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Nate Powell Builds His Graphic Novel ‘Empire’

Bloomington was represented at this year's Comic-Con International by award winning graphic novel author Nate Powell who was peddling his new book "Any Empire."

graphic novel author Nate Powell sitting with a black and white comic

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Nate Powell's studio is packed with records and his favorite comic books, and the window by his drawing area looks out onto one of Bloomington's cemeteries.

Comic Lovers Unite

In July, comic lovers, writers, and Hollywood types got together in San Diego, California to geek out at the annual four-day event called Comic-Con International. Last year’s event was packed to the brim with 130,000 attendees. This year, tickets sold out in record time, under eight hours, when they were released to the public back in February.

Bloomington was represented at the conference by award-winning graphic novel author Nate Powell, who was peddling his new book Any Empire.

Award-Winning Work Ethic

Three years earlier, Powell’s book Swallow Me Whole won a whole slew of awards, including the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Debut and an Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel. Thanks to this critical success, he was able to quit his day job and write comics full time.

But the day-to-day demands of living his dream does come with its challenges:

In the winter, I discovered that each day I would find a new way that I felt like I was stuck in “The Shining.” Especially, there were about three weeks where it didn’t get over freezing and I had to draw some sequences that were very repetitive. I felt like I was doing ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’

The Mind Of A Child

Any Empire follows three kids growing up in a Reagan-area, southern America town. They are pulled together as a result of a mysterious string of turtle mutilations in their neighborhood.

What’s most notable about the opening section of the book is the lack of text and dialog bubbles. Instead, black and white drawings tell the story. This is typical of Powell’s narratives, especially when writing adolescent characters. He feels that children perceive the world less in words and more as a series of sensory experiences.

“It’s an exciting challenge to try to convey a person’s internal landscape and convey their experience of the world as much as I can without using words.”

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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