The third story in the Chutz-Pow! anthology is that of Dora Iwler. As a teenager Dora managed to escape from Nazi captivity, twice! Here's the first page of her story with art by Dave Wachter.
Though it is the third story in the collection it was the last story I wrote. Dave was working on another major project and told me he couldn't even think about doing this one until at least April. That gave me extra time. I needed it. Maybe it was because I knew I was writing this one last that I just couldn't really grab the thread of Dora's narrative. I read the research I had on her but for some reason the details of it didn't stick in my head. There were elements of Malka Baran's story that I conflated with Dora (mainly the post-concentration camp events). Buried in the tons of research I had I suppose some loss of detail was natural. I do think that I was so focused on the previous stories that I just didn't allow myself to really focus on her until the others were finished.
In the end this turned out to be a good thing. For page count reasons Dora's story needed to be only four pages. As I delved into her story I realized that it was as rich as any of the others. I had already felt constrained by page with every other story. Now what?
Luckily by this time I was more aware of my tendency to overwrite these scripts. I tried very hard to condense Dora's story into specific but powerful images. Luckily I was aided in this endeavor by the amazing art of Dave Wachter.
I met Dave around five years ago when he moved to the Pittsburgh area. Since then his professional comics career has exploded (see his bio/credits below). Due to other projects Dave had fairly limited time to work on this story. As I expected he turned the assignment around in a fairly short period of time and gave me four beautiful pages.
Dora's story proved challenging for other reasons as well. Her experiences included a couple of scenes of pretty intense violence. Now obviously the entire Holocaust was filled with violence, but in the other stories in this volume it was peripheral to the anecdotes I chose to relate. But with Dora it was a central part of her experience and survival. I needed to find a way to show the violence that wasn't exploitive or voyeuristic but that also didn't sugarcoat it. This book is going into middle and high schools as well, so a PG-13 rating was in my mind. On a personal level I also felt that if I was too graphic in this depiction it would be like committing the violence against Dora again.
I found a way to address this in my script and Dave's art perfectly conveys the horror without being graphic.
Dora's spirit of resistance and defiance are perhaps her defining characteristics. I hope this story does justice to that.
Dave Wachter’s professional career includes his artwork for Robert Bloch’s That Hellbound Train, Godzilla and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the mini-series Night of 1,000 Wolves (all from IDW Publishing). In 2012, he was nominated for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award in comics, and he was the artist for the mini-series Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem for Dark Horse Comics. In 2014, Dark Horse will release a hardcover edition of his Eisner and Harvey Award nominated web-comic The Guns of Shadow Valley. You can see more of his work at http://davedrawscomics.blogspot.com/ where he recently posted a process blog about working on this project.
As a fun personal note that has nothing to do with Chutz-POW! I wanted to share this. In one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issues Dave drew he drew Marcel Walker and me into one of the scenes. I've pasted it below.