“It does have some eerie similarities to some of the things we’re seeing. It’s uncomfortable to look at in a way that wasn’t there three months ago.”
Years ago, when Mount Auburn Hospital ER doc Colin Devonshire was starting to think about creating his first comic book story ever—a tale of a young physician dealing with the fallout of a global pandemic —he couldn’t shake the feeling that the premise might be overboard. Now, with the release of By Time Time I Get To Dallas #2, the second in his series of graphic novels, he’s in a strange place where many of the situations he wrote about have come true.
Written by Devonshire, By the Time I Get To Dallas is a multi-part comic book epic that centers around a failing medical student, Rudy Deckart, who sets out from Boston across the disintegrating US “to rescue his girlfriend, become a doctor, [and] confront a murderous militia using the migration to start a new world order.” When 80% of the human race mysteriously is migrating to a single point on the globe, it’s up to Deckart to find a cure for the impulse that will save—or perhaps destroy—humanity.
Though the story is morbidly timely, Devonshire said he first had the idea almost a decade ago. Waking up from a dream in the middle of the night, he said, he had visions of this odd mass migration in 2011. It took a few years, but eventually he brought on Spanish penciler Juanfrancisco Moyano (IDW, Dynamite, Arcana) and his brother, colorist Jacinto Moyano.
“It’s cliche to say, but it came to me in a dream,” Devonshire told the Dig in an interview. “I was raking leaves and everyone was just walking off, except me. I rarely remember, let alone get an idea from a dream, but I ended up writing seven pages after that. It was a diary of a guy who’d been left behind.”
Every now and then Devonshire would add to the story, but said that it was still just an idea he didn’t know what to do with. Then, the physician-writer got some good news in the form of some time off. After five years on the job as an ER doctor, the non-stop shifts, patients, and diagnoses ceased for one month as he went on sabbatical.
“I had this idea and at first I thought it could be a cool screenplay, but then I thought, Why not a comic book?” he said. After a crash course in scriptwriting, Devonshire said he sat in his basement for eight hours a day, for 30 days, writing.
When it was time to return to work, he had page breakdowns for the entire story and a finished script for Book 1. After sending a few packages to publishers, Devonshire turned to Kickstarter to fund the project. A 200-page story in its entirety, it’s since been divided up into five books. Following the success of the initial installment last summer, the Kickstarter for the sequel just launched last week (and already has raised four times its goal).
A fan of the X-Men, Watchmen, Maus, and The Dark Knight Returns growing up, Devonshire gave up on comic books for decades, but around the time he began studying for his medical boards he dug up his old collection to sell, but instead ended up buying more. Creating his own comic book series from scratch, Devonshire also tapped into a Stephen King-esque vibe that borders on horror.
“Given the situation we’re in now it does have some eerie similarities to some of the things we’re seeing,” Devonshire said. “Seeing the travelers mashed together, it’s uncomfortable to look at in a way that wasn’t there three months ago.”
In Devonshire’s tale, children are not affected by the “disease” and controversy around migration plays out on the news.
“I think a big thing, I initially thought was over the top, is the way people in By The Time I Get To Dallas viewed the migration and how some were sympathetic to the travelers while others saw them as invaders.”
As a key part to his story, Devonshire said he wanted to focus on how people treated each other in a crisis. Using the example of Rudy Deckart, Devonshire navigates around the issue of “what it is to be human.”
“Unfortunately we’re so polarized that some of the things, like militant political groups pushing their agenda for a new world order, aren’t fiction anymore,” he said. “We play off those expectations of familiar zombie stories and switch things up a bit.”
Additionally, Devonshire said, locals will be able to recognize many Boston landmarks such as the Longfellow Bridge, Boston Common, and the Museum of Science in the background as they follow Rudy’s journey.
It’s a dark story, but much in the same way tales of Batman and the X-Men provided an escape and a source of comfort for Devonshire when he was younger, By The Time I Get To Dallas has been something positive for the local doctor to focus on.
“It’s been extremely stressful for a few months,” Devonshire said. “This project, and launching the Kickstarter has been great because I’ve had somewhere to focus my nervous energy on.”
“After a long day in the ER,” he added, “it feels good to come home and just read a comic book.”