Out this April, from writer J.T. Krul and artist Andrea Mutti, Sand + Bone is a graphic novel that brings together the Iraq War, PTSD, and a mystery in a small town.
Sean Hitcher has just returned from war. He didn’t die in Iraq, but part of him wishes that he did. He’s home now, back in the small Midwestern town where he grew up. But he is haunted by nightmarish visions of killing and carnage that seem to be the result of severe PTSD. But are they? Is there something he’s missing…
As mysterious acts of violence spread throughout the town, Sean begins to wonder if there’s more going on than he originally thought. What terror did he experience on the battlefield, and what horrifying secret did he bring back with him?
We got a chance to talk to Krul about the new series and have an exclusive reveal of the cover. Sand + Bone will be available at Barnes & Noble April 18.
Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for Sand + Bone come from?
J.T. Krul: Stephen at Adaptive and I had been talking for some time about working together and when he mentioned the idea behind Sand and Bone I was all in. We were both drawn to the concept of exploring the life of soldiers after service and their struggles to return to anything resembling normalcy. Add to it the more mysterious and supernatural aspect and I was hooked.
GP: How long have you been working on it?
JTK: In all, the project took about a year from the time I started talking with Adaptive. Working from the source material, we revised and largely reimagined the story and the overall focus of the story.
GP: How did Andrea Mutti come on board for the art?
JTK: That credit goes to Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. They are veterans in the comic industry and have been consulting with Adaptive on their projects. We talked about a lot of potential artists, but it was Jimmy and Justin that first suggested Andrea. And right away, we all knew it was going to be a perfect fit. There is a very gritty and dark vibe to the tone of the story we are telling, and Andrea’s heavy ink style really drives that aspect home.
GP: The story deals with the current war in Iraq, what got you to want to focus on that particular war?
JTK: Essentially, because that’s the war of our lifetime. Hard to believe it’s been more than 15 years since 9/11, and the struggle continues on. The deployment goes up and down, but there is a lingering presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, honestly, is there even an end in sight? Ever?
And yet, at the same time, it’s the war that we as Americans are rather far removed from. You think about World War II and the sacrifices people made to support the effort. Being citizens during wartime required us to be aware. With Vietnam, the protests against the war were front and center. The controversy was part of everyday life. But today, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing is asked of the people. The soldiers represent like 1% of the American populace and the powers-that-be seem to do everything they can to keep it in the background. The war is “over there” and not here. I’ll never forget in the days following the attacks on 9/11 and the government’s response, President Bush essentially urged us to go about our business. He actually encouraged us to go shopping. The whole war and those fighting in it and forever changed by it are largely ignored. People “support the troops” and wear yellow ribbons. They cheer soldiers for two seconds before a sporting event, but they really don’t do anything to support them. For the most part, it is nothing but lip service.
GP: I’ve read some studies that estimated about 20% of veterans from Iraq suffer from PTSD, and to me, it’s a health crisis we don’t focus enough on. How did that become a part of the story?
JTK: That was always a central part of the story. I mean, yes, we are telling a tale of suspense and the supernatural. It’s a thriller. But, at its core, the monstrous elements play into the hidden pain so many soldiers struggle with. We ask them to go into harm’s way, to risk their lives on behalf of our nation, and yet we don’t want to deal with the messy truth of war. Again, we as a nation want to cheer the soldiers before a game, or a salute a flag, or applaud when Air Force jets do a flyby at half-time, but we don’t want to deal with their pain. We don’t want to deal with their substance abuse, their isolation, and their struggles to re-engage with civilian life.
GP: Did you talk to veterans with PTSD or anyone that is involved with treatment of veterans to research it?
JTK: Absolutely. Working in the comic industry, there is a large segment of the fans that are current and former military, so I have been privileged enough to meet quite a few from around the country over the years. I’ve had a lot of talks with them, as they described what it was like overseas, the dread of multiple deployments, and the difficulty readjusting to life outside the service. One friend in particular, I watched literally deteriorate before my eyes over the years as his duty took its toll. His smile lessened, his hair fell out, his body grew frail. He shared stories about fighting just to get treatment through the VA. Sadly, it reminded me of watching someone struggling with cancer and going through radiation therapy. The physical and psychological toll is unbelievable.
GP: I haven’t read the comic yet, but already have some ideas running through my mind about the mystery that’s teased and the PTSD. Can you give us any hints as to how the two are related?
JTK: I think I mentioned that a bit already, but at its core the supernatural mystery of it mirrors the struggles with PTSD. It’s that sense of isolation and the inability to reconnect with society. You feel like a stranger in your own body.
GP: Entertainment can raise awareness of issues like PTSD and veterans. Is that something you’re thinking of while putting this together?
JTK: Definitely. I mean, yes, its entertainment, and I am not trying to equate our story with something like the movie Platoon. It is an effort to catch a glimpse into territory that doesn’t get covered as much. It’s all about connectivity and empathy and getting beyond the stigma associated with PTSD. It’s about putting these stories out there. The suicide rate for veterans is shameful, and the lack of the government, and we as a nation, to help those you have given so much to us is inexcusable. If our story can move readers to reach out, to lend a hand and support veterans’ causes and legislation, that would be great.
GP: Thanks so much and looking forward to reading the graphic novel.
Check out the exclusive cover reveal below!