The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina created an environment that extended the flood's tragedy beyond that of the original disaster. In December, the four-issue miniseries "NOLA" from BOOM! Studios explores one woman's story of revenge amidst the remains of the ruined city. The series, which takes its name both from the main character's name and New Orleans' acronym, is written by "Right at Your Door" director/screenwriter Chris Gorak, scripted by Pierluigi Cothran, and illustrated by Damian Couceiro. CBR News caught up with Gorak and Cothran to discuss the series.
Cothran describes "NOLA" as "a violent, emotional story set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, about a woman who has been wronged, and, unable to find justice through the normal channels, takes it upon herself to right those wrongs." Gorak added that the series' heroine, Nola, is on a quest for revenge against those responsible for her mother's death. "Before Katrina she finds herself living in a racially charged, male dominated city where the truth is blurred with folklore and the lies are buried in the mighty Mississippi River. Now, Nola seeks justice for all who have been wronged. She is up against the system, the man and those who pay the man to work over the system."
The events of Hurricane Katrina are familiar, at least on some level, to most Americans. But telling a story in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy allows an exploration of aspects that may not have made the newspapers. "So much crooked and questionable stuff went down immediately following Katrina. So much went untold and is now left up to the imagination. And in the classic sense of New Orleans, so much lore and legend was born," Gorak said. "I thought the crippled, powerless city would be an incredible setting to tell a revenge story. When the lights are out, when the city is dark, when no one is around for miles, and those who are, don't give a car, that's when Nola gets to work. This is one story about what went on when New Orleans went dark."
"And those who were left have to look out for themselves and their families first and foremost," Cothran added. "It was like the Wild West in some sense. Anarchy was law. Trespass and be shot. Trust seemed to be a hard thing to come by, especially when your trust in an institution that was supposed to be there for you failed you on every level."
Gorak, who has done art and production work on films including "Fight Club," "Lords of Dogtown," and "Blade: Trinity," " and had a turn as writer-director on "Right at Your Door," found the process of creating stories for comics and film quite similar. "Finding an accessible hero that we can root for, finding a strong story with heart and then expressing that story one frame at a time in comic book form is very much like assembling a film," Gorak told CBR. "I think pacing is key in any storytelling process, and, yes, film pacing is a little different than comics, but I learned a lot working with BOOM! and everyone involved, especially structuring 'NOLA' in such a dynamic and powerful way."
Cothran also comes from the world of television and film, having worked on "Heroes" and "Alias," and has written webcomic episodes for "Heroes." "Being around world class writers like Jesse Alexander, Michael Green and Jeph Loeb during my tenure there was the best example of learning by listening," he said. "What a treat it was to see these guys breaking stories day in and day out. The real challenge for me on the webcomics, though, was to try to tell those types of stories in 5 or 6 pages. It's a great way to train yourself to get into the heart of what's important to your story, though - a valuable bit of practice I couldn't have been luckier to have."
Gorak told CBR that "NOLA" began to take shape when he encountered BOOM! founders Andrew Cosby and Ross Richie one day at Paramount Studios. "'Cuz that's how it happens--I believe I was mowing the lawn and they were deciding if they wanted to buy HBO," he joked. "We got to chatting and realized we seemed to be mutually aware and fans of each other's work. I eventually said, 'Have I got an idea for you!' Next thing I knew, I was pitching it to them in BOOM!'s lavish L.A. offices. Before I even finished telling them the story, Andrew and Ross simultaneously stamped out their Cuban cigars, snapped for a plate of peeled grapes, looked me in the eye and said, 'Stop right there. We want to read the story.' So, I sent it over and here we are. Go 'NOLA' or go home!"
Matt Gagnon, BOOM!'s Managing Editor, then brought Cothran in to have a look at Gorak's story. "I read it in one sitting, no bathroom breaks or anything, and thought, 'This Chris Gorak fellow can tell a helluva story,'" Cothran said. "A 'Rolling Thunder'-like tale set in post-Katrina New Orleans - I was hooked and wanted in immediately. Then the great, talented, handsome Bryce Carlson, editor/bon vivant, told me to type up some words and help turn this great story into an equally great comic book. It's been such a blast to work with Chris, and the artist, Damian Couceiro, is just killing those pages. It's been a pleasure from start to finish."