This week we complete our ongoing conversation with Joshua Dysart about his 2008 revival of the Unknown Soldier. Placing the classic character in the midst of a real contemporary conflict, described by Dysart as “probably the largest humanitarian crisis of my generation,” raised a host of moral considerations. We touch on three of them, beginning today with the question of education.
CBB: I’d like to talk for a few minutes about Unknown Soldier as an educational comic. Canceled or not, this book will be out there. It will continue to educate people. Who did you have in mind when you wrote it?
JD: What I’d intended to do with the project was take a real world event, show it in all its honesty, complexity, and atrocity, and then couch it in an American action narrative so that the 15 year-old Xbox 360 buyer would pick up the book.
The one thing that kids don't get, those who are playing Call of Duty and all that jazz -- war video games -- is the notion of the woman who is raped trying to protect her kids in the war zone. There’s a lot of narratives about the war zone, especially in regard to the people who live in war zones, that you just can’t get from video games, and that a lot of war movies don’t touch on.
So I knew that what I wanted to do ultimately was find a way to accidentally educate people, specifically a population that would not normally seek out social justice media and social justice narratives, and find a way to get them interested. The way to do that is to create an interesting and engaging main character who you’ll follow, and then couch everything around that. And make sure something blows up every few issues.
That’s all you can ask for. That was our mission statement, and I think we succeeded to a degree. Obviously not to as large a degree as I would have liked, or we would have been more commercially successful. But I feel like we did what we set out to do, and that is to create what seems on the surface to be an accidental educational tool. And you know, recently at a convention a 16 year-old Midwestern kid come up to me and start talking to me about East African politics. He knew who the President of Uganda was, and that’s because of our comic book, that’s not because he’s sitting around reading books on East African politics. And so we succeed. Sometimes we succeed.
Tomorrow, Dysart reveals his highest aspirations for his book. Don’t miss it!