A new graphic novel comes with what seems like an unlikely pairing — a Columbia novelist and poet who is partnering with an icon of the Golden Age of comic books.
Writer Jerred Metz is working with Vic Carrabotta, a 93-year-old illustrator known for his work with the company Atlas, which would later become Marvel. Published in late July, the gritty graphic novel is “The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand” and follows the true story of the criminal Durand and his crime spree in 1939.
“Earl Duran himself, the character, I really fell in love with that,” the illustrator said. “I like him, he wasn’t such a bad guy, (though) he was a criminal at the end.”
The two initially met in 2014, when Metz was at dinner with Carrabotta, who now lives outside of Columbia after moving to South Carolina in the aughts. Metz retold the story as he introduced himself as an “author and poet” and Carrabotta, in turn, said he “was a legend” and told him his past working for Atlas/Marvel and working for Stan Lee, to whom Carrabotta said he grew close over the years.
After that initial meeting, Carrabotta asked to read one of Metz’s works. He shared with him the novel form of “The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand,” which Metz had published in 2005. In the preparation for that book, Metz said he interviewed about 15 people who had firsthand involvement in the events.
The novel and graphic novel follows the story of Durand, a figure who has taken on a folkloric-like place in Wyoming history. An outlaw who escaped jail, Durand faced a manhunt for 11 days before ultimately dying.
The chase included tear gas, artillery and other extravagant measures to capture him.
Carrabotta, who still draws regularly for commission and appears at conventions, said he was unable to “stop reading it” and proposed the two make a graphic novel about it. This came at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, the illustrator worked on it throughout the two-plus year period.
Meanwhile, Metz worked on reworking his 221-page novel’s writing to fit the graphic novel form. His initial version of it followed the 15 interviews and how each person knew of him, how they were involved and subsequently affected.
“I had to completely re-write this book … that would never work this way” Metz said.
Metz's prior work has also centered around historic moments, like “Halley’s Comet, 1910” or a pair of World War I books.
The graphic novel comes at a late stage in life for Carrabotta and with a different form than that for which he is known.
His past work credentials include illustrations for comics like “Journey Into Mystery” and “Strange Tales.” He said he grew to be known as “Quick Vic” for his speedy turnaround time on his drawings.
Now working on a graphic novel, “The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand” takes on a Western, antiquated feel with its artistic style. At times, the work features some color and, at others, is in black and white. Metz described it as a “roughhewn piece.”
“I was also carried away by the idea, I’m a comic book artist … from comics to this book, I have a different style,” he said. “I thought, at this point, I’m going to do what I feel like.”
The book can be found on Amazon and through Singing Bone Press.