Ray Nadine, born and raised in central Illinois, has been passionate about storytelling since a young age. Drawing inspiration from manga and webcomics, Ray’s artistic journey led them to self-publish several books before their debut graphic novel, ‘Light Carries On.’
In “Light Carries On,” we meet Leon, a young photographer whose life takes an unexpected turn when his camera malfunctions. Forced to borrow a used camera from his mother’s antique store, Leon unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that connects him to the ghost of the camera’s previous owner.
We had an opportunity to pick Ray’s mind for additional details regarding the novel, and here’s what we found out.
Comic Basics: You’ve tackled a lot of social issues in ‘Light Carries On.’ from PTSD to toxic relationships, financial inequality, grief, loss, and depression. At moments, it feels overwhelming. I suppose that you’ve wanted to showcase how overwhelming life can be at times, but what was your true inspiration when you were creating this graphic novel?
Ray Nadine: I suppose I wasn’t intentionally trying to make it overwhelming. I drew most of the inspiration from my own experiences, like depression and toxic relationships. So it just made sense to talk about these experiences. But I can see why the story would feel overwhelming to someone who isn’t experiencing these things constantly.
There are a lot of things going on. I mean, Cody’s mom dies, they are queer, and Leon is financially struggling. There are a lot of things going on, and most of them are not positive, and this leads me to my next question, which you have already partially answered. Is it based on your personal experience because the story feels extremely personal?
Oh yes, Obviously, I’ve never been in the army, but I’ve had complicated relationships, I’ve had financial struggles, I’ve had PTSD from the toxic relationships. I wanted to explore these things I’ve experienced, but the causes of these things in my character’s lives are very different than my own, which helps give me a degree of separation from these traumas. It makes it easier to write about them in that way.
Are the playlists featured in the novel your own favorites?
Yeah, Yeah, a lot of them. The playlist that I’ve made, a lot of the songs I listened to while I was writing it and they’ve served as the inspiration for the book. I really, really love music, and every story I ever write, it always has a playlist.
You have a pretty diverse music taste, If I may add, very interesting. Definitely, a few of my own favorites found themselves on that list.
Oh, which ones?
My Chemical Romance, and now that we’re at the topic of inspiration. The color blue seems to be the prevailing motif in the story. Why did you settle for the color blue? Is it tied to depression and sadness? The whole story has a melancholic feel to it.
I really like that shade of blue, but it’s definitely, as you’ve said. This blue has a really melancholic feel to it.
Several scenes, for example, Cody’s death scene and Leon’s Afghanistan scenes, are colored in red. How come you didn’t use different colors to showcase Cody’s past life, as most flashback scenes are done in blue?
Mostly it was to add a sense of consistency; flashbacks scenes have a black border on the pages. Obviously, the darkroom had to be done in red. And then you have the Afghanistan scenes and Cody’s death. I wanted red to kind of signify the intensity of those scenes.
‘Light Carries On’ is not a typical “superhero story” that we usually cover, and this graphic novel seems like a perfect source for a live-action adaptation. Do you think Light Carries On would be perfect for a movie or even a series adaption?
Oh my god yeah, a lot of the scenes were created with movie composition in mind, I draw a lot of inspiration from cinematography, so it definitely shows in my work. I think they would easily translate to television.
Are there any specific scenes or moments in the comic that hold particular importance for you? Some scenes that you feel attached to more than others.
Definitely all the Slurpee scenes. One of my best friends and I would just go hang out and get a Slurpee together when we were sad. And even though I ended up moving to Chicago, I continued to honor that. It’s a mundane thing, but it is memorable and has meaning in my life now.
So I take that Cody’s support network is inspired by your real-life friends?
Oh absolutely. None of the characters are directly inspired by one person in particular, but more so inspired by the ways my friends have supported me.
That’s quite a legendary shout-out. And now that we’ve covered your favorite scenes, I should mention that most of my favorite scenes involve humor. Cody is pretty immature, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but how did you approach incorporating humor into the story without undermining the serious things?
I’m not sure what motivated me to incorporate humor other than, even in this melancholy, it’s nice to get a break now and then. Even with depression in real life, it’s like, you’re still gonna have good days and enjoy yourself. Even on hard days, there are lighter moments. So I like to include humor.
Considering that Cody and Leon are gay, and it’s one of the major points in the story, how has the response been from readers and the LGBTQ+ community to the series so far?
Oh yeah, I didn’t get any hateful criticism regarding the character’s queerness. At least, I haven’t seen any. It’s been overwhelmingly positive. The queerness is such an important part of the story and my life.
It’s what makes Cody’s and Leon’s story so great. It wouldn’t work without the queerness. So, do you plan on expanding ‘Light Carries On’ perhaps by showcasing protagonists from different walks of life?
Probably not in the same sense as ‘Light Carries On,’ but there are stories grounded in my personal life that I could explore.
Speaking on upcoming projects, do you have any upcoming projects that you can discuss?
Right now, I’m working on a new graphic novel called ‘Station Six.’ It’s about two teenage girls who are gymnasts. One of them is hard-of-hearing, and it explores how they have become friends and how they developed alternative means of communication to stay close to one another, and it has themes of coping with grief and anxiety and dealing with changes that are coming in that part of their life.
So it’s going to be a coming-of-age story?
Yeah, yeah, I used to be a gymnast. It’s going to be another personal story. I wanted to create a story where I pay homage to that part of my life that is so integral to who I am right now. My work habits, determination, and a lot of things were influenced by that.