This is the first in a series of posts I’m planning on the making of Spot 12.
I first started imagining making a book when Asa was around six months old and we were out of the hospital. The whole experience was so bizarre I thought it would be good comics material, but I also felt it as a big black cloud of grief and trauma that hung over me. Caring for Asa was still extremely complicated and stressful, and I had no space or ability to focus on writing, so the first thing I did was talk onto a cassette tape. I said everything I could remember about those five months, all out of order. I didn’t remember the order of half of the events, it was total chaos. The day I finished making that recording was winter solstice of 2005 and Asa was almost one. I felt lighter, as if that black cloud had a new container.
My friend Susan Steudel worked as a court reporter offered to transcribe the tapes for me and some months later I began to organize the text into a narrative and later still began to draw. The process of writing worked to detangle my thoughts and feelings, rinsing them out like masses of dirty wool. Once I had a solid enough story, I organized it into chapters and pages and began drawing. Drawing made me revisit each event in detail, which was sometimes awful, but it served to comb and plait the wool, in a sense, into a tidy and manageable package that eventually became the book. The drawing took about six months. It was a labor intensive process that I squeezed into the cracks (including hours of insomnia) of the overwhelming care Asa required. It was a full-speed sprint that I collapsed at the end of. I’m pretty sure my right hand went into a coma.
My friend and fellow artist Scott Malin told me about the Xeric Foundation and the grants they for years awarded to artists to self-publish graphic novels, and also introduced me to his friend and comics partner Josue Menjivar. Josue became my comics mentor and took the book project under his wing, designing the book, co-designing the first cover, advising me at many points and spending hours dealing with my rookie mistakes. I was lucky enough to win one of the Xeric Grants of 2008 and in 2009 the book went to the printer.
Spot 12 ~ Description
Spot 12 delivers the gritty details of a new mother and her newborn daughter, Asa, during a five-month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in this visually gripping graphic memoir by Jenny Jaeckel. A routine prenatal exam reveals a dangerous problem, and Jaeckel and her husband find themselves thrust into a world of close calls, sleepless nights, and psychological crises. Surrounded by disagreements and family tensions, death, and questions of faith, Jaeckel struggles to maintain a positive frame of mind.
Against the antiseptic, mechanical reality of the NICU, the dedicated doctors and nurses are drawn as sympathetic and wry animal characters. Doctor Eyes and Nurse Gentlehands are two of the caring individuals who do all they can to save Baby Asa. At times Jaeckel and her husband battle feelings of helplessness and despair, but their determination, hope, insight, bravery, and connection ultimately helps keep their little girl alive.