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The Source: Graphic Novel Captures Untold Story Of Iraq War

Hollywood, understandably, has a way of focusing on the drama of war. But War Zones aren't always pulse-pounders and hair-raising hellscapes. 

Sometimes war zones are paperwork and long walks with heavy packs. Sometimes the stories most worth paying attention to are the ones after the fire fight.

A page from the graphic novel 'The White Donkey.' Author and illustrator Maximilian Uriarte used washes of color to denote places his book -- green for Hawaii, blue for Portland, Ore., sepia for Iraq and a red for Twentynine Palms.

"The White Donkey," the new graphic novel from MaximilianUriarte is a serious effort to capture the untold stories of serving in a combat zone.  The mental and physical toll combat can have on a soldier.

Uriarte is a Marine combat veteran whose unit was tasked with escorting company command around Al Anbar province, his first tour. He reflected on that period for The Marine Times, where his comic strip would become a fixture later in his career.

I was 20 years old, and I was terrified.   During our six-month-long work up, we had it drilled into our heads to be suspicious of anything out of the ordinary in the road. Craters, trash, dirt — anything could be an IED. What they didn't tell us is that, in a Third World country ravaged for years by war, there would be craters and trash everywhere. During one of my first mounted patrols in-country, I had assuredly and resolutely convinced myself that I was going to die there.

The paradoxical reason Uriarte found himself in this place, manning a 50 caliber machine gun on top of an Mine resistant transport (MRAP)? To become a better artist, he says. But while that has worked out for him so far he wouldn't recommend letting your commander discover your talent.

"If your command discovers you're an artist, you're going to be told all the time to paint a mural on wall," he says laughing. Any and all art related projects become your projects, from murals to tattoo designs.


His web comic "Terminal Lance" - which would later be picked up by the Marine Corps Times - came about as result of wanting to make a comic that was somewhat subversive, critical of the marine life from a marine's perspective. There was nothing out there like it at the time, he says.

"Terminal Lance" is full of Marine parlance and trying to capture what a grunt's life is like. While "Terminal Lance" focuses on the absurdity of war and life, "The White Donkey" is far more serious.

Credit Maximilan Uriarte
“Dismay,” original pub date Feb. 27, 2012, in The Marine Times.


Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive