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Posts Tagged ‘Chester the Crab’




Battle of Antietam

Written on Monday, September 24th, 2012 [permanent link]

A week ago I woke up in a Maryland field to the sound of a rooster crowing.

And then the cannon started.

After that came the bugles that I normally hear for reveille. But the cannonfire was a nice touch. I’M AWAKE! I’M AWAKE!! My 15-year-old son and I were camping just north of the Antietam National Battlefield with 4,000 other reenactors for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle. The spread of hundreds of canvas tents under the pink morning sky was inspiring. In our four years of reenacting, I’ve never seen more cavalry or more artillery on the field, sweeping to and fro during the afternoon battles for the spectators.

It’s like watching a moving painting. I portray a battlefield cartoonist, so I’m not marching in the lines of blue and gray but standing back on a hill, furiously sketching what it looks like for 400 men to storm a fence held by 250 other men. And I can also zoom down to sketch details that will add depth my own visual storytelling — how does the pot over the campfire look? How does J.E.B. Stuart hold his sword as he charges? And being in the mix of reenactors gives my other senses a chance to record details for me to use later. How hot is it in the wool clothing at midday? How do your feet feel after a day of marching? What does a Civil War mortar sound like when it fires?

Being on the actual field gives me a chance to research outside the box that a movie or TV show presents. The past 20 years have been revolutionary for the increasing number of historical movies and TV shows we get that have told great stories with great accuracy. But movies and TV shows are still a frame, capturing what a director or editor wants you to see — and leaving out the rest of the story. I’ve found that there’s no substitute for being able to stand somewhere to get a sense of the place and the historical event that happened there.

The visuals are a big part of the story of Antietam — the single bloodiest day in American history. Because Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army was caught so close to Washington, DC, a few days after the battle Alexander Gardner was able to photograph the dead men still in the field. Gardner’s photos were the first ever images to show dead soldiers on the field of battle. A New York Times article about the photographs said it was if the “dead had been laid at our doorsteps.” For civilians who still thought the Civil War was a romantic crusade, those photos were an unsettling window to the brutality and waste of the war.

You can read my story about Antietam — which includes info about Gardner’s photos — by visiting the iTune store!

 

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George and Bentley

Written on Friday, February 25th, 2011 [permanent link]

Washington Cover

President’s Day was the release party for my new George Washington biography! Mount Vernon was fee free that day and had more than 15,000 visitors. My booksigning table was positioned right where the crowds came up from their new underground museum — so this was the first signing I’ve ever had where I was in real danger of being trampled!!!! It was a steady view of torsos for 4 hours, and I signed a LOT of comix . . .

This is the cover of the book — I’m glad Mount Vernon’s staff chose this idea. It was FUN to draw. I think this and the “Revolutionary City” comic I did for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are the best history comix I’ve made so far (the GW book is my 29th title!). Can you tell which of the soldiers going in to battle with George is supposed to look like me?? That’s one of the fun things about making your own story — you get to sneak in guest appearances. 😉

For fun, my friend Wendy suggested I also take a picture of all the research I use to make a comic. So here is a look at MOST of the material that informed my writing and drawing of “George Washington Leads the Way” — I did use Internet resources as well, and the historians at Mount Vernon added some important points as they reviewed the drafts. But this pile of paper gives you a good sense of the second step of the author’s process: RESEARCH!

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George Washington Leads the Way!

Written on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 [permanent link]

GWcoverdraft1 GWcoverdraft2

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My George Washington biography for Mount Vernon is being printed RIGHT NOW! As we wait for its release during his birthday celebration in February, I thought you’d like to see some of my rough sketches for the cover.

You see that my sketches don’t get too detailed. They are mainly a guide to location and layout. I’m using a simple, over-the-counter black felt pen to make the lines on a regular piece of typing paper. Look at how I scratched just a few lines for the background troops. I don’t need to draw the details of their uniforms — I’ve got that in my head and will make sure the details get drawn with a nicer pen on nicer paper when I do the final draft.

You can see the main idea that spreads across the different proposals: to show Washington as a MAN OF ACTION. Having the action come right at the reader is a tried-and-true practice to pump up the sense of motion and drama. Of course you see the difference between my head-on view of Washington crossing the Delaware with the famous oil painting showing him in a boat from the side. And the cannon shot of the third sketch seemed the most daring! And hard to pull off, because who has ever really seen a cannon shot from that point-of-view THAT CLOSE? How would I really draw and color that?!?! (And then I started to really miss Martha — and most Americans don’t know that she spent time with George during the harsh Valley Forge winter. So I thought I’d try a cover that combined the drama of Valley Forge with the close relationship the two of them had.)

Which cover do you think the Mount Vernon folks picked?? You can go to Chester’s Facebook page to see; I’ll also post it here in a week. 😉

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