A new graphic novel telling the story of Canadian soldiers has a strong Yorkton connection as the art is crafted by Mike Wyatt.
"I had the idea for an Illustrated war book for quite some time, since around 2006, about the time I quit my paying job to become a freelance illustrator," said Wyatt who lived eight-years in Yorkton, from 1984 to '92 and attended Sacred Heart. "That same year I got my first publishing gig, illustrating a book for young adults on Canadian Confederation. The author was Paul Keery."
Fate sort of played the next card toward the project (Canada at War) on the war years moving forward.
"We were contracted to do a second book when the Publisher went out of business," said Wyatt. "Shortly thereafter I asked Paul if he would be interested in writing a book on WW2. We put together a package and sent it out to various publishers. Within a few months we were contacted by Douglas & McIntyre who were interested in the material but wanted one major change."
From that point the book evolved from Wyatt's initial vision.
"As originally presented the book was supposed to be a combination of text and illustrated inserts with the odd four-to-six page comic thrown in for good measure," he said. "To that end I did up a six-page comic on D Day. The publisher seemed to like it so much that they wanted the book to be a graphic novel - fully illustrated. I had never done anything like that before, in fact that D-Day comic was my first attempt at it but I said sure, why not. I'll make it up as I go along."
Wyatt said the project was a new experience for someone who noted "I have no formal art training except for what was taught in high school art class and a few years in animation."
"I was fortunate to have had total control of the illustrations and how it was laid out," he said. "As I said I was a newbie to graphic novels but so was my publisher and given that the subject matter is quite unique to the medium, I was pretty much given carte blanche."
While he had worked with the writer previously, the collaboration was one carried out electronically.
"I have never personally met Paul as he lives in Ontario and I'm in B.C.," he said, adding, "we do meet 'face-to-face' on a regular basis via Skype and of course through emails."
While that might sound like a barrier to the development of a book, Wyatt said it has not been a particular issue from his perspective.
"I've never had a problem working long distance," he said. "Pretty much every job I've done has been for a company or individual in another part of the country or in the U.S.. I've found it quite easy to contract and complete work electronically."
What was work on the graphic novel was developing the knowledge to make the art authentic.
"I spent hours upon hours doing research, I didn't have access to archive material so I worked primarily through Google, which can be extremely exhausting and frustrating but I wanted to be as accurate as possible when it came to things like aircraft markings and weapon types," he said. "Research took up the majority of my time."
Of course for Wyatt the project was also a deeply personal one being the son of retired Canadian Army member Peter Wyatt of Yorkton.
"As a kid I was fascinated with my Dad's job," said Mike Wyatt. "It wasn't until years later that I took a real interest in military history. My Dad, with his involvement in the Army, the Cadets and the Legion was the main reason I wanted to get this book made.
"I also wanted to do something that could educate Canadians about our role in WW2 in a way that was accessible to readers of all ages."
With the need to research and draw, the graphic novel was a major project.
"The whole process took about 20-months," said Wyatt. "Of that I'd say I devoted about half that time illustrating."
And after all the months and efforts, Wyatt said he's proud of the result.
"Although I had seen those illustrations countless times and lived with this book on and off for nearly two-years, I have to say it's still quite a thrill to hold the finished product in your hands," he said.
The book is a recent release, but so far others seem to like what they see too.
"Early feedback has been quite positive," said Wyatt. "We shall have to wait and see what the general response will be like."
Canada at War is available in print and ebook through Chapters/Indigo and most booksellers throughout the country, and in the U.S. through Barnes and Noble and everywhere through Amazon.
Wyatt's previous book was 'Maple Leaf Forever?', and he is already working on the next book.
"Right now I'm working with Paul again on a book on Democracy. I'll be meeting with Douglas & McIntyre this summer for my next project," he said, adding "I'm also working on a web comic and a children's book."
Check out Canada at War at http://canadaatwar.blogspot.ca/ and at http://mgwyatt.blogspot.ca/