(L'Ascension du haut mal)
Number of issues
Date(s) of publication
It was originally published in French by L'Association in six volumes from 1996 to 2003:
- 1996 (ISBN 2-909020-73-8)
- 1997 (ISBN 2-909020-84-3)
- 1998 (ISBN 2-84414-004-1)
- 1999 (ISBN 2-84414-020-3)
- 2000 (ISBN 2-84414-047-5)
- 2003 (ISBN 2-909020-07-X)
The book tells the story of the artist's early childhood and adolescence, focusing on his relationship with his brother and sister. His brother develops severe and intractable epilepsy, causing the family to seek a variety of solutions from alternative medicine, most dramatically by moving to a commune based on macrobiotic principles. As the epileptic brother loses control of his own life, the artist develops solitary obsessions with cartoons, mythology and war. The book's graphic style becomes increasingly elaborate as the children's fantasy life takes over, with their dreams and fears (including epilepsy itself) appearing as living creatures. In brief interludes, the children appear as adults when the artist begins the process of writing the story.
The French title proved difficult to translate, as it contains several meanings: haut mal is an archaic term for epilepsy meaning literally "high evil" or "great sickness" (formerly used as a medical term in English, now replaced by grand mal), and ascension can mean either rise or climbing, as seen in a recurring image of the family climbing a steep slope into unknown terrain.
The English translation of the book received very good reviews from critics. The review aggregator Metacritic reported the book had an average score of 92 out of 100, based on 15 reviews. Publishers Weekly has called it "one of the greatest graphic novels ever published."
The fourth volume won the 2000 Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Scenario. David B. won the 2005 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist for his work on the series.
- L'Ascension du haut mal at Bedetheque (French)
- Pasquier, Renaud "David B., le sommeil de la raison" in Labyrinthe #25 "La bande dessinée : ce qu'elle dit, ce qu'elle montre", 2006 (French)
- Epileptic Is Schizophrenic -- But Interestingly So