UA Professor Writes Comic Book About Marshallese Community

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- - A University of Arkansas professor stepped out of his comfort zone as a documentary filmmaker to help write a comic book. 

Professor Dale Carpenter has always told stories through film, but when he was approached by The Weather Channel to produce a graphic novel, he was intrigued. 

"You can tell real stories, you can do journalism and use graphic images that look like cartoon panels," Carpenter said.  

Carpenter wrote the story and cartoonist Nate Powell did the art. Carpenter says the graphic novel is just like a news article. 

"Everything in there is real, it's just instead of interviews on video, it's interviews in panels of drawings," Carpenter said. 

Carpenter worked with Melisa Laelan, the President of the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese.

"I believe there has been many videos and many formats...and I just think it's a fun way to put the story in," Laelan said.  

Laelan became the novel's narrator. 

"It just seemed natural for her to be the one that told the story," Carpenter said. 

The novel explores how rising sea levels are affecting the Marshall Islands, which could be bringing more Marshallese people to Arkansas. 

"If the Marshall Islands becomes uninhabitable in any places, then those people have to have some place to go and Arkansas is the perfect place because they already have family and friends here," Carpenter said.  

Carpenter says it is important to tell the story accurately. 

"I wanted to make sure we didn't kind of overblow the situation, most of the Marshallese are here for better jobs, better healthcare, better schools," Carpenter said.  

Laelan believes many of her fellow islanders will choose to stay but those who come to Arkansas will find a community. 

"Springdale really has become the hub, this really is the home away from home," Laelan said.  

If you would like to read Carpenter's graphic novel in full - click here.

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