“Revolutionary City” is the first of a new imprint of Chester Comix: Choice Comix. The choose-your-own-story chapter books were a big hit when introduced 20 years ago, but I’ve never seen anyone do a choose-your-path comic before. That structure was a great fit with the “Revolutionary City” storyline at Colonial Williamsburg, and I plan to expand this idea to all eras of history. Which side would have chosen in the Civil War? Would you have marched for a woman’s right to vote? Was it worth it to get involved in another war in Europe after World War I had cost so many lives?
History is about interesting people making important choices. These books will give readers a closer look at those choices, and give me the chance to show more detail than I have in the broader storylines of Chester the Crab’s stories. All of my comix are designed to show that the people of the past were not born statues — that George Washington and Benedict Arnold and Jane Vobe made dramatic choices and didn’t know how the story was going to turn out. I even use the present tense in my books to emphasize that you-are-there feeling. And ‘Revolutionary City’ fit right into that mission to free history from the dry dates and names chiseled into the marble statues.
Because I’ve lived in Williamsburg for 17 years, I’ve seen many of the characters in the ‘Revolutionary City’ storyline portrayed already in other ways at Colonial Williamsburg. I love the way this particular program draws all those stories together and connects them in some very dramatic times. It’s a great microscope on a time of upheaval.
For this book and the Choice Comix series I invented a new narrator, John Lee Otter. He’s an old bluesman who has seen it all. Wandering around Colonial Williamsburg with his guitar, he may remind visitors of the wandering musicians who pop up in the taverns. But the other main character is VERY familiar to me already — he is my son Truman. Like most of my ‘ideas,’ there’s very little invention to it — he’s really in Colonial Williamsburg! He’s a junior interpreter at the Geddy House and has been known to sneak over to “Revolutionary City” and pitch in his opinion to the crowd debates. My older son, Samuel, also works in costume, out at Great Hopes Plantation.