Kokkola city Journal 17.1. 2018 l Maria Store
Two cousins publish their first graphic novel, both having been lifelong enthusiasts for the art
As little boys, cousins Teemu Haapaniemi and Tero Harsunen used to play together and shared an equal, vivid interest in comic books.
Now, decades later, they have published their own co-authored graphic novel and more is on the way. Wendimension: DAD ½ is the first part of the first episode and the second part is already in the works. The story is meant to continue for at least two further episodes.
The project began one and half years ago when Harsunen was visiting his birthplace of Kokkola. Conversation naturally steered towards their beloved hobby.
– Teemu brought out his collection and it made us super nostalgic. I had sketched some comic book villains in my spare time, and I showed them to him.
Harsunen had turned modern phenomena, those that mostly adults have to deal with, into evil physical beings.
– For example, I gave the feeling of anxiety a physical body, and made some still images.
Haapaniemi was immediately on board with the idea, and the duo started brainstorming. In two weeks they had produced a hundred pages of text.
– I thought there needs to be something to balance out these villains. So, next we came up with Wendy, Haapaniemi says.
In the graphic novel 9-year-old Wendy turns into a superhero to face off against these beings. The villains are demons that act unbeknownst to adults as malefactors in their lives. One of these adults in the story is Wendy’s father.
– A little girl as the protagonist felt perfect. It would have been too obvious to choose an adult turned into a child by some magic potion, or a vengeful Punisher-type of character. Those have been done too many times, says Harsunen.
Haapaniemi wanted to tell a story that is rooted in reality.
– Wendy lives in a separate reality from the rest of us. Her father’s burdens and agony appear to her as fearsome creatures. He does not understand his daughter and feels powerless.
A little girl as the protagonist felt perfect. It would have been too obvious to choose an adult turned into a child by some magic potion, or a vengeful Punisher-type of character.
Harsunen, an AD for an advertising agency, says comic books have continued to be a part of his life throughout his adulthood.
– I mostly read them. In recent years I have spent some time doing my own sketching, but my drawings have never progressed into a novel. I knew that developing a story is extremely hard work.
The duo have developed the concept for their novel together. Haapaniemi took charge of the script and Harsunen of the graphics.
– I wrote the script in the form of a film script, and Tero could use that as basis for his work.
As their major influences Tero and Teemu mention X-men writers Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Their 1970’s comic books are among those read by Haapaniemi and Harsunen when they were children.
Haapaniemi’s sister-in-law Jonna Urpilainen oversees the voice of Wendy.
– I knew I could not write in the voice of a 9-year-old girl, so I asked Jonna to take over that part, says Haapaniemi.
Urpilainen is an undergraduate in literary studies in the University of Turku, and has enjoyed writing since she was a child. The novel is the first major project for Urpilainen, as she usually writes short stories and lyric poetry.
– Teemu and Tero conceptualised the story and my job was to understand their vision, and bring my own input. Admittedly, it has been difficult to step into the shoes of Wendy and write from the perspective of a child. So, altogether the project has been very interesting and I am looking forward to the next part.
The first part of the graphic novel was self-published.
– Our goal is to distribute the later parts with a publisher. If we end up not finding a publisher, we will do it ourselves. We are very proud of our project, says Haapaniemi.
– It has been a childhood dream come true, Harsunen says.