Review Fix chats with “All Quiet on the Western Front” graphic novel creator Wayne Vansant, who discusses the creation of the project and why it’s an important one.
About the Author:
For more than 30 years Wayne Vansant has been writing and illustrating comics and graphic novels on historic and military subjects, beginning with Marvel’s Savage Tales and The ‘Nam. Since then, he has produced Day of Darkness, Battron: The Trojan Woman, Blockade, The War in Korea, Stephan Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, Normandy, Grant vs. Lee, Bombing Nazi Germany, The Battle of the Bulge, The Red Baron, and others.
Review Fix: What inspired this book?
Wayne Vansant: I first saw the old 1929 version of All Quiet when I was a kid, and I remember seeing the Classic Illustrated comic book some where along the way. I think I first read the book when I was about 20, and I may have been in the Navy at the time. I re-read the book several times over the years, and always admired that it was such a personal story, very emotional, as I hear all of Remaque’s books were (I never read any of his other books, and I sure that is true with many who have read All Quiet, but I would like to). I also saw the 1979 TV movie that was very good.
I also wanted to the graphic novel for the historical significance. There are little things in the book that are very intense, but unless you have a good grounding in what trench warfare in WWI was like. There is a scene where Paul Baumer and his friends are in retreat, are being pushed through their trenches by French troops, and he says “they pull wire cradles into the trench.” In trench warfare, armies would have a big wooden frame, bigger than a man, and wrap it with a lot of barb wire. It would be sitting on top of the trench, and could easily be pulled over into the trench to stop the enemies advance down the trench.
Review Fix: How much of this is based on the prior works?
Vansant: All Quiet is not a very long book, and I wanted to get every scene and incident into the graphic novel. I tried to add and take away nothing. I off course used a lot of photos from the war, from books and the INTERNET. I wanted to get the uniforms and clothing right from the period. All, the German trenches looked a little different fro the British of French, due to different doctrine. John Ellis’ Eye-Deep in Hell: Trench Warfare in World War I was absolutely essential.
Review Fix: Why does this topic matter to you?
Vansant: All history matters. So much is being lost to us, and it is important to remember. Re- marque’s book was a very important element in the 1920s that helped veterans deal with their memories of the war. All Quiet show that these men were real people, not black-and-white cut outs.
Review Fix: How do you want to affect people that already care about it?
Vansant: I want them to see the detail that was impossible to convey in the text of the novel. I tried to pick the right faces for the different characters. I have had some difference of opinions with friends on exactly when the story took place. Many who have not read the novel for a long time think the book bounces around through the war randomly. I believe the narrative begins in the late spring of 1917 and continues to the end of the war.
Review Fix: What did you read as a kid?
Vansant: Adventure and History. I loved Jules Verne, and read I believe everything he wrote. I loved comics, especially Classics Illustrated. I read war comics (but recognized early that they usually were not very realistic), westerns, but was never interested in super heroes.
Review Fix: How did it influence you?
Vansant: I was always intrigued by far away places, studied pictures of these places and recognized that these locations were as important to the story as the characters, even more so. When I did Katusha I studied every aspect the lands of eastern Europe. The people are important, but so are the plants, the architecture, and the color of the soil.
Review Fix: How do you want this book to be remembered?
Vansant: Remarque’s book is already remembered, and I can’t add anything to that. I would like for the images to be remembered as a
Review Fix: What next?
Vansant: I will probably be doing a book about Papa Boyington and his Black Sheep Squadron in the South Pacific of WWII. After that it is anybodies guess, but I would like to something on the Italian Campaign. I would also like to do more with a character I created years ago, Battron, who is a French Foreign Legionnaire during WWII and the years after.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Vansant: Just that I would like to keep on exploring history in graphic novels.