For as much as I yammer on and promote my graphic novel, it seems like a large portion of my audience actually doesn’t even know what it is. That or they just don’t care about donkeys, which I can respect, but I wanted to take a minute here just to talk about what The White Donkey is.
To put it in the easiest of laymen’s terms, The White Donkey is a 290 page original Terminal Lance graphic novel. It is an original story from start-to-finish, a singular narrative grounded on my own experiences in Iraq and in the Marine Corps. It takes place in 2007 and tells the story of Abe and Garcia.
The White Donkey is my attempt to illustrate, in my own voice, the experience of being a Marine during the Iraq war and the experience going to Iraq and coming home. As an Iraq veteran myself, I wanted to channel a lot of the inner frustrations and observations I was able to make about myself. In this sense, the book was very cathartic for me, but I also wanted the book to be cathartic for others. My intent with The White Donkey was always to be a book for Marines to help come to terms with their own experiences. There is so so much to be said about going to war, and yet so much usually gets left unsaid from those returning home. I figured if I could show veterans a piece of themselves, it might help them in some way with things they may have been struggling to put into words.
Over the years it’s been easy to have a lot of laughs and I speak a lot about some of the absurdities of “veteranisms.” But the reality persists that I am an Iraq veteran myself, and I have personally known 4 Marines to commit suicide since I left the Corps in 2010. This book was my way of addressing the issue, and it is my hope that it reaches the Marines and service members that it needs to.
To this day it is (to my knowledge) the only graphic novel about the Iraq war written and illustrated by an Iraq veteran.
I actually had came up with the idea for the book in 2010. This seems crazy, but this is an image dated December 5th, 2010:
It’s definitely a good thing that I didn’t make the book back then, I think I improved as an artist quite significantly over the years and was able to really bring the story to life with much more realistic artwork than the regular comic strip.
The book really consists of 250 pages of hand-drawn artwork, 100% of it from yours truly. This was an intensely personal book, so I wrote and drew every single page from start to finish by myself. This and my own stubbornness attributed to the lengthy creation process, but ultimately I was happy with the finished product. The artwork is intentionally much more realistic than the regular comic strip, which has actually gotten even more “cartoony” over the years so as to draw a clear distinction in tone between it and the graphic novel.
It sounds crazy, but Abe and Garcia were actually created for The White Donkey, and not the other way around. Prior to strip #90 or so, Garcia didn’t exist and Abe was an unnamed character (really just me). Once I had solidified the book in my mind, I started writing the characters. Garcia and Abe were born from this, and I inserted them into the comic strip to normalize them in the event that I was able to actually make the book.
Anyway, to make a long story very short, I did a Kickstarter and it was a huge success. It took about a year to hand-draw the book from start to finish working on it full time, and the printing process took months. I self-published the “Kickstarter” edition of the book in early 2016, and it was immediately picked up by Little, Brown & Co within a week of its release. It is now available all over the world in hardback, and was on the New York Times best seller list for over 14 weeks.