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HERO COMPLEX

The big uneasy

September 28, 2008

Josh NEUFELD is the writer and artist of "A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge," a 15-part nonfiction graphic novel for SMITH Magazine about six New Orleans residents before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. It now stands as one of the most compelling achievements in the still-nascent medium of Web comics. "A.D." was the brainchild of Neufeld and Larry Smith, the founder of SMITH, who accompanied the artist into the disaster zone. Times staff writer and Hero Complex blogger Geoff Boucher invited Neufeld to reflect on the project, which will be published next year by Pantheon in a print edition:

"I volunteered with the Red Cross soon after Katrina [working in Biloxi, Miss., for three weeks in October 2005] and started the research on 'A.D.' in late 2006, and SMITH posted the first chapter -- a prologue, actually -- in January 2007. So 'A.D.' has been nearly three years in the making, and an intensely personal experience throughout. . . .

"A large part of my job as the writer/artist of 'A.D.' has been to act as a journalist, and SMITH editor Larry Smith and I have met with our subjects many times, including making a number of visits to New Orleans for face-to-face interviews and photo sessions. I've become quite close with 'A.D.'s' subjects over the last two years, and by virtue of their involvement, a number of the characters have become closely attached to the project as well. As a result, I've come to more deeply understand my responsibility toward them personally and to the project as a whole.

"By making 'A.D.,' I hope to forge a document of the storm, one version of history told from the perspective of six people who are still living it. It's a history that I hope can stand alongside a canon of work that includes Michael Eric Dyson's 'Come Hell or High Water'; Douglas Brinkley's 'The Great Deluge'; Spike Lee's 'When the Levees Broke'; or Tia Lessin, Carl Deal and Kimberly Rivers Roberts' 'Trouble the Water.' Another part of my mission in doing 'A.D.' is to set the record straight, particularly the events which took place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in the days immediately following the storm. Chapters 12 and 13 detail what the character Denise and her family went through while they were trapped there."

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