In 2002, Micah Wright was a rising star in the comic book industry. As the writer of Wildstorm's military-themed Stormwatch: Team Achilles, he grew a fanbase and attracted critical praise, with work like that series — and his "remixed propaganda" collection You Back the Attack, We'll Bomb Who We Want — bolstered by his purported real-life service as a former Army Ranger.
Except Wright was never an Army Ranger, and stories like the introduction to You Back the Attack, detailing his participation in the 1989 invasion of Panama, were completely false. The truth came out in a 2004 Washington Post article, and according to his subsequent apology, Wright had never gotten further in the armed services than Army ROTC.
The news brought a swift end to his comic book career, with both Stormwatch: Team Achilles and a planned update to DC's Vigilante canceled, and word that he had been essentially blacklisted from the industry. In the interim eight years, Wright has worked steadily as a video game writer, but is now attempting a comic book comeback via a Kickstarter-funded original graphic novel titled Duster."My policy is not to read things that are written about me on the Internet," Wright told Newsarama. "It's just too depressing. I know that the more this news gets out that I'm coming back to comics, the more that people who don't like me will be vociferously complaining on the Internet. But by the same token, maybe the people who have forgiven me for my stupidity will be interested, and look up my book." One of the most outspoken critics of Wright following the scandal was noted Marvel and DC writer Kurt Busiek, who advised him, "Stop defending yourself. It only makes it worse." Nearly a decade later, Busiek is quoted on Duster's Kickstarter page, calling the work "a gripping, compelling story." "When I was busted for my baloney, I didn't go down gracefully," Wright said. "I flailed around, I was ugly towards a lot of people, and I was just a juvenile child about the entire thing. Kurt gave me a great piece of advice: 'You need to get off of the Internet, and shut your stupid mouth, and go away, and come back with a strong piece of work, and let the work speak for itself.'"
Busiek isn't the only well-respected comic book professional who has given his endorsement to Duster. The Walking Dead's Charlie Adlard, Finder's Carla Speed McNeil and Hitman's John McCrea are all providing covers or chapter illustrations. The main cover is by veteran creator Howard Chaykin, who Wright says he's known since 1995."He was furious with me when my scandal broke," Wright said. "Winning him back was hard work."
Duster has been in the works, in its very earliest form, since Comic-Con in 1995, where Wright says he had a particularly vivid dream about Nazis arriving on his grandparents' farm.
"At the end of the dream, my grandmother had gotten on board the Nazi's plane and discovered that their big secret was that they had smuggled Hitler out of Nazi Germany," Wright said.Wright told the dream to his writing partner, Jay Lender, and eventually the idea became a film script, which then evolved into the currently in-process graphic novel. Lender has years of experience as an artist, writer and director on animated series including Phineas and Ferb and SpongeBob SquarePants, but he's not new to the comic book game.
"It's mostly funny stuff," said Lender, the book's co-writer, of his past work, "but Duster has an enormous amount of funny stuff in it. Micah and I both feel that in order to have the darkness, you have to have the light."Duster — illustrated by Jok Coglitore and Cristian Mallea — is the story of a widowed housewife dealing with the unexpected scenario of Nazi war criminals landing on her farm towards the end of World War II. Both Wright and Lender make it clear that the story only works with a female main character.
"This particular story can't be told with a male protagonist," Lender said. "The text of the story is people fighting Nazis in West Texas just after the close of World War II in Europe. But the subtext of it is about the changing roles of women in that era, because they're getting out of the home, and into the workplace, and that's more than accepted, it's necessary. And after that, the jobs and opportunities that are available to women completely changed. That's really what the story is about."As of June 29, the project has funded a little more than half of its $26,000 goal, which it needs to raise by July 24. Wright says the goal isn't to eventually turn Duster into a movie, as the story was originally intended — though he acknowledged it would be "thrilling and exciting" if it happened — but he does seem open to seeing it eventually end up at a traditional publisher, which would be a first for him since the controversy broke. "I think that if we do well on Kickstarter, it will make it easier for us to find a traditional comics publisher to then release a trade paperback version someday," Wright said. "But in order to do that, we have to do well on Kickstarter."
[Full disclosure: Wright was a family friend when the author of the article was a child, but has had only limited interactions with him in the past 15 years.]Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER