Occasionally a graphic novel will surface that doesn’t feature men wearing spandex and capes nor villains dressed in knee-high boots, metal gloves and a metal mask, yet the book will successfully manage to tell the story of good conquering evil. Code Word: Geronimo — published by IDW Publishing and written by retired U.S. Marine Capt. Dale Dye and his wife, Dr. Julia Dye, Ph.D., — fits into that category. The book, which is available now on store shelves, details SEAL Team 6’s heroic takedown of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Comics Bulletin chatted with the Dyes about their reaction to being the first to pen a graphic novel that re-tells the SEALs’ secret mission.
Andre Lamar: Where were you when you found out Osama bin Laden was killed? What was going through your mind?
Dr. Julia Dye: I was watching 60 Minutes when the show was interrupted with the news. We were glued to the television and on the phone and email for information both public and discrete.
Capt. Dye: I was in my home-office early in the morning, pondering plot lines for a new novel I’ve been contemplating when the first reports broke on local radio. I immediately dropped everything else and began to follow the story as it broke.
Lamar: What sparked your interest in writing Code Word: Geronimo?
Capt. Dye: Julia and I had been contemplating the whole graphic novel genre for some time as something we might like to experiment with in future publishing projects. We’d been talking to our partners at Charlie Foxtrot Entertainment [a military-based entertainment company in which Capt. Dye is the company’s director] as they’ve been involved in graphic novel artwork for some time. Artist Gerry Kissell actually broached the possibility of doing a graphic novel telling the story of the OBL raid in a truly contemporary medium. It seemed like a great fit for all of us.
Dr. Dye: The story is such an American triumph — more than one administration, civilians and military working together, not a Republican or Democratic issue, real Americans coming together and accomplishing a great mission.
Lamar: How long had you two been planning to write this book?
Dr. Dye: We knew when the story broke that it needed to be told. When we realized that the right medium was the graphic novel format, the pieces fell together.
Lamar: Why did both of you decide this project was better suited as a graphic novel, opposed to a novel?
Capt. Dye: Well, we were quickly convinced that the story might be overcome in the standard short-attention-span news coverage that’s typical today and that disturbed both of us. This is a story that truly says something about the capability and talent of our military special operators, not to mention the intelligence gatherers and analysts who worked so hard to find OBL. We wanted a way to keep it in the hearts and minds of young people who are most affected by elimination of the titular head of al Qaeda, so we thought a graphic novel might be just the ticket to get that accomplished.
Dr. Dye: Another part of the answer is that we had such an amazing team with John Del Vecchio and Doug Esposito at Charlie Foxtrot Entertainment, Gerry Kissell and Hazmat Studios, and all the folks at IDW Publishing. It was the right team to tackle this project and get it done right.
Lamar: Describe what each of your contributions were to this project.
Capt. Dye: Neither of us had ever tried to do a graphic novel, so we had to sort of make a game plan and then divide up the workload on a very tight deadline. Julia has a really outstanding academic background, so she dove right into the timeline and sort of created a framework for me to follow in writing the script. I have some really good professional contacts in the special operations community, so I started making calls and asking for what details I could get that would flesh out the story. We were very careful to recognize what we could and could not reveal to protect tactics and techniques and keep our sources confidential.
Lamar: Now that the book has been released, you and Capt. Dye are cemented as the first to write a graphic novel detailing bin Laden’s death. How excited are you about making history?
Dr. Dye: Well, it’s humbling to have anything to do with telling this story at all. First or not, the exciting part is getting the story of the real heroes out.
Capt. Dye: It’s an honor but that has nothing to do with being first out of the gate. What’s pleasing to me is that we found a method and an opportunity to shine some light on the tremendously talented and dedicated people who carried out the raid.
Lamar: What was your greatest challenge in writing Code Word: Geronimo?
Capt. Dye: Well, there were obviously some things I discovered from confidential sources that I could not include in the script for perfectly understandable reasons, so I had to fudge some things. There were also a few gaping holes in the information I was able to confirm, so I had to call on my own military background and indulge in what we call SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guesses) to fill in the details of the story. It’s interesting to note that as we find out more in the media, most of my SWAG seems to have been right on the money or very close to it.
Dr. Dye: There was certainly a challenge in the amount of conflicting information that was presented after the raid.
Lamar: On a personal note, how do you think President Obama handled the takedown of bin Laden? Do you think bin Laden should’ve stood trial to tell his side of the story?
Capt. Dye: My sources indicate — and I firmly believe — that there was never a question of arresting OBL. This was a strike mission all the way and I believe that was the correct decision. As for how President Obama handled it. Well, he pulled the trigger and let the professionals get on with it, so I can’t argue with that. I believe Americans for the most part know enough about OBL not to be particularly interested in his side of the story regarding the 9/11 attacks and subsequent AQ operations. Had we dithered around, captured him and put him on trial, we’d just have been giving him a bully pulpit to trumpet his radical nonsense. We’ve had enough of that.
Dr. Dye: I’m not in any position to be a backseat driver on an operation of this nature. And I think your question simplifies a very complex issue. It’s not a choice between taking him down or putting him on trial. Who would conduct the trial? Could you decide who would make up a jury of his peers? What is justice? I think, bottom line, is that civilization was not compatible with bin Laden, and to have a civilized world, he had made choices that exempted him from continuing to be a part of it.
Lamar: What’s your response to people who might shy away from reading Code Word: Geronimo because they feel the death of bin Laden shouldn’t be celebrated?
Capt. Dye: I think that’s short-sighted. We’ve needed a signal success in this long and often frustrating war on the type of terrorism practiced by OBL and his AQ minions. The surge of spirit, determination and renewed patriotism that the mission spurred is good for this country. We are involved in a war, whether one has been officially declared by Congress or not, and in war people get killed. That’s a sad fact but it’s not something we can ignore.
Dr. Dye: I don’t think it celebrates the death of bin Laden. I’m not in favor of rejoicing in anyone’s death. But I do think behavior has consequences, and he had to face those consequences. The celebration isn’t his death, but the spirit and commitment of Americans to see a difficult duty and see it through.
Lamar: Lastly, what other projects can we expect from both of you in the future?
Capt. Dye: We’ll see how this first effort is received and then make some decisions about the future. We have some other stories that might work well in this format and I’ve learned a lot about writing for graphic novels. It was fun and I wouldn’t mind doing it again when the right story presents.