DARK RAIN: A NEW ORLEANS STORY, Vertigo’s new graphic novel, hit stores yesterday, just a couple of weeks shy of five years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
So, I had this whole, big angry diatribe about Katrina planned here, but the more I thought about DARK RAIN, the more sense it made to just skip the preaching. I’m sure you’re all very disappointed. But that sort of thing really isn’t what this book, written by Mat Johnson with art by Simon Gane, is about.
So what is DARK RAIN actually about? Well, it’s a story about a bank heist, yes. It’s a race-against-time crime thriller, sure.
But it’s really about people who could easily be you or me. Save for a tough break here and there. It’s about their hopes, their pain and joy, their dignity.
So just as Mat and Simon’s story pays tribute not only to the spirit of the human beings who endured Katrina, but to the human spirit itself, I’d like to pay my own small tribute to the people who bring you this book.
Of course, it all starts with Mat. Since he wrote INCOGNEGRO, he and I had been looking for a new graphic novel to work on together. Mat’s never short of good ideas, but when he sent me a brief proposal, at the time titled “Congo Square” (after the New Orleans location often thought of as the birthplace of African-American music), I knew we’d found the one. Just the concept hooked me: two guys desperate to get in to New Orleans at the same time everyone else is desperate to get out.
To bring Mat’s story to the page, we needed an artist who understood that the city of New Orleans was as much a character in this story (now titled DARK RAIN) as the characters themselves. Simon Gane jumped to mind quickly. When Simon drew an earlier Vertigo series called “The Vinyl Underground,” he brought a moody realism and depth to the city of London. That was the quality I was looking for. But Simon is, himself, English. Could he do for a uniquely American city like New Orleans what he’d done for London?
He allayed my concerns when he volunteered to fly to New Orleans and experience it for himself. And he did. And it shows.
Mat and Simon had some brilliant collaborators. Lee Loughridge gave extra depth and dimension to Simon’s artwork with gray tones and (at the inspired suggestion of Karen Berger) blue tones as well. This is a book about water after all. Pat Brosseau lettered the book with the same flair that he’s brought to such Vertigo books as THE QUITTER, THE ALCOHOLIC and THE EXTERMINATORS. Finally, Art Director Louis Prandi and Cover Designer Nessim Higson and fashioned a book jacket that evokes the perfect sense of foreboding, desperation and hope conveyed by Mat’s writing and Simon’s art. And Vertigo's own Sarah Litt kept the whole operation running on schedule, among many other crucial tasks.
Not unlike what it took (and continues to take) to bring New Orleans back, it took a community of people to bring this book to you.
Somewhere along the line, there may even have been an editor involved.
So there you go. 100 percent diatribe-free. As it should be, because the book that Mat, Simon and the rest of the crew have created will stand on its own, on this fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and for much longer, as a reminder that we can never give up the hope that exists inside us all, even in the most desperate days.