John Hogan has an interesting interview with Adam Johnson, who runs the Stanford Graphic Novel Publishing Program. Every year, the students choose a nonfiction story and divide up into teams to create a graphic novel about it, working in groups to draft, thumbnail, draw, and produce the comic.
This year, the students chose the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who through either spectacularly bad or good luck, depending on how you look at it, survived both the atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshma and Nagasaki. Yamaguchi, who worked for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when the first bomb was dropped; the next day, he returned to his home in Nagasaki, which was bombed two days later. He was literally describing the Hiroshima bombing to a colleague when the same thing happened again. Ironically, Yamaguchi had been despondent over the war and was contemplating killing himself and his family if Japan were to lose, but after the bombings, he never looked back.
Johnson said that working with a true story forced the students to resolve problems with the narrative in creative ways:
I loved how, after the second bomb, Mr. Yamaguchi said he was unconscious for a week. Since our story was in the first person, present tense, a move the writer’s chose to help the reader sympathize with Yamaguchi’s story, we were in a narrative trap. But the students decided to switch to the perspective of his wife, Hisako, and the result was one of the more moving, poignant chapters of the graphic novel.
The finished product, titled Pika Don (Flash-Boom), was self-published, but Johnson would like to see it picked up by a publisher to reach a larger audience.