This week on Creannotators, I talk Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts with writer and historian Dr. Rebecca Hall. We talk about what it means to live in the wake of slavery, the process of converting historical research to a graphic novel, and much more.
On Comic Book Herald’s ‘Creannotators’ I’ll be interviewing some of my favorite creators in comics about specific runs, graphic novels or series, looking for their insights on the inspirations behind the work and ideas or hidden material readers may have missed. Creannotators is an audio annotative guide to enjoying the intricacies and thinking in the art. Thanks for listening, and enjoy the comics!
Learn more at: https://rebhallphd.org/
Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts Is:
Writer: Dr. Rebecca Hall
Artist: Hugo Martinez
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Selected portions of our conversation follow, and have been edited for clarity.
CBH: Early in Wake, there’s a visual of you in in present day New York mirrored against the colonial years essentially, in the puddles in the streets. As your first time scripting a comic, or graphic novel of this length, you know, can you talk about how you collaborated on visuals and depicting these scenes with illustrator Hugo Martinez, what was that process?
Dr. Rebecca Hall: You know, I had only ever written and published in academia before. So I’m, even though I read graphic novels and love the medium, writing for a visual medium was not something I’ve ever done before. And when I tried to find resources that could teach me how to do it, you know, like, that’s kind of my approach, like find 20 books and read them. There really is very little out there on writing for this medium if you’re not the artist as well, so the process of collaborating with an artist, we ended up having to wing it really. And it was also, you know, Hugo’s first big project. I mean, I think he had done some web comics before. So it was really kind of a learning curve for all of us.
I got an appreciation for how much work each page was, you know, each page had multiple storyboards, multiple pencils. You know, some are harder than others. It’s not like a normal thing to turn your dissertation into a graphic novel. And so some of these concepts were pretty hard to figure out how to convey visually. So some were harder than others, but all of it was a lot of work.
CBH: How did you know then that comics were the right medium for this story?
Dr. Rebecca Hall: I’ve always been a fan of the genre and how powerful it can be. You know, particularly for me, two books that really resonate with me art is Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and then the graphic novel Persepolis as well. Because the documents, the primary sources on this topic were so fragmentary, it’s a little hard to just sort of, you know, kind of write it as a book. There needed to be a way to juxtapose the past and the present in order to tell the story.
CBH: That makes a lot of sense. No, it definitely works as a graphic novel. I was curious, because I think we don’t often see historical excavation, I think in comics, and this is a very personal story in many ways. When did you know, you wanted to incorporate as much of yourself in the work sort of illustrating the historical process?
Dr. Rebecca Hall: So the research that I’m describing, that research process that’s described in Wake, occurred almost 18 years ago, when I was doing my dissertation, and then I published a couple, like, scholarly articles on the topic. So the historical research had been complete, long before I thought to create a graphic novel. I had no idea that my story was going to be, but when I sat down to create the graphic novel, I didn’t realize that my story was going to be as prominent as it was. It became clear right away that I needed myself as a narrator in order to deal with sort of the fragmentary nature of the primary sources. And as I was writing that, I realized the people needed to understand what my investment in this was. What’s the heart of the story? What like, drew me to this work? And also, I wanted people to understand what the historical research process was like, and the obstacles that I faced. But you know, it’s kind of one of those things where you plan to write run one thing, and then you end up writing something, maybe completely, not what you were expecting, right?
Check out the audio podcast for the full interview!
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