient and timeless, it feels intimate and frank – it asks, simply, how to be, knowing full well that this is a question to which there is no universal answer – only those deeply personal ones. Daniels knows this, and shows us that we can learn to know it, too.

Rarely does anything unify us as much as pain or love, and with page upon reflective page, Daniels shows us theirs so that we may be brought together by it, sewn up with the wire they hand-cut with pliers to decorate the pages of Everything Body.  It’s incredibly selfless, really. It’s viscerally and uncomfortably beautiful. It’s like nothing I have read in a long time, and it’s definitely something you should read as soon as possible. You won’t just know Ro Daniels better by the end of it, but you’ll know yourself better, too. 

Everything Body is currently seeking a home in publishing. For any enquiries or for more information on Everything Body, please contact Ro Daniels directly – you can find them on Twitter here.

To find out more about Ro Daniels’ work, visit


The Queens of King

The Queens of King – What Stephen King’s Women Mean To Us

Written for Outsider Zine, Vol. 1 – available now.

Stephen King has created a lot of characters, but it is the women that he writes that garner the most attention. One way or another, the women of Stephen King give us something special. They give us hope, they give us fear, and they give us the belief that we can do better, can survive, and can overcome. To name but a few, I want to take a look at just what Stephen King gave us when he gave us these women, and why they are so persistent in our minds and hearts.

In 1974, Stephen King published his first novel, and what a debut she was. Carrie seamlessly melds the genres of horror and coming-of-age…but then again, aren’t they really the same thing? A victim of her abusive mother and of her cruel classmates, Carrie’s place in her story is one defined by victimhood. Her power, however, is reclaimed in flames. From her persecution and pain comes revenge. The traits that made Carrie represent the world’s fear of women and their sexuality, fear of women and girls realising their power and agency and using it to the maximum. Carrie reminds us that vengeance isn’t always sweet. Her potential, unleashed after years of being denied, suppressed, overlooked, and punished, is so forceful that it bursts through the dams and boundaries and leaves havoc in its wake. Carrie steps into her agency in a fantastically fatal way; she is a warning and a beacon. Maybe we have been there. Maybe we have been tormented in school, or maybe our home life has been difficult. Maybe we just felt like an outsider in our own life. That is what makes Carrie’s revenge and story so tempting to us. Carrie takes back a power she was never given and never told she had, and in doing so, she gives us hope we might be able to do the same.

Misery loves company, and Annie Wilkes is no exception. Misery’s Annie Wilkes is far from the easily understandable victim. Her character, especially the one we see brought to life by Kathy Bates, has come to represent so much for women, cinema, and horror. From the unhinged nurse next to Mildred Ratched, to the female serial killer, Annie Wilkes has been instrumental to the creation of archetypes in the genre of horror. Single minded and unrelenting, you could definitely argue that in the film adaptation Annie was robbed of her book-given ending; hands on chainsaw, ready to take down anything that doesn’t fit her plan. Be that as it may, her macabre resolution persists in popular culture. Annie is a woman who launched a thousand films. She and everything she stood for shifted the narrative and made women just as dangerous as men. Annie also asks us how we view femininity and mental illness. Women aren’t products or objects – there is no mould from which we can spring a Perfect Prototype. Women are nebulous, complex, twisted, flawed, and infinite in definition and identification. Annie reminds us that we best not forget that fact.

Beverly Marsh is the only girl in the Losers Club, and in my opinion, the bravest out of all its members. In fact, Beverly Marsh is the bravest person on It and the town of Derry. Beverly is the subject of violence and trauma that no one should have to endure, especially at the hands of people we trust. The consistent abuse to which Beverly is subjected follows her throughout her life – from her father to the Bowers Gang, to Tom Rogan. In Beverly, we are given someone who endures, someone who fights, and someone who is strong beyond the reckoning of all those around her. In

Beverly, we get a survivor. Maturity is a necessity afforded to her from her regrettable and damaging surroundings, and it quickly becomes one of Beverly’s most valuable assets. It is a mammoth undertaking as a read or watch, but even greater to have lived. We feel fear and desperation drip from every page, every mintute. In creating Beverly, Stephen King shows us how women are so often seen as tradable objects, to be owned and protected as a matter of course by men. Beverly needs no protection. Beverly survives, and Beverly creates the life she always wanted for herself. Beverly, then, reminds us that we can overcome our past, and go past surviving to really, truly live.

Donna Trenton is a mother, and Donna Trenton had an affair. Cujo sees Donna trapped in a car, increasingly hotter and hotter, for three days, fighting with all her might to protect herself and her son from a rabid, vicious dog, Cujo. In the book, there are no chapters, only the agonising and seemingly unending turmoil that Donna and her son Tadd must endure. In the book, too, the consequences of Donna’s sacrifices are far different. From the book to the film we have two different versions of Donna Trenton, but both are fearless, determined, and devoted to her son. Donna gives us a woman who has made mistakes, but who is no worse a person for them. The true measure of someone is how they act in moments of crisis, and the ragged and bitten and savaged Donna does nothing but fight for her little boy. The tenacity, the bravery, and the sheer will to live and protect those she loves is palpable and gut wrenching. In Donna, Stephen King gives us someone who refuses to lose. She is hard, she is comforting, she is vicious, and she is vulnerable. Donna Trenton is a much-overlooked Final Girl, and one who even in the (fluffy and rabid) face of terror and fear keep her head. As Cujo bays at the windows, Donna is concerned only with protecting her son, and it’s a mission she will give her life for, no questions asked.

It’s wrong to play favourites, I know, but Trisha McFarland is just too special. Trisha is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, brought to us in 1999 on a hiking trip before she ventures off the path. Trisha, lost in the heart of a forest with only a couple of snacks, some water, and her Gameboy and her Walkman, Trisha is a survivalist who puts all the great names to shame…and she’s 9 years old. Conserving her food and water, following the stream in the hopes of finding civilization, Trisha takes every little piece of information she knows and puts it toward her rational, logical mission to get home. That would be all well and good if she didn’t encounter creatures in that forest that defy all understanding completely. There is no denying that Trisha is a hero. Hallucinations, bears, supernatural phenomena, and divorcing parents – nothing can beat her down or ever, ever make her give up. Just liker her own hero, she knocks it out of the park. Trisha McFarland is testament to the will and perseverance of young girls; they are truly unstoppable. With Trisha we remember that courage, bravery, and determination aren’t just nice qualities to have, but they can save lives – even and especially our own. You don’t mind that a nine year old is teaching you about life and guts and guile because it’s clear that she knows best. Trisha reminds us that too often young girls are underestimated, and she will not stand for it.

There are so many more – Rose Daniels, Wendy Torrance, Susan Norton. To cover them all would be to tread ground that I encourage you to traverse yourself. Each character will have a different place in different hearts, and that’s the great thing about them. You get to decide what they mean to you, and for that, I think, we owe Stephen King a debt of gratitude.

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How Original

You’ve heard of the sword of Damocles, right? Damocles, an irrepressible court flatterer picked a particularly bad day to tell the canonically tyrannical King Dionysus II just how wonderful and gilded with joy and wealth his life must be. Utterly blissful. Truly perfect. Not a worry to be had. King Dionysus did not take this well. The King asked if Damocles should care to swap lives with him, seeing as his is just so perfect, to see how the flatterer liked it. Damocles agreed, obviously. Upon a lavish couch, servants brought Damocles a wealth of trinkets, delicious food, beautiful wine. It seemed a sweet deal. That was until Damocles looked up. Above his head hung a sword, suspended by a single horse hair, softly swaying, heavy with promise. The sword waited, hovering over Damocles as he did what he could to continue enjoying his feast, his ephemeral and doomed grandeur. It was a reminder, said the King, that at any moment disaster could strike, that something could go wrong, that this fortune and power did not come without its caveats. After a while, Damocles asked to be excused, uncomfortable and acutely aware of the potential of looming disaster. That’s kind of how it feels to keep trying to create with originality – a doomed power and an inevitable fate. I didn’t even use an original analogy to explain it. I fell at the first hurdle, down comes the sword.

I have so many ideas that it feels hard to tell which are good, which are new, and which are riffs of something I saw in passing already. It’s even harder to tell which ideas have already been done, but better. Most of my ideas have already been done, but better. Don’t we all want to create something new and necessary? Don’t we all want to make something important and grand, something that leaves the world better and helps at least one person? Don’t we all want to attach our name to something, well, original?

That’s the problem, though. Before you can execute your world-mending original idea and unleash it, you need to actually come up with an original idea. Or at least a riff on one that is good enough not to draw damning parallels. Love stories are as old as water. Heroes and villains have been battling it out (depending whose side you’re on) since time immemorial. All the colours have been discovered, and music is all echoes.

Madeline Miller’s “Circe” has swiftly become the favourite book of a great many of my friends whose opinions on such matters I respect. Circe and her story are literally ancient. So are Achilles and Patroclus, Miller’s protagonists from “The Song of Achilles”. Miller, though, took the ancients, blew away the dust of thousands of years of familiarity and pre-determined expectations, and made them new again. She made them, dare I say, better. Sorry, Homer.

Famously, according to Christopher Booker, there are only seven stories in the world. Only seven plots. Originality seems pretty doomed from the start, mathematically speaking. In order to create the Next Great Novel, the Next Oscar Winning Film, please select from the below options:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Rebirth
  6. Comedy
  7. Tragedy

How original. How inherently, transparently human each of those plots are. Aren’t we predictable?

So really, maybe originality is overhyped at best and a fallacy at worst. Maybe it has never been about who did it first, it’s just about who did it best. Technically, the Wright Brothers made the worst plane in history. Imagine if people stopped talking about vampires after Nosferatu came out in 1922. We would never have had Bram Stoker’s Dracula, no Anne Rice, and no cinematic classic, the 2004 Van Helsing, and no Twilight (I stand by it). What a miserable world that would be.

We still write about monsters and we still write about love. We write reflections on our histories and ruminations on our futures. We play guitars and use paint and pencils, and not one speck of it is original. I can’t tell if I love it or I hate it or it comforts me massively. Even the most perfect work of literature will boil down to one of those seven bones. Even better? That perfect literature will be something different to every person who reads this, all three of you (hi, mom).

So keep the number seven in your mind when you’re working. You might want your ground-breaking magnum opus to be brand new, and to some people it absolutely will be. Some people though, might have heard about that before from somewhere. The sword of Damocles may be wavering over your head, the threat of a lack of originality or “new-ness” fraying the horse hair with every second, But do you remember what Damocles did, though?

He said fuck the sword, and bailed.

There are pressures that are motivational and there are ones that just put you off your figs and honey. Your book is great, because your distinct voice viewpoint makes the story sing. Your film is awesome because you care about the same things differently. Stephen King writes horror, but so do I. Carmen Maria Machado write short stories, but so do I. Dana Schwartz makes podcasts, but so do I. All of my heroes do things, and I do them, too. That’s why they are my heroes. Shakespeare probably just threw a dart at a board or spun a wheel when he was planning a play. Let’s face it, he only had seven things to pick from.

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Bells, Butter, and Belonging (or the Colloquium Reject)

Calls came out recently for pieces for a post-graduate colloquium at my University. The theme was “belonging” and what it means pre, post, and during a pandemic. Naturally, as one might reasonably expect, I had a lot to say. So, there I sat and typed up an abstract. I sat on it for a while. Ruminated. Pondered. Tweaked and teased. Forgot about it for a week. Then, as one might reasonably expect, I decided not to send it in. The artistic excuse is that it had too much of myself in it. The truth is that I have a debilitating fear of rejection. Safer to avoid it. Also, should the Gods smile upon me and I were to actually be successful, it would save me having to make a 20 minute recording as I try not to cry when I have to listen to my voice and look at my face in HD for that long. Definitely safer to avoid it.

For those who might need a moment on belonging (who doesn’t?) and how we must relearn it all post-pandemic, though, here it is.


Learning how to belong: Chapter 2

Belonging is elusive at the best of times, and this is most certainly not the best of times. The laughs of your friends, warm and bright like silver bells, echoing off the half-full wine glasses, or the feel of the warmth spread from your heart like melting butter when your parents hug you might be belonging. They also might not be. Belonging might be within reach, but your fingertips can slip and miss and drop. Purchase isn’t as easy as the ads would have you believe. Those were the best of times, though. Now the bells are quiet and we are all out of butter. Belonging is more necessary, and so, of course, more difficult to come by than ever.

This is a piece for all of those who unmoored their boats from the bells and butter and set out to find a new sense of belonging here, before they knew what the shipping forecast would bring. Maybe they left old shores to find that belonging and have instead been met with a quiet and empty land – no bells or butter in sight. Now, over a year down the line, it is becoming ever clearer that we may need to relearn how to belong. To relearn the art of the welcome, to remember how to open our arms. I can sense the desperation in each and everyone one of us to get the chance to fumble with this memory and fall back into belonging in a way that we never imagined we would have to do. Belonging then and belonging now are two different beasts, and belonging after will be another altogether. This essay, then, is for those wanting to tame that beast, and those who have been consumed by its forefathers. To relearn to belong together will be a beautiful thing. It will, I imagine, taste like butter and sound like bells. 

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Your New Life (+4 Days)

New Years are graceless times. The days leading up to the countdowns feel like the nagging, scratchy label in the back of a jumper that insists on sitting in the most frustrating way possible. Even when you cut the label out with nail scissors, the remnants won’t let you forget their forefather. They’ll continue his uncomfortable, irritating legacy. Ever present, ever awkward.

The feeling of that label, as with the feeling of an approaching New Year, is unavoidable on your neck. Every late December as we are recovering from the year before (and what a year this one was), we feel the dread seep in. If it isn’t the whelming wave of media chastising you for your winter over-indulgence and demanding your immediate aesthetic reform, then it’s the mental recollection and beatdown of the year itself.

What did you achieve, and why not more? What did you miss, and why did you miss it? Look at everyone else! Look at that person you follow on Twitter, you know the one, look how well they did! Why couldn’t you have done that? Look at those successful people your age and ignore all their very helpful backgrounds – look just at their achievements, context be damned. Aren’t you embarrassed? What do you have to show for your 26-and-a-bit years? These are the questions a looming New Year insidiously whispers in our ear as we scratch our necks red-raw, nodding and blaming ourselves instead of the badly made jumper.

It is these uncomfortably probing questions with which New Years confront us, that try as we might, we can’t always ignore. Oh, and how we try, don’t we? Even when you’re wrapped in blankets, immersed in something else, the itch demands to be scratched. It’s the ritual of a New Year that carries the gravitas of change and upheaval and transformation and how to scratch itches. The counting, the promises, the parties, the fresh planners. We are expected to itch at the New Year.

My most recent itch was the question of what I would sacrifice to actually be successful like all those glittering, glimmering avatars online. I was not comfortable with the answer, so I turned the TV up. The next day, I made this website, and sat at my desk to write this. I’m warm, and I have had a coffee. For this, I know, I am lucky. Nothing is perfect because perfection doesn’t exist. Becoming whole, however, does.

For those comparisons to be the thieves of joy, then we must have joy to begin with. Buried under all the ice and snow, there is joy. It’s going to be cold and rusted and it inevitably won’t work until you get it warm again, but it’ll be there. The best part is that it doesn’t have an expiration date, either. When I am lulled back into the dark, which I will be, joy will still be there, if hidden. When the upright world is more than I can bear and I need nothing but silence and to not shower for days on end and to barely eat, then joy will be waiting for me. Sitting in the same clothes for a week and being too empty to cry, joy won’t care. Lying in the daylight listing ways to make it quiet and avoid next week, next month, next year, joy will still be patient. Even in the darkest and most stubborn of your denial, joy won’t shift.

Joy, though, can’t stop an itch. It will be there, constantly, asking things of you that you are not content to give. It’s your itch, though. It’s up to you how you scratch it, if you even do. There are plenty of salves and balms and creams and lotions. Joy and the promise thereof is not enough, sometimes you need a potion

Let this be that potion – let this be the thing that reminds you that New Years mean nothing, really, unless you want them to. If you want them to hold a symbolic value in the rebirth into a fresh, clean chapter of your life then please take them as such. If you want them to be another day ticking into another day, then please let them be so. Fireworks are just there to remind you to turn the kitchen light off before bed. The countdowns are just there because people didn’t wear their watches and need the time. It’s midnight, by the way.

After the pyrotechnics and treats, joy will still be waiting – covered up and hidden away from comparison, waiting for you to come collect it; New Year or not. Nothing means anything unless you make it mean something, which when you think about it, is a lot less miserable than it sounds.