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Archive for the ‘Comix Creation’ Category

Buckeye Blitz!

Written on Wednesday, December 13th, 2023 [permanent link]

I am closing the 20th anniversary year of Chester Comix LLC with a gift to myself.

In 20 years and 38 books, I’ve covered the big stuff that kids need to know in school. The Civil War! George Washington! World War II! The Civil Rights Movement! Harriet Tubman! I am now free to draw quirkier things and fill in the odd and the less well-known stories between the big stuff. It’s a delicious freedom to draw whatever history interests me the most.

Chester began as a Virginia history storyteller. As I grew the business, the blue crab expanded his range and told a local history in Massachusetts and published a North Carolina history comic. The smartest busines right now would be to work on a state history of California or New York—nice, big markets with lots of well-funded public schools full of teachers who could use a comic about their state history!

But at this anniversary moment, I found that my patriotism for my home state was too strong. It was time to tell the story of Ohio and weave my own story into it. Since I moved back in 2015, it’s been a joy to search out the local details of hundreds of years of Ohio history. I’ve enjoyed wandering through Ohio towns that I never set foot in before. History is always informed by what we see and feel today, and I have also been inspired to do this new book by observing new history unfold over these eight years back in the Buckeye land.

I felt this so strongly that I made myself serve as Chester’s companion this time! I’ve never done that before, but this project was too perfectly personal. One example of that: After I moved back, my hometown newspaper was kind enough to do a profile of me and my historical cartooning; the story ran on the same day that the paper’s front page announced that the second-to-last big factory in my hometown was closing.

Now OHIO: Crossroad of the Nation is published. Will this book sell? Over 20 years, I’ve gotten only one Ohio museum to carry Chester Comix. Will this be the book that cracks open this market?

Here’s the secret: I don’t care! Bad business, I know. But I am already happy that the book exists. I’m sending copies to friends and family. It’s a gift back to all the people who contributed to this wonderful life I’ve had. And it’s a gift to myself. Any sales of the book now will be as delicious as putting a chocolate covering over a ball of peanut butter.

— Hey! I just got an order from a museum in New Concord, Ohio! WOOOOOT!!!

Posted in Author's Purpose, Comix Creation | Comments Off on Buckeye Blitz!

Wonder Women of . . . MY Century!

Written on Friday, July 16th, 2021 [permanent link]

The tweet joke I saw this morning applies to me, too: I’m easy to ID check now because my birthday year begins in a “19.” Don’t look now, but the 21st Century is now 1/5 over!

I had the good fortune to meet one of the women that I drew on the cover of my newest book—but now even Sally Ride has passed from our timeline. I’ve lived more than half a century myself. “History” is overlapping me!

My new book is “Wonder Women of the 20th Century,” and my next one will be about the Korea and Vietnam wars. It’s an odd sensation to draw and color scenes that I remember as current events. The good news is that my experience gives me important perspective. I’ve seen the rise and fall of ideas. I’ve seen progress and retreat.

Ride was historic for being the first American woman to go to space, and now women routinely go to the International Space Station to do important research. My own perspective was that I was just another NASA fan who eagerly watched her first flight on TV – but then I got to meet her and shake her hand in my first few weeks of college in 1985 – and then just a few months later I saw her rise to the terrible task of figuring out what had gone wrong in the Challenger shuttle explosion. The nation was in shock, but she went to work to get us to an understanding that would enable our space program to continue. Ride wasn’t just a historic first. She was a pivotal part of the United States space program throughout the 1980s.

Jane Addams also shaped the world we live in today, though her influence was at the very beginning of the 20th Century. (I did NOT get to meet her.) Most Americans don’t know her story—which makes me want to publish and promote it even more. She helped to make social work a profession, she pushed Chicago to start the nation’s first juvenile court system, and she got child labor laws passed to keep children out of factories.

Addams was one of the first stories I drew when Chester became a weekly feature in 1999, and it has one of my favorite panels: her standing in a garbage bin as a fierce champion of good sanitation for the poor sections of cities. But her story stayed out of print for 20 years after it appeared in the newspaper. When the COVID lockdown took hold in March 2020, her biography was one of the stories that I expanded and added to my smartphone app’s library. Usually, I take the five pages from a Chester story in the printed books and expand the story on the app. The Jane Addams biography becomes the first story to go in the reverse direction. Adding the app panels back into the bio created a story that is seven pages in the new printed book! She deserves it 😉

And if I get a few more years to do my storytelling, I’ll attempt a sequel of this sequel. Who should go in a “Wonder Women of the 21st Century”—-????

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Zombie Abe Lincoln!

Written on Saturday, July 28th, 2018 [permanent link]

I have some awesome shelved projects.

That rough draft for a whole comic about Ancient India got approval from every educator I showed it to – right up to college professors who study that culture saturated with history and myth. I planned to pay for this book myself because I would sell a LOT of copies to a giant Virginia school district that mandated the teaching of Ancient India. But the draft made district officials too nervous, I lost the main customer, and I never touched the draft again.

Once a museum director asked me to make a pitch for a comic book biography of General George Marshall. It would have been hard to draw a whole book about Marshall, since his genius was in PLANNING (lots of drawings of MEETINGS!!}, but I was willing to try because he was a major force in the World War II era. The money people wouldn’t pay for even a draft to test this idea.

I voluntarily drew and colored two pages to demonstrate a comic version of a high school textbook about the core debates that have echoed through our politics for more than two centuries. I was excited to use color flow to show how two basic viewpoints on an issue (big vs. small government!} collided in a historical era. Those two pages came out beautifully. The textbook maker decided NAAAAAAH.

A lot of good ideas get stuck on the chit-chat side of the money contract. One woman’s vision to have me tell the history of her cute little Virginia town never got to the money stage. There are countless party conversations where someone gets a light bulb about matching my art to their favorite history, and then no one ever follows up.

Sometimes we get past the contract phase. Last year a major retelling of the Lewis and Clark expedition from the viewpoint of the Native American nations fell apart because the ambitious rough draft showed what the Native Americans thought — too dangerous. The buyers bailed.

When the Lewis and Clark project vanished, I got a clear view of my landscape of half-finished ideas. And there was Abe.

I rough drafted a whole book about Abraham Lincoln a decade ago, hoping to get some sales off of the bicentennial celebration of his birth. I . . . uhhhhh. . . missed that window. Other projects came along with checks attached to them, and I took those to pay the mortgage. Doing a book purely for myself, paid for by only me, is a great risk.

Of course, Abe is worth the risk. But I also couldn’t begin on the final drawings for the Abe book until I confronted the truth: I let Abe sit on the shelf so long because I am intimidated by him. I’ve always loved Abe Lincoln, and he’s a towering figure who is hard to sum up in one comic. HUNDREDS of books have been written about him. And my dad loved Lincoln, too. He made sculptures and paintings of Abe for me. Returning to Abe this year would mean I would have to go back into the tunnel where I left the Abe draft years ago and carry it forward in the chill air left after my dad’s passing in 2015. Could I finally get Abe all the way through, out into the light? Could I stay focused for three months, or would I nibble awhile and then leave him behind in the dark again?

I hope you like new book.

Posted in Author's Purpose, Civil War, Comix Creation | Comments Off on Zombie Abe Lincoln!

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