Scanning Around With Gene: The Story of Joe the Alcoholic

I’ve seen the ravages of alcoholism among family, friends, and business partners, and they are not to be taken lightly. I’ve also seen the incredible results that come from participation in the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, that wonderful non-profit organization started by Bill W oh so many years ago.

Today’s images are from a small booklet issued by AA in 1967 and again throughout the following years. In fact, you can find a modern-day version (complete with graphic-novel style drawings) at the AA website. The booklet traces the life of Joe, an alcoholic, through the phases of the disease and on to recovery. Click on any image for a larger version.

For some, alcohol is a problem from the beginning–I have a nephew who is 18 and already struggling with his addiction. For others, the signs show up later and may take decades before they begin to interfere with normal life. For Joe, life started out good.

But as is the case with most addictions, what starts out as fun and just a normal part of social life turns dark pretty quickly. Before you know it, Joe’s family is afraid of him and the unpredictable behavior that typically accompanies alcoholism.

As they are likely to do, things take a turn for the worse and Joe’s work begins to suffer. Yet Joe is still in denial.

Eventually Joe realizes he may have a problem and tries to straighten up on his own. Yet it’s hard to tackle such a big problem without any help.

Despite the pleas of his wife and friends, Joe remains in denial until he finally reaches rock bottom.

Having been to a number of AA and Alanon meetings, I can attest to the friendly atmosphere and ever-presence of coffee.

It takes a while for things to sink in, but soon Joe realizes he’s an alcoholic and gets comfortable admitting it. He discovers that people from every walk of life struggle with addiction and until you can admit you are one of them, it’s unlikely things will improve.

But improve they do, and soon Joe is back in good graces with his family and his boss.

The comic-book style of Joe’s story may seem a bit campy and out-of-date–like all graphic style, it exists in a certain context. But the story remains relevant, as does the message of recovery.

I’m glad there is an Alcoholics Anonymous, and I think any way they can get their message out is a good way. I suspect this little booklet and the story of Joe may have had a profound impact on a great many people over the years.

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Posted on: April 1, 2011

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. He has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. Gene's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on

7 Comments on Scanning Around With Gene: The Story of Joe the Alcoholic

  1. Cool post, Gene.

    This is a great message and I am increasingly pleased to see all of the great uses that comic book art had and still has in society. I hope to be a part of the legacy some day 🙂


  2. how poor does the current version look compared to this one.


  4. Great stuff. After reading this I realize I have to go to a meeting in 15 minutes — one that I was going to skip. The power of graphic design!

  5. This is a classic, where did you find it?

  6. I like how they kept most of the dialog the same from the old version in the new version, but mostly just added a few more panels.

    Thank you Gene

  7. I always knew they were!

    One of my brothers just passed his 10 Year anniversary of sobriety thanks to AA. Although he is the only one of us four who never liked comic books as a kid, he is in favor of any method that gets the word out to those in need of help.

    Do you have any idea who actually produced the comic and artwork?
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Sanity is a relative concept.
    If you don’t believe me,
    let me introduce my relatives.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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