The opening scene of Colin Devonshire’s graphic novel came to him in a dream.
A Boston-based emergency physician and comic book author, Devonshire woke up after envisioning a picturesque suburban street, where everyone tending to their lawns is suddenly and inexplicably prompted to mass migrate to the same place. There begins the doctor’s crowdfunded and partially released book, “By the Time I Get to Dallas.”
“When the apocalypse finally came, it wasn’t so bad,” Devonshire wrote. “The travelers didn’t want to eat our brains. They just wanted to get to Dallas — really badly.”
Devonshire’s novel goes on to follow a failing medical student, Rudy Deckhart, who must end the illness-induced chaos around him (and save his girlfriend, too). He’s released two of the series’ five parts on his website, pitdocpress.com, so far. The latest addition came out on May 15.
“At its core, the book is about being responsible for other people,” said Devonshire in a phone call Monday.
Now a full-time staffer at Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Hospital, he started the novel during a monthlong sabbatical from MetroWest Medical Center in 2013. Devonshire attended Yale University, and went on to medical school at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester.
During his 2013 break from the medical world, he started sketching out the plot of a comic book in his basement and hired pencilers and colorists to do the artwork.
“It was this weird idea in the back of my mind, and now it’s blossomed into this years-long project," said Devonshire.
He draws inspiration from graphic novels he read as a kid in the ’80s, which he called “the golden age of comics.” Some of his favorites? “Watchmen,” “Batman: Dark Knight,” and “Sandman.”
Devonshire never expected his work — about a fictional apocalypse — to be so fitting for our cultural moment.
“It’s almost funny because people migrating to the same spot is pretty much the opposite of social distancing,” said Devonshire.
He’s financed the project out of his own pocket and with donations from his Kickstarter campaign. Readers can buy limited-edition print copies of each section online (though production is currently halted due to COVID-19). One day, he hopes, he’ll get all five parts finished and published.
The writing is a good distraction for the doctor, who has been treating an influx of coronavirus patients at his hospital since March.
“I get to come home, see my kids, and devote my nervous and anxious feeling to the comic,” he said.