25 September 2012

Studio Visually Tells Veterans' 'Untold Stories'

Editor's note: This is Part II of this week's Red Bull Rising mini-series "Comic Book Re: Insurgency." See also Part IPart III, Part IV, and Part V.

Clayton Murwin—sometimes called "The Hero Maker"—is the founder of Heroes Fallen Studios, Inc., Timberville, Va., a non-profit organization that publishes graphic novels that tell the stories of military service members and veterans in their own words.

In January 2011, Heroes Fallen Studios published the first issue of "Untold Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan," a 72-page black-and-white comic-book-style anthology that covered the range of military experience. In its pages, readers found honor and humor, glory and gore, service and sacrifice.

Murwin, who never served in uniform himself, has instead dedicated his life, energy, and talents to documenting the service of others. He is, for example, currently under contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to produce a multi-volume set of visual stories, which will depict the experiences of Korean War veterans. Two books are planned for publication in 2013. The first book will focus on the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950. The second book will depict the separate stories of four veterans.

"I get the chance to make sure that these Korean War veterans get to have their stories told in a very unique way, a way that will reach many more people in my opinion than they would if they had just been done as a novel," Murwin says.

Mil-blogger Scott Lee, an Operation Desert Storm veteran who writes "P.T.S.D.: A Soldier's Perspective," is assisting Murwin by conducting interviews with the veterans. "We get to be the conduit of their stories and record them forever in a medium that transcends generations," the former M3 "Bradley" driver says. "How cool is that?"

"The first interview was the most difficult with a Medal of Honor recipient, I was triggered severely throughout the interview and the writing process. Later, the conversation turned to how his war experience affected him. He told me that the first 20 years were bad, but after that it got better," Lee says. "After living with [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] for the last 21 years, it gave me hope. It allowed me to start to think of my war trauma in long term perspective where before I was unable to do so. Interviewing the veterans and the writing process has given me a cathartic blueprint to revisit my war trauma."

Says Murwin: "Scott stuck it out! I knew he could do it! That's why I wanted him to do the interviews. One, I knew the veterans would be more open to him as being a combat vet himself because of that 'older generation' code they live by. And I think it gave Scott a new outlook on life after war."

Readers can access a free, 13-page PDF sample of the first issue of "Untold Stories" here. The book retails for $10, and is available at the Heroes Fallen Studios web-store here. The site also offers T-shirts, prints, and other merchandise. A portion of proceeds are donated to non-profit organizations that support military survivors.

Murwin also volunteers with the Journal of Military Experience, a hybrid academic journal and literary magazine published on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University (E.K.U.), a veteran-friendly institution in Richmond, Ky. Red Bull Rising blog-readers may recognize the university as the site the Summer 2012 "Military Experience and the Arts Symposium."

In November 2013, the third issue of The Journal of Military Experience will incorporate Murwin's "Untold Stories Vol. 2." The organizations are exploring how the publication might be presented with two "front" covers, perhaps by flipping the issue over.

If all that isn't enough activity, Murwin also draws 11x17-inch pencil portraits on request for family members who have lost a loved one in service to their country, working from a photographs of not less than 200 dots per inch (D.P.I.).

Heroes Fallen Studios welcomes queries and submissions from soldiers and veterans who want to tell their stories, as well as veteran and non-veteran artists, writers, inkers, letterers, and marketing professionals who wish to contribute to the organization's efforts.

Find Heroes Fallen Studios, Inc. on Facebook here.

Find mil-blogger Scott Lee's "Combat PTSD Blogger" Facebook page here.

Continuing this week: Stories of writers and artists who are successfully telling war stories through their own super projects. Stay tuned, True Believers!

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