War comics were once a staple of the newsstand, and in recent years their popularity have dwindled. But that does not mean that they do not still have a relevancy. Writer Dan Hill takes a unique look at the horrors of war in the south pacific and the effects on those returning home in his new comic Go Home. We talk to Dan about why he feels war comics still have a place in today’s market.
What made you choose to tell the story of Go Home, is it based on a true story?
DH: I have a penchant for stories exploring war. The subject fascinates and horrifies me in equal measure. There’s a book by Chris Hedges called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’ where he explores that very notion. Reading that book was a partial influence on creating Go Home and certainly influenced the mindset of the main character, Husk.
It isn’t based on a true story, but the opening of the issue, and how Husk’s ship sinks, is partially based on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Also, of course, the notion of race in America during this time period is raised during the issue’s climax. Whilst not based on any specific case that kind of thinking was rampant up and down the West Coast of America during WW2.
Why choose World War Two rather than a more current conflict? Do you think there is a gap for a revival of WW2 stories or does it depend on the subject?
DH: It’s one I grew up reading and learning about. My Granddad was a great oral storyteller and he’d enthrall me with his explanations of elements of World War 2 history. I think the other reason I chose it is that it’s presented as one of the last ‘just’ conflicts, very much black and white. But, even amongst the Allies, there were shades of gray which perhaps aren’t really talked about, even today.
I think there’s room for more war comics as a whole, not just WW2, especially given the amount of conflict there has been since 2001, and the ever-changing face of war as it dovetails with modern tech. I’m greedy and biased when it comes to this question. There have been lots of *great* war comics the last few years. Anything by Garth Ennis of course, Graveyard of Empires, Nanjing Burning City, and Wolves of Summer.
Kathryn and Stuart Immonen did a really great experimental comic called Snipe, that whilst not strictly a war comic deals with a legendary sniper from WW2. Also, while again not a war comic, I think Ales Kot’s Zero is a fantastic study of what conflict and trauma can do to a person immersed in it over a prolonged period of time.
The short version of that answer is – I think there’s room for lots more war comics as a whole, as long as you come at it from a unique enough angle.
You have a quite unconventional narrative using a letter/diary voice-over rather than dialogue – why did you choose that and how did this help you develop the story?
Originally Go Home was completely silent save one line of dialogue. Another influence on the story was the Coen’s adaptation of James Dickey’s On The White Sea, which follows a WW2 airman stranded in Tokyo. There’s hardly anything in the way of dialogue in it.
However, I got a bunch of feedback that suggested whilst this was an interesting approach it made the comic read *incredibly* quickly. On top of that, I felt there was a bit of a disconnect between the reader and the ability to see some of Husk’s motivations in the story.
The opening scene hints at the conflict between Husk and his father, so I introduced the idea of Husk trying to explain his actions to his father in a letter as he was on the island. Andrew was for this idea and he executed it perfectly I think. As well as contributing tremendous, expressive art, his lettering gives Husk a whole other layer of characterisation.
You aren’t afraid of the horrors of war, and that is a huge part of the story, so how important was it for you to not soften the edges of this story?
DH: I think any story dealing with war that then shies away from the horror of it or glorifies violence in some way is missing the point. Some people find war gives them some kind of rush or purpose, and old men have exploited that notion since time began to send the young to die for a cause. The horrors of war are often hidden behind a lot of mythology and nationalism, so I think it’s important to bring them into the light.
How did you and Andrew come to work on this together? Is it your first collaboration?
DH: It’s our first collaboration. I’d seen Andrew’s work on Wolves of Summer, a great war comic that he’d done with writer Tony Keaton for Alterna. Whilst Wolves was mostly set during WW2 it had a setting and set of characters I hadn’t really seen before. Andrew’s art for it really captured my attention too. He has a great knack for selling a character’s emotion in a scene completely. The fervor, pain, and repulsion the characters go through seep off every page because of Andrew’s art.
Any time there’s a good war comic I usually shout about it online. Whilst yakking about it on Twitter I think Tony and/or Andrew tweeted back and we ended up chatting. When it came time to get an artist for Go Home, Andrew was a clear fit. I asked he accepted, and here we are!
Why choose to make it black and white?
DH: Firstly, I really love the way Andrew’s work looks in black and white. His linework and inks really pop on the page. Secondly, another influence was Askold Akishin’s comic, Snow, which plays with black and white in a really beautiful and effective way that left an impression. I also think that by putting the comic into black and white it gives the story a sense of distance, a kind of historical sheen that subconsciously suggests this is the past we’re seeing.
And finally what other books are you two working on and where else can we see your work?
Andrew is currently working on another book with Tony Keaton. After Wolves of Summer I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. His work can be found [here](http://andrewherbstart.com/) and he’s on Twitter at @and_droid_.
I’m currently getting art on another war book (surprise) called Disconnect with artist Gav Heryng. This focuses on drone warfare, PTSD and Rushkoff’s idea of ‘present shock’. I ended up interviewing and speaking with former drone pilot Brandon Bryant for background and research on that one so it’s something I can’t wait for people to see.
There’s also a good lineup of shorts I want to put out and then collect. Also Curriculum, the teen-focused, sci-fi comic I co-created with Ryan K Lindsay and Sami Kivela that has a whole bunch of other talented people involved should see the light of day sometime soon.
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.