Writers explore emotions in comic book of Las Vegas shooting

Updated April 20, 2018 - 5:08 pm

J.H. Williams III and Wendy Wright-Williams moved to Las Vegas about two years ago, drawn here — like many newcomers — by such perks as less-hellish-than-California commutes, 24/7 attractions and the beauty of the desert.

But when a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more, the couple had to revise their image of Las Vegas life to include a frightening new reality.

They were shocked. Angry. Confused. Grief-stricken. And when they wanted to do something to help, they turned to a familiar medium: Comic books.

The result of their unexpected mission is a 300-page benefit comic anthology titled “Where We Live” (Image Comics, $19.99, release date May 30). The book includes more than 70 stories, illustrations, essays and poems by an all-star roster of comic book creators who examine the shooting, tell the stories of people affected by it, and reflect on the social and human issues that are intertwined with it.

Williams, who has worked on such titles as “Sandman,” “Batwoman” and “Superman,” is the anthology’s curating editor, and he and his wife conceived and have been working on the book since October. Williams also drew the cover illustration, which features the couple’s home set against the backdrop of the Strip.

On the weekend of the shooting, they were in California to attend a friend’s wedding. On Sunday evening, after having spent the day with friends, they returned to their hotel.

“I checked my Twitter feed and the first thing that came up was ‘active shooter in Las Vegas,’ ” Williams recalls. “My first reaction, of course, was, ‘No, that can’t be real.’ I even blurted out, ‘This has got to be a joke,’ and within seconds I realized it’s not a joke. So we immediately started trying to reach people we know to see if they were safe.”

“You have this illusion of what you think you’d do,” Wendy says. “But it’s so disempowering being so far away, and you can’t even comfort the person that you know is probably in the middle of that.”

They drove to Las Vegas the next day and saw over the next week how even people who weren’t physically harmed in the shootings still were affected by it, and how other Southern Nevadans who weren’t at the festival were affected, too.

After such tragic events, the comics industry often will “try to find some way to support people who need help, and I wasn’t seeing anything in any of the channels I follow,” Williams says. “So in the middle of the night on Friday night, I just started tweeting, saying, ‘I don’t even know how you do something like this. How do you put a (benefit comic) book together?’

“By the time I got (up) the next morning, people were reaching out, saying, ‘We’ll help you do it.’ ”

From the start, the concept was that the book would raise money for survivors and victims’ families — Williams says all the creators donated their time — and it would include local contributors. The anthology’s mandate also would be broad, incorporating eyewitness accounts, stories about the community’s response to the tragedy, and reflections on such broader issues as gun violence, gun culture and mental health.

The anthology includes fictional and fact-based pieces, poetry and prose, illustrations and stories told via traditional comic book panels. While most of the pieces lean toward realism, “there is some allegorical content as well,” Williams says.

The anthology also intentionally offers different points of view. “We made no mandate of what people were to say or how they were to express themselves,” Wendy says, and the only request was that contributors be thoughtful and not simply offer “a knee-jerk response.”

“We felt like, if we were putting together this book, of course it will raise funds to help these people in whatever way it can, but it also speak to problems that are causes of these incidents in the first place,” Williams says.

The anthology “doesn’t have answers,” he says, but “poses questions to a conversation that needs to happen.”

Williams considers particularly profound the book’s stories of eyewitness accounts of the shooting, which “show there are real people affected by this. These are not just statistics. Every statistic has a life behind it.”

The title of the book — by Wendy Wright-Williams — “speaks to ‘where we live’ on a superficial level, meaning ‘This is Las Vegas, we chose to live here, and this is where we live’ ” Williams says.

“But it’s also psychically about where we live in our minds and hearts, where we live as a nation, what we allow into our lives.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

Wagonwheel Drive overpass reopens after ice closure
Overpass at Wagonwheel Drive reopens after ice on the onramp caused the ramp to be shut down, Feb. 22, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Keeping warm at the city of Las Vegas’ homeless courtyard
With help from the city of Las Vegas, a Salvation Army shelter stays open during the day Thursday and Friday, offering a safe place for the homeless to find respite from freezing temperatures and snow. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sloppy, Slushy Road Conditions Lead to Slow Traffic
Traffic slowed to a crawl on Jones are near Russell as conditions worsened Thursday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Winter storm blankets west side of Las Vegas Valley
On Wednesday evening through early Thursday a winter storm dumped more than 7 1/2 inches of snow on some parts of the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas snow day for children
Las Vegas kids play in the snow that fell on Feb. 21, 2019. (Belinda Englman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow closes Red Rock Canyon, residents enjoy rare snowfall
The greater Las Vegas area was hit with snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2019. This video shows the areas surrounding Red Rock Canyon and the Summerlin community. Video by: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas kids attend school in the snow
Las Vegas children attend school during a rare snowstorm on Feb. 21, 2019. Staton Elementary School and other CCSD schools remained open. (Glenn Cook/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People enjoying the snow in Summerlin
Fox Hill Park in Summerlin was busy Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019, with people enjoying the rare snow that fell overnight. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP advises motorists to take caution during Las Vegas snowstorm
NHP advised motorists to take caution during the snowstorm in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Timelapse of snow at Red Rock Canyon
More than 7 inches of snow fell in the western areas of the Las Vegas Valley, including Red Rock Canyon, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow falls at Fremont Street Experince in Las Vegas
Snow falls at the Fremont Street Experience early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Las Vegas. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in Summerlin
Snow in Summerlin on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Anastasia Hendrix/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Snow At Red Rock Casino
Early morning snow in Summerlin on Thursday, feb. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Northwest Las Vegas sees heavy snow fall
Drivers on the 215 Beltway in northwest Las Vegas faced heavy snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow at Red Rock Casino and Resort.
Snow continues to fall Thursday morning in Summerlin. Heaviest snow west of 215.
Snow soccer in Las Vegas -VIDEO
Players enjoy a game of soccer during a snowstorm in the Anthem area east of Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow falls Wednesday evening in Las Vegas
Heavy snow began falling Wednesday evening in the southwestern part of the Las Vegas valley. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Snow falls on the Las Vegas Strip
Snow falls outside the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip as the Golden Knights play the Boston Bruins. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow near Deer Springs and Buffalo
Snow near Deer Springs Way and Buffalo Drive in the northwest Las Vegas Valley on Feb. 20, 2019.(Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in Las Vegas at Red Rock Casino Resort
A winter storm brings snow to Red Rock Casino Resort in Summerlin on Feb. 20, 2019. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February 20 snow in Centennial Hills (Part 2)
Snowstorm in the far northwest valley. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February 20 snow in Centennial Hills
Snowstorm in the far northwest valley. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NDOT prepares for snow and ice from winter storm
The Nevada Department of Transportation gears up to keep roads open when snow and ice hit the Las Vegas valley.
Developer gets approval to build homes at Bonnie Springs
The Clark County Planning Commission has approved a plan to build 20 homes on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working cats at St. John the Baptist Church
Parish councilmember John Koutsulis talks about the two cats St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church have adopted as part of a working cats program.
Lee Canyon snow makes skiers smile
Skiers and snow boarders took advantage of the Presidents Day holiday and the recent snowfall at Lee Canyon, outside of Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston gets fresh blanket of snow
A winter storm drops nearly four inches of fresh snow on Sunday, February 17, 2019 at Mount Charleston outside Las Vegas. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in the Las Vegas Valley
Snow accumulated in the Las Vegas Valley for the first time in more than a decade, with snow falling mostly in the western, northwestern and southern areas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review Journal) @bizutesfaye
Snow at US 95 and Lee Canyon Road
Passers-by pulled off Lee Canyon Road northwest of Las Vegas Monday to play in the fresh snow. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Road truck on an empty I-15
Snow and ice contributed to the closure of Interstate 15 near Primm. Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing