Derek McCulloch and Colleen Doran are making waves with their new ‘Gone to Amerikay’ graphic novel that spans the Irish immigrant experience in America. Shouldering its way into the comic book world, the new novel disrupts the typical superhero and supernatural themes of most other comics.
Michael Rapoport for the Wall Street Journal spoke with the two authors about their latest endeavor. McCulloch and Doran spoke to the struggles they faced in conveying their research of Irish immigrants, history, and phonetics over the 140 years that graphic novel covers.
Though understandably worried about finding a strong audience to market the story to, Doran remains hopeful. “I think this’ll get a lot of people who don’t normally read comics,” Doran said. “We just get in there and do the best job we can and hope people appreciate it for what it is.”
Not surprising, the Irish-American community has gotten behind the book, she added.
The new graphic novel, which is available in comic stores today, features three stories of the Irish immigrant experience in America during different time periods. All the stories share the theme of “the gap between what they [the immigrants] hope to find and what they actually do find when they get there,” said McCulloch.
The three stories that are played out in the graphic novel are that of a woman coming to New York City’s Five Points slum in 1870; another young actor and singer who comes to Greenwich Village to find the folk-music scene of the 1960s; and the third being a present-day business mogul who follows in the trails of the first two immigrants.
Originally, the story began as a literary adaptation of The Pogues’ tune ‘Thousands are Sailing.’ Though the ‘Gone to Amerikay’ ultimately wound up moving away from that, Doran and McCulloch carried the importance of Irish folk music throughout the story, despite it being “tricky” at times.
Instead of using the “cliched” manner of including music notes in the panels to indicate music, Doran opted for playing up the reactions of the characters face expressions to show the music’s importance.
Similarly as difficult was accurately conveying the lengthy research that was put into the project. “We were pulling our hair out,” said Doran about having to pen one particular uniform. While it was easy to find what the uniform looked like, it was near impossible to determine its color.
Both Doran and McCulloch are hopeful about ‘Gone to Amerikay’s reception. They’re rather mindful that DC Comics, publishers of other comic book powerhouses like Superman, Batman and Wolverine, took a gamble on a project like theirs.
Said Doran, “We’re all really concerned to see that if it does well, they’ll invest in more projects like this, or else it’s back to Wolverine for us. Not that there’s anything wrong with Wolverine, but I’d rather be doing books like this.”
‘Gone to Amerikay’ is being released today in comic book stores by Vertigo, and heading for wide release on April 3. Order your copy here.