Comics/Graphic Novels

Sticking It to Shakespeare

Keri Crist-Wagner

Staff Writer

Keri Crist-Wagner spends most of her time thinking about Harry Potter, comic books, and writing. She has a Master’s degree in English, specializing in viewing literature and pop culture through feminist, postmodern, and queer theory lenses, and her graduate thesis was a YA fantasy novella. Originally from Ohio, Keri has lived in Massachusetts, Iowa, and South Carolina, plying her trade at various institutions of higher education. When not contemplating the vast array of available reading options, she enjoys playing roller derby, cycling, and taking her dog Albus for walks. Twitter: @devil_longbtm

I love Shakespeare. The plays, the sonnets, the speculation on whether he actually wrote what he’s credited for writing – all of it. William and I have always shared a bond, a birthday, and an ability to woo women. My wife and I both used Shakespeare quotes to romance each other when we were dating. (Yes, we’re those kind of geeks.) I also just started a new job as an academic advisor in the Department of English at major university. My office has a giant bulletin board, and among the Harry Potter, Black Canary, and Wonder Woman representation I wanted a bit of “English” flare. A quick google search of “Shakespeare comics” led me to the treasure that is Good Tickle Brain: A Mostly Shakespeare Webcomic.


Mya Gosling, the writer/artist behind Good Tickle Brain, offers up comics of full plays like King Lear, Henry V, and Richard II. It’s easy and pleasurable way to lose an afternoon. Outside of the full length plays are several other alternate storytelling genres.

Three Panel Plays

The “Three Panel Plays” are awesome, breaking down the crux of the plot, usually in ridiculously funny ways, in yes, three panels. I mean, who doesn’t think that Much Ado About Nothing is completely about Beatrice and Benedick? Let’s just cut to the chase already.


Shakespearean What-ifs

These might be my favorite. Each is presented as a mini-comic that you can actually print out and fold into tiny booklets. Selections include: Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. Gosling’s take on Hamlet, What if Hamlet Wasn’t So Darn Wishy-Washy is darkly funny with a happy ending. Well, for everyone except Yorick.

Shakespearean Death Clocks

Death Clocks are “like an infographic, but with more death,” according to Gosling. They display the major deaths in a particular play as if they were minutes on a clock. For example, it’s good to know that Mercucio and Tybalt die roughly half-way through Romeo and Juliet, or at half-past the hour. The largest display is by far Titus Andronicus for both sheer number and equal distribution.Slightly morbid, yes, but this is Shakespeare – death is to be expected.

IliadAdditionally Good Tickle Brain offers several non-Shakespeare mini-comics in the “Very Tiny Classics Presents” series, like The Iliad and Beowulf. You should also check out the illustrated flow chart if you’re trying to decide which Shakespeare play to read or go see.

What I like so much about Good Tickle Brain is that Gosling does a great job making Shakespeare accessible both to nerds like me and to people who’ve never really liked Shakespeare. Gosling’s art is fun. She makes the disclaimer that the art isn’t very good, but I would disagree. Good art tells the story. It makes people engage with the characters. It causes the audience to interact in new ways with stories they already know. Gosling’s art does all of that.

Good Tickle Brain posts new comics twice a week and also has a weekly newsletter for all of you who want to get your Shakespeare comic on. Gosling is also posts on social media through twitter @goodticklebrain and through Facebook and Instagram.