A little mentioned graphic novel called Unknown Soldier may be worth rediscovery by black comic book fans. Written by Joshua Dysart and illustrated by Alberto Ponticelli, it was published by DC’s Vertigo in 2008. It is probably the opposite of your standard super hero story. The story takes place in Uganda 2005 and explores the history, and life inside of, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps. Making it an uncommon topic for graphic novels.
Dr. Lwanga Moses, and American doctor originally from Uganda returns to his home country to find violence and child soldiers. He decides to use his skills to help the refugees of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency.
Although a pacifist, Dr. Moses learns quickly that he is the Unknown Soldier. Therefore he must embrace violence and rid himself of his morality and conscience, because ‘war is the eternal reality’.
Unknown Soldier‘s brutal imagery and story plot prove to be even more disturbing because the reader realizes that this is not all fiction. There is factually accurate content splashed across almost every page.
Karen Berger, a senior vice president at DC Comics and the executive editor of the Vertigo imprint, told the New York Times, “When we explore something at Vertigo, we want to explore something that has not been done before in comics.” She added, “The beauty of the series is that not only does it explore questions like do you fight violence with violence, it also explores how the people of Uganda have been affected by this way of life.”
Surprisingly enough, Dysart has not written everything that he learned from his trip to the wart-torn country in 2007. “I interviewed a reformed child soldier who was forced to bite to death a woman,” he told the Times.
Dysart keeps a journal with some of the stories, and it has also allowed him to write about what he describes as under-reporting about the area, as well as the history of the “internally displaced” person camps and to go deeper into the background of child soldiers.
The blog helps alleviate some of his feelings of guilt too. “I witnessed people at the lowest point of their lives, and I came back and turned it into an action-packed war comic,” he said. “We try our best not to be exploitative, but in my heart I don’t know if this is the right way to do it.”
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