I hope everyone has been reading Mockingbird, which recently finished its first storyline. It’s a fun comic featuring an enjoyable character, good writing, and great art. Since much of the first story takes place in a SHIELD medical clinic — and since Bobbi keeps reminding us she has a doctorate in biology — I thought the series was ripe for some elucidating medical annotations. Since I don’t want this post to drag on forever, I’m going to break the storyline down into three separate posts. This first one will just deal with the first issue.
Chelsea Cain, writer
Kate Niemczyk, artist
Number of times we’re reminded
Bobbi has a doctorate: 1
These annotations are presented roughly in the order of appearance. Not all are found in conversation, captions, or text boxes. Many can be found in the art, particularly the background art.
Gonorrhea is an STD1 (i.e. a sexually transmitted disease), and a particularly nasty one at that, as it is becoming resistant to common antibiotics and difficult to treat. No matter what your ex, or the kid at the next table in the cafeteria said, gonorrhea can’t be caught from toilet seats or door knobs.
A little background reading on the topic is probably a good idea, especially for a playboy known for his womanizing ways.
Mass Antelope Die Offs are mentioned a couple more times in the storyline, and are addressed fully in the fourth issue.
Prozac, generic name fluoxetine, is an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety agent of the SSRI class2. It is taken once a day, inexpensive, and generally well tolerated. Its effectiveness, at least in mild to moderate depression, is debated. Anecdotally, I find it beneficial more often than not.
Radiation exposure, sadly, will not give you super-powers. Depending on the type and amount of radiation, it can do anything from instantly frying you to a crisp, to pretty much nothing.
Bone density loss from space travel is a real problem. Gravity is a key player in making our bones strong — basically, our body makes sure our bones are dense enough to resist gravity as we go through our normal daily activities. Remove that gravity, and the body stops making the bones as strong. Thus, astronauts who spend a long time in zero-gravity develop weaker bones.
Nicotine patches are a reasonable method of quitting smoking. Not the most effective method, but the success rates are higher with patches than quitting cold turkey. They are available without a prescription.
Can You Get Cancer From Radioactive Friends? Sure, but it depends on the type of radiation they emit, what clothes they wear, and how much you hang around them. Here’s a hint: if his moniker is Radioactive Man, stay away.
This “Paranoia Scale” is a nice play on the ubiquitous pain scale you encounter during way-to-many medical visits3. I like the expressions on the faces in the paranoia scale.
In real life, this would never work, because paranoid people don’t think that they are paranoid. They believe that people really are out to get them — so they’d always answer a “0″ or a “1″, but then look at you carefully to see what you were up to.
Notice that Bobbi’s urine sample is sealed. Generally, the sample cups arrive sealed and we break the seal when we give them to the patient. Now, it could be the seal was applied afterwards, like in a urine drug test, so the sample can’t be changed.
Look what’s missing though: a date. That will be an issue when you have a whole bunch of samples — like later in the issue — because you won’t know which samples are older or newer.
Parapsychology is not a real science. In our world, that’s true — but in a world with Dr. Strange, Brother Voodoo, and an overabundance of mutant telepaths, you’d think parapsychology would be a key field of study.
Mysterious duck deaths are not mentioned in the storyline again, unless they are one of the reasons for Howard the Duck’s angst in the fifth issue.
Jessica, Luke, and Danielle Cage are all sharing a nice red rash. Chickenpox is a possibility — though Danielle should have been immunized against that, depending on her age (and how old is she now?) Maybe they just encountered Swarm on a family picnic and they’re all covered in bee stings.
Annotations for the Annotations
1. Of course, the proper terminology is now STI, for “sexually transmitted infection.” I’m not sure why the name was changed; it’s not like people didn’t know they were infectious. It seems that every twenty years or so, some academics get together and decide to change the names of things around for no good reason. It never adds any useful clarification, so I suspect it’s just some big shots trying to “mark their own territory,” academically speaking. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago when STDs were known as VD, or by the lovely euphemism “social disease.”
2. SSRI originally stood for Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor, but now in another one of those unnecessary name changes, stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. Basically they work by increasing the amount on serotonin available to neurons in the brain.
3. In the 1990s, the powers-that-be (probably the same ones behind all the name changes) decided that doctors did not pay enough attention to how much Pain their patients were suffering. To fix this, they came up with a program where pain was considered to be the “fifth vital sign” and should be asked about and documented at every visit. If doctors weren’t diligent enough about documenting pain levels, insurances would hold back some of their pay. This led to the 0-10 pain scale and the smiley/frowning face chart you would find yourself confronted with at every visit, even one for something non-pain related like allergies. Now, twenty years later, these same powers-that-be tell us we have too many patients taking pain medication and don’t seem to see any connection.