Center for Strategic Communication

Billy Tucci, co-creator of The Blackwater Chronicles, works the booth at Comic-Con International. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired

SAN DIEGO — War correspondent Robert Young Pelton approached Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary company Blackwater, with a bold proposal in late 2004. Pelton, a veteran who’s covered more than a dozen conflicts, wanted to ride along for a month with the toughest for-profit soldiers in Prince’s outfit, in what was then the most dangerous place in the world: Route Irish, the 12-mile stretch of highway connecting Baghdad’s airport to the Green Zone, the fortified neighborhood surrounding the U.S. embassy.

In exchange for unprecedented access, Pelton would tell the real story of Blackwater’s security contractors, men that Pelton and his co-writer Billy Tucci later described as being “attacked by terrorists, hated by the media [and] loved by the troops and the men they protected.”

Pelton’s upcoming graphic novel The Blackwater Chronicles is the result. Based on Pelton’s book Licensed to Kill and co-written by Pelton and Tucci, with pencils by Tucci and colors by Brian Miller, The Blackwater Chronicles is a gritty, unflinching portrait of hard men in a hard place at a moment in history that most Americans would probably prefer to forget. Wired met up with Tucci at Comic-Con International for a preview of the graphic novel, slated for a 2013 release.

Page 1 of The Blackwater Chronicles announces itself in no-bullshit terms. A man with piercing blue eyes scowls from underneath a military-style helmet. He’s sitting in the cupola of an armored vehicle with one gloved hand resting on a pintle-mounted machine gun.