As the year winds down, it seems appropriate to reflect back on a full 12 months of A.D. I’ve immersed myself in this project in a way I never have before, and it’s been incredibly exciting and fulfilling to see that effort bearing fruit.
From January, when editor Larry Smith and I traveled down to New Orleans to interview our subjects, through the rest of year writing and drawing the actual story, it’s been a long journey to where we are now, the cusp of 2008. At times it can seem as if the story of six people who survived and escaped Katrina will go one forever (and, of course, in a sense it truly does). So if you think that the often slow pace can be agonizing on your end, believe me, I get just as frustrated crafting the story in my painstaking fashion!
But one thing keeps me constantly revitalized and determined to move forward: the response from the A.D. community. I’m not just talking about the story’s subjects themselves—Leo & Michelle, Denise, Hamid, the Doctor, and Kevin—nor even the amazing reaction we’ve gotten from the press and blogosphere. No, what means more to me than all that is the wonderful reader feedback we’ve received on the A.D. message boards.
I’ve been publishing comics for a long time, but I’ve never felt this connected to my audience. For one thing, there’s the immediacy of the experience. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see that initial reader comment, usually within the first few hours of a new chapter being posted. I’ve said this many times: it’s not praise I’m looking for, but rather just the simple knowledge that my story is being heard (or in this case, read). In fact, comments like “Cade Roux”’s response to Chapter 1, which pointed out a timeline issue with the story—
I hate to be a nitpicker, but NO ONE was thinking about this storm coming to New Orleans until Friday. All the projections were Tampa and then Florida panhandle and then Alabama. It wasn’t until Friday evening that the projections changed to New Orleans.
—are incredibly helpful. A story like A.D., which takes a cataclysmic event and tries to present it from a human vantage point, relies on the details being correct. So thanks, Cade!
In the same vein was a fascinating exchange from Chapter 3, when “Amy”, a nurse from the same hospital portrayed in the story, took issue with some elements of Denise’s story. Denise herself responded to Amy on the message boards, and their conversation about the events of that fateful day before the hurricane struck added valuable and unexpected dimensions to my portrayal.
Highlighting these “conflicts” in no way implies that reader response hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive. Modesty prevents me from citing the praise, but suffice it to say that my heart is continually warmed by the typical message board post. I love the way the community pick up on the details I put into most panels, and it’s especially gratifying to hear from actual Gulf Coast residents and those who survived the storm.
A.D. is truly a labor of love. I believe that comics (or graphic stories, if you prefer) have vast potential to inform as well as entertain. What we’re attempting to do with A.D. is to forge a document, a companion piece to all the other records of Hurricane Katrina. Knowing that the community of readers around A.D. believe in that goal too, and are always there—whether to set me straight, cheer me on, or a little bit of both—is all I need to keep plugging away.
Now, enough with the past: on to Chapter 9!