How did you go about illustrating such clearly personal, powerful narratives for Declassified?
Andy Warner just posted a great process walkthrough for one of his pages from Invisible Injury: Beyond PTSD, so I thought I’d do the same to give you a sense of what I went through for each page. Left to right you’ve got rough thumbnails, rough pencils, tight pencils, inks and washes, and, finally, color.
I owe a great deal to Sarah Mirk for distilling her interviews with these two women into coherent narrative chunks. Making comics is such a minimalist affair that I felt like we were leaving so much valuable information out, but ultimately the stories emerged feeling whole and powerful. I attribute that to her keen editorial eye. Creating a visual framework to go around that, I started to think in more suggestive terms. These women are sharing stories that don’t often gain widespread media attention. Leaving room for the reader to process became a really important consideration. I wanted to give the words and pictures space to breathe and settle.
Being non-fiction and first person, creating these comics was far more research-intensive that the stories I usually work on, so it was a challenge to hunt down so many precise references and locations. I ended up forcing myself to draw a lot of things I normally avoid, which made it a great learning experience, but I was also really anxious up until we received our final feedback from the two subjects. I’d been sharing process work with them every step of the way, but to hear that I’d created something that moved them — something that they wanted to share with other veterans to prove that these experiences are shared — was incredibly powerful for me.
What sort of artistic liberties do you take doing comics journalism? The dream sequence in “Melanie’s” story comes to mind. How much of that was your own imagination at work?
This is actually the first comics journalism piece I’ve worked on, so everything was new to me! felt really lucky to be working on first person narrative pieces for this issue. It gave me more room to flex my storytelling skills, but simultaneously it raised the stakes about interpretation. I was concerned about creating a visual experience that resonated with our interviewees. When “Melanie” got back to me and said the dream sequence captured the feeling of her nightmare exactly, that was really meaningful.
As an artist, it’s easy to run off the rails pursuing a narrative feel or technique because it interests you. The worry is that you’ll come back to the reality of the source material and find out that it’s completely out of line. I had to distance myself a lot of the time. I’d have days at the drawing table as “Cartoonist Lucy” trying page layouts and text placement, thinking in terms of design and expression, and then I’d have days as “Reader Lucy” where I’d just sit with the truth of these stories. It’s a kind of pain that you have to set aside to get the work done.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Drawing cars. Seriously
Pick up the latest issue of Symbolia, Heroines, to see more of Lucy’s gorgeous artwork Subscribe to Symbolia:on iPad // via PDF // Kindle Editions.