It took a library to write “Inanna’s Tears,” the latest graphic novel by Rob Vollmar, set in 3000 B.C. Sumer, located in the southern part of modern-day Iraq. With a love for exhaustive research and deep character study, he stretches the expectations of the medium by introducing comics fans to high-minded historical fiction.
The Normanite was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2002 for “Castaways” and followed up with 2006’s “Bluesman,” about a wrongfully accused blues musician fleeing through ’20s-era Arkansas.
“Inanna’s Tears” began as a serialized web comic, but the print edition will be released Saturday at a double book signing at Atomik Pop, alongside J. David Osborne’s debut novel, “By the Time We Leave Here, We’ll Be Friends.” The story of “Tears” begins as an ancient civilization nears the end of 1,000 years of peace and prosperity.
“One thousand years is a long time, taking people from a pastoral life into a civilization,” Vollmar said. “America didn’t even exist 250 years ago; our current relationship with science and logic didn’t exist 500 years.”
Vollmar said illustrator mpMann was a perfect choice as artist since his style was more minimalist and suggestive than intricate and detailed.
“Our two options were to try to make it lush like ‘Bluesman’ and make a lie, and the second option, which his style was perfect for, was to suggest detail, and let the reader see what they want to see,” Vollmar said. “We spent a ton of time looking at textiles, what people wore and what their houses looked like. If we could make it as good as a play, with a good set design and a good costumer, then mission accomplished.”
Vollmar also borrowed from Greek theater for the story structure, focusing on interpersonal relationships rather than heaps of swordplay. He admitted that it isn’t what most people expect from a graphic novel, which is exactly why he wanted to do it.
“When I sat down to write ‘Castaways,’ I was gleeful, because if I was writing narrative about Depression-era South, who do I have to stand behind? Faulkner, Steinbeck. No way would I have written something under those conditions,” he said.
“With comics, I could have counted the amount of meaningful historical fiction on two hands.”