Some 20 years ago, Eisner prize-nominated and Emmy-winning comic book artist Dean Haspiel heard about a family friend, Inverna Lockpez, who escaped from Fidel Castro’s revolution-era Cuba and began documenting her story. Now comes, Cuba: My Revolution, a graphic novel published by Vertigo, a division of DC Comics in New York, that tells the story of a young revolutionary named Sonya who struck out from the beliefs of her family and friends for a greater ideal — it just didn’t turn out the way she thought it would.
Here, Haspiel has offered a visual interpretation of his interview with our writer Rachel Aydt and discusses the challenges taking a friend’s delicate story and giving it a fictional and visual voice:
Publishing Perspectives: How long have you known your collaborator, Inverna Lockpez?
Dean Haspiel: I met Inverna Lockpez through my mother and have known her for over 25 years. She’s a longtime friend, an extension of my family, and has become like a second mother to me. The whole time I’ve known her, she’s been this gregarious, amazing person and painter. She’s an artist and curator, and organized INTAR, a Spanish arts gallery in Manhattan. I always knew her in this context, and thought she was a very interesting, albeit, mysterious woman. Over the years she would reveal stories about Cuba, the things that happened to her.
PP: How did you and she settle on turning this into a graphic novel?
DH: I became fascinated with the fragments of her story as I would hear them, and began knitting a narrative together from the pieces that had drifted out of her. I’d illustrated The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames, and I’d worked with Harvey Pekar on American Splendor, and The Quitter, and Inverna became fascinated with the power of the medium. In our discussions, I said to her, ‘I feel like there’s a full narrative here that we should explore.’ She hesitated because she’d been burying information and keeping it back for so many years. It must have been extremely difficult for her to leave Cuba and to find a new home. I imagine her coping mechanism was to block it out until I encouraged her to open that door.
PP: It must have been difficult to illustrate the more nightmarish parts of her story… click here to read on....