The first of each month is when we usually release a new chapter of A.D., but as you can see, Chapter 12 has not appeared yet. The fact is I’m still deep in the process of drawing it. Chapters 12 & 13 deal with Denise’s experiences at the Convention Center, where she was trapped for two days with her family and thousands of other New Orleanians who took shelter from the storm.
In many people’s minds, the New Orleans Convention Center evokes stories of gang violence, rape, looting, and general chaos. But what happened at the Convention Center was the result of nearly total abdication of responsibility by the supposed authorities—and most of the stories of violence and death were later found to be false. Denise and the other evacuees trapped at this “place of refuge” were left without food, drink, running water, medical supplies, or any means to escape. Ever since I first heard Denise describe what really happened there, I knew what she went through and witnessed would form the heart of the A.D. project.
But now that it’s actually time to depict that episode, I have found it difficult to write and draw.
It may be a surprise to learn that I haven’t written out A.D.’s entire script; as a matter of fact, I basically do each chapter on the fly. Of course I have a general outline of the storyline—A.D. is based on the characters’ real experiences, after all—but the constraints of the schedule, and just how long it takes to draw each chapter, usually leaves me starting each new episode from scratch. And every new chapter requires a new round of phone calls, emails, photo research, fact-checking—and that’s before I actually get to writing the script.
So, getting back to chapters 12 and 13. After interviewing Denise a number of times, compiling copious notes, and listening to her radio interview again, I took on the overwhelming task of forming those horrific experiences into a script. As is always the challenge with A.D., I am obligated to use certain dramatic devices to make the events fit the shape of a story, a narrative with dramatic rhythm and some sort of pay-off. In this case, it’s especially difficult because the story is so wrenching and personal, and also because it involves issues of governmental neglect and abuse. After all, facts are facts.
But after a number of aborted attempts, I did manage to formulate a first draft of both chapters, which I sent to Denise for her vetting and approval. (I don’t show all the characters my scripts beforehand, but I have found that doing so with Denise has really paid off.) To my pleased surprise, she was generally happy with my construction of events, and only had a problem with some of the script’s dialogue. I was thrilled she was willing to work with me on that, and we went through the script, panel by panel. In the end, Denise was instrumental in helping me fine-tune the language, suggesting all sorts of regional idioms and other elements which greatly improved the script’s verisimilitude.
So now I’m working on the art for Chapter 12, which I will try to finish and upload as fast as I can. While you wait, why don’t you check out the A.D. site’s many other features: our list of Hurricane Katrina resources, the archived audio & video, or the very cool “making of A.D.” video created by the fine folks at PulpSecret.
And in the meantime, here’s a little teaser of what’s in store…