CARROT RIVER — Rhett Stevenson grew up in Carrot River, but now is teaching in Japan and publishing his own comic with people from across the globe.
Stevenson said he had a passion for writing since elementary school in Carrot River when found reading to help as an escapism with bullying and dealing with a speech impediment.
“I would find myself daydreaming about the stories,” he said. “When I would ride behind my dad on the snowmobile, I would just dream of stories to create in my head.”
In high school he decided he was interested in becoming a writer. Despite this, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that he started to develop his graphic novel series “Sokos”.
Sokos is about the end of civilization on earth, where the survivors flee to find a new home.
The internet was a big tool utilized by Stevenson during its creation. It was from there he learned to self-publish, getting informed on everything from what paper to print comics on, to how many pages should be in a comic.
Even the book’s contents itself were influenced from social media.
“I know that the refugee crisis is something that is hotly debated in and outside of social media,” Stevenson said. “I thought it would be interesting to propose the question of what would happen if the whole human race became refugees?”
That was how he came up with the concept for his book.
In July 2018, Stevenson moved to Japan to teach.
“There wasn't any big problems with writing my comic when I arrived in Japan,” he said. “It was shortly before coming in Japan that I decided to switch from writing a book to writing a comic.”
He said that teaching has made him more aware of how he used grammar in his everyday life.
It was in October where he found his illustrator, Sarah Grünebaum, online. Grünebaum lives and operates out of Germany.
“One thing I learned is how multicultural this comic is from a creation standpoint,” Stevenson said. “My illustrator is from Germany, while the person who helped her colour is from England. It’s interesting that globalization is about how it is helping people communicate together with the use of the internet and other technology, which certainly helped me to create my comic.”
While they worked together, they never met in person. They would communicate by email and share files with each other on websites which allowed them to do that.
Stevenson hired her through the social media site Reddit. He also used Reddit to post a few pages on the site to receive criticism and feedback, which he took to improve upon on the comic.
While the online flow of information gave him inspiration for the story, he said it also caused him cynicism.
“I think one of the most difficult artistic processes for me is diving into the hard hitting elements of my story. I know that throughout most of my late high school and university experience. I became cynical to the headlines around the world,” Stevenson said.
“I know that it is becoming easier today to become pessimistic at humanity and pointing at all the flaws of being a human. I think this can be contributed to social media and how quickly we gather information due to the internet. Often or not, we become overwhelmed with negative and depressing news headlines throughout the world.”
For him, his book was a personal reflection on humanity. He said as he developed his book he found it challenging to overcome his own preconceived notions and perceptions of people.
“Sure, we have our faults, such as we can be a self-interest creature where we refused to deal with a problem… until we are affected by it,” Stevenson said, giving climate change as an example. “I think if you look throughout the globe, there are individuals refusing to give up. I think this ties into my story.”