Review: ‘Colonial Comics: New England, 1750-1775’
Colonial Comics: New England, 1750-1775
Edited by Jason Rodriguez
Fulcrum Publishing, $29.95
For ages 12 and up
This anthology of 18 historical comic stories aims “to focus on the people and events that tend to get ignored in American history classes.” It’s an admirable goal, and one that succeeds, opening readers’ eyes to lesser-known but involving figures and events. Stories such as
- “The Devil and Silence Dogood”, by J.L. Bell and Braden Lamb, humorously shows Benjamin Franklin’s early days as a printer’s devil (apprentice) and writer of satire
- “A Lonely Line”, by Sarah Winifred Searle and Carey Pietsch, introduces Molly Ockett, a Native American and Maine legend known for her knowledge of medicine
- “The Newport Riots”, by James Maddox and Rob Dumo, portrays the coming changes and public protest from the scared perspective of crown officials
- “The Grand Illumination”, by Kevin Cooney and Matt Dembicki, illustrates how it’s possible to tweak authority while pretending to honor it in the light of the repeal of the Stamp Act
- “The Stranger’s Corpse”, by J.L. Bell and Jesse Lonergan, tells of the first American casualty during the Boston Massacre
- “The Spunker Club”, by Lora Innes, digresses from politics to look at the mishaps of a group of Harvard medical students trying to option a corpse for their studies
- “Join, or Die!”, by Josh O’Neill and James Comey, sheds light on the first, best-known American political cartoon
bring to life the period and make history come alive in a potent time of pending rebellion. Coincidentally, it’s a particularly timely period in analogy, as debates continue today around whose voice should count in determining the future and politics of the country.
These stories encourage empathy with a variety of viewpoints, as we see and follow lives, whether humorous or tragic. Each story has a text introduction to put them into context and explain any background needed, which aids in comprehension and understanding why the story was selected. Additional spotlight pages add to the overall historical and regional picture.
A final text piece explains how the book’s design was influenced by colonial newspapers, to emphasize how writers fought to influence public attitudes toward rebellion. It’s followed by a bibliography and creator biographies.
The variety of comic styles emphasize straightforward figure work and storytelling. The range of tones means plenty of variety for readers, never knowing what they’ll discover next. Although second in the series (after Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750), readers may find this volume more approachable, as the stories are more dynamic and relate to history they may be more familiar with.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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