Below are a couple of the pages I recently finished for BELLY GUNNER - finally completed - a story that will be in the next issue of MOME, as well as in my next book of graphic short stories, FOLKTALES. This is my first attempt at writing and illustrating a war story - a genre I've wanted to tackle for a long time, but couldn't quite figure out the best way to handle it. Because I'm deeply interested in the contrasts and similarities of generations of Americans, and because war has played such an intensive role in American culture - particularly in 20th/21st century American culture - I've wanted to capture some of that as an overarching theme throughout the collections of graphic short stories. Because of the glut of war stories out there, I felt hesitant to approach a war story until I watched Ken Burns's "The War", in which the story of Earl Burke, belly gunner on a B-17 during WW II captured my attention. I was so moved by his experience, I decided to recreate it as a graphic short story as exactly as I could. This also ties into my growing interest in the reinterpretation of stories - through folk and blues songs originating from newspaper articles, magazines, books, etc - that happened in "real-life"; how the topical or biographical fits into the greater American Mythological Drama. The trouble with war stories is that I think we've become desensitized to their impact as a result of their proliferation and the sensationalizing of them. What I'm specifically interested in is the human side of these stories: In the case of BELLY GUNNER, how it must have felt to be stuffed into the claustrophobically cramped quarters of a ball-turret at the age of nineteen with all hell breaking loose around you. At nineteen, I was in college. Death wasn't real. I try to imagine how I would've handled the rigors of Earl Burke's experience, and it leaves me awestruck and fascinated. Beyond that, and perhaps very much apart of it, is the generational differences - the general attitude of the WW II generation about "their" war, as opposed to the Vietnam generation's attitude toward theirs. And in more practical terms, even the fact that Boeing designed and constructed a bomber that could withstand the abuses that the B-17 could: When you see the condition some of those planes were in when the returned to England, it's amazing they stayed in the air.
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