Leo on Surviving “A.D.”—and Gustav

September 9th, 2008 by Josh Neufeld  

Editor’s note: With Leo returning home after evacuating for Gustav–and the comic wrapping up online—he offers his thoughts on being a character in “A.D.”:

As I write this Michelle and I sit in an Uptown coffee shop, watching rain sprinkle over the area. Last Wednesday we returned from our Hurricane Gustav evacuation to find our Mid-City apartment okay but with no electricity due to a power line knocked down around the corner from us. Michelle’s dad lives a couple minutes from us and had power, so we spent two nights there and our power returned on Friday. It wasn’t the most comfortable of times, but gearing up for a trip to the Superdome made it easier, and the Saints beating the Buccaneers let us forget about the previous week and the work ahead, if just for a few hours.

Considering the recent anniversary of Katrina and the release of A.D.’s last chapter, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the comic. (Of course, the actual anniversary might’ve been a good time, but it seems even better now that Gustav has done a better job reminding us of what we’ve lost than any date on a calendar could.)

It’s been an honor to be featured in A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. To be depicted by a celebrated cartoonist like Josh Neufeld is something I never dreamed possible and, while I’d instantly trade it all to go back to August 28th, 2005, even for just a second, this experience has at once been flattering and validating.

Since August 29th, 2005, I’ve at times experienced a bit of survivor’s guilt. I felt guilty because even though I’d lost nearly all my possessions and my life was turned upside down, I’d returned to a job, had a place to stay and wasn’t as bad off as some other people were. When ComicGeekSpeak.com offered to send me comics to jumpstart my lost collection, I hesitated at first because I didn’t want to feel I was taking advantage of the situation. In time I realized that if I saw someone in the same situation, I’d give them a comic or two myself. That those guys were as gracious as they were is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and a lot of the comics they gave me were in a box I took with me this time around.

The survivor’s guilt again crept in a bit when Josh came calling about A.D. Here I was, having dreamt of being in a comic but having the opportunity because of a disaster—it felt weird, to say the least. But just as I realized the CGS guys were acting out of the goodness of their hearts, I realized that Josh wasn’t saying, “Hey, come be in a comic, and when it’s done we’ll roll around in all the accolades and development deals.” Josh was doing this for the right reasons—he had the notion that A.D. could touch people emotionally and even educate those that don’t realize there are thousands of stories behind the disasters we see on TV. I’m proud to be able to call Josh a friend, and the opportunity he provided has shown me that, as cliché as it may sound, just because the garden flooded doesn’t mean you can’t eat the fruit it produces later on.

After Gustav, I have a hunch that the guilt may be gone for good. Fittingly, a comic is at least partially to thank. While evacuated I read Seth’s It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. At the end of the book, Seth realizes that all the work, worry and self-loathing he went through in tracing the work of a forgotten cartoonist boils down to a few simple moments where he gives joy to the cartoonist’s daughter and mother, a pleasure in getting one more chance to remember their loved one and knowing his work was not forgotten. I know that A.D. has touched many people with many more to come, and with that knowledge I can rest assured that the pain, worry and guilt from the past three years have simply led me to this point and to the chance to reach you, the reader. I’m humbled to be involved with giving New Orleans’ and our stories to the world—and even if it’s for just one more click or future flip of the page, it’s been worth it.

Thanks for reading,

—Leo McGovern

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