Unless you’ve experienced cancer personally — whether suffering through it yourself or alongside a loved one — you can’t possibly imagine the horrors it brings upon those who have. I’ve been there a couple times, supporting people who are very dear to me: my brother Jerry is a Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, while my mom, Kathy, died in 2003 after a brief, terrifying battle with breast cancer that quickly spread to her lungs, filled them with fluid, and drowned her. The thought of her very painful death is hard enough to bear, but some memories are even worse — particularly, those very dark nights where the side-effects of chemo seemed to possess her with some unassailable evil that caused her to say very hurtful things that, while easily dismissed as morphine-enduced nonsense, have haunted me for more than a decade.
I’m thankful, at least, that her ordeal wasn’t protracted. Many people living with cancer have to fight their own bodies for years just for the right to survive. Finding some means to escape the day-to-day realities of cancer is important no matter who you are, but with sick children who often spend their entire lives confined to hospitals, it becomes particularly crucial. Enter D.M. Cumbo’s Dreamside, a new project by veteran game and film animator David Cumbo, whose recent portfolio includes Insomniac Games’ Sunset Overdrive and Slow Down, Bull. Dreamside is a multimedia experiment that mixes the traditional graphic novel with motion comic style video and an ethereal soundtrack to tell the story of Sarah, a young girl with cancer who taps into the powers of her own imagination to find answers to the most important question she’ll ever ask: why am I here?
Dreamside was born out of Cumbo’s experiences in college as a volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he witnessed first hand the effects of cancer on kids who would never know a life without it. It’s a story that mixes elements of beloved escapisms like Spirited Away, The Neverending Story, and Alice in Wonderland, and one that, like its forebears, is rooted in very real struggles. What at first seems like a technicolor dreamscape eventually devolves into something much more insidious, and Sarah will have to rely upon the lessons she learns through her struggles, as well as the help of a dear friend, to make it through to the end of her journey. From Cumbo’s website:
As Sarah’s illness grows more severe, dreams clash with nightmares. Her terror takes on a physical form spawned from smoke and sinew mixed with a terrible memory: the horrific Gray Dragon. The demon will work tirelessly against Sarah as she journeys to find “The Heart of Dreamside.”
Sarah’s quest is massive. Her goal is distant, and her journey fraught with pain. Every moment will make her grow. Every bit of suffering will lead to meaning. Follow Sarah on her grand adventure through the real, the surreal, and everything in-between as she seeks meaning and peace amidst the confusion and pain that consumes her life.
Cumbo’s plan is to release Dreamside as a three-volume graphic novel series, but it will see its initial release as a series of free videos, the first of which premieres September 1st at the Dreamside Website. Check out Cumbo’s work in the gorgeous trailer below, and for more updates on the project’s development, be sure to Like his Facebook page and subscribe over at his official company blog.