Back in the spring of 2018, I was contacted by the Art Director of First Second Books (a division of MacMillan), about the possibility of my illustrating a graphic novel adaptation of a book by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner called ‘What Unites Us’. I hadn’t worked for this publisher before, but apparently they had seen some of my previous work and thought I’d be a good fit for this project. I had very little experience with graphic novels or comics, but I had worked on a short Babe Ruth non-fiction comic (‘The Bambino’) for Capstone, and I’d done a few comics adaptations of memoirs for a friend’s website (‘Freaks of Nurture’), and samples from both are attached below.
I drew a few sample pages that summer in a style I thought might work. Early on, I had the idea of doing the entire book in red, white and blue (commenting on the current climate of divisiveness, with ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’, and the way the colors combine to form our flag), and the original sample pages reflected that concept. The sample pages went through an editing phase and were revised, and by the end of the year, I was offered a contract and advance to complete the project.
It was a daunting task. The original book that I was adapting was over 300 pages, and I’d never done anything of this scope before in my career. I was given a copy of the book, and then a highlighted pdf with vague suggestions of where the editors thought I might make cuts and simplify, but other than that, I dove into the pagination and thumbnail sketches the spring and summer of 2019 with a feeling not unlike terror. A few months after the editors received a copy of the layout I had created, I was given the go-ahead to start work on the finished product. I started work on the finished pages in June of 2019, and was done by November (with a month long break to hike the John Muir Trail in August).
The edits and revisions took place mostly in the early months of 2020, but then the pandemic hit, and the publication date was pushed back. I’m happy to announce that the book will finally be hitting the shelves and available for purchase on March 9 of this year, in only a few weeks’ time. Here’s a link to a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and also a preview link at the ComicsBeat website. Also, here’s a link to where you can purchase it on Amazon.