J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Finding “Founding Fathers Funnies”

Peter Bagge made his name as a cartoonist in the magazine Hate. His current project is Apocalypse Nerd, the story of a tech guy trying to survive a nuclear apocalypse. However, many critics say his best work might be a series of short pieces in the back of Apocalypse Nerd called “Founding Fathers Funnies.”

Alas, no “Founding Fathers Funnies” were included in the Apocalypse Nerd paperback collections. My Space/Dark Horse includes a couple of those one-pagers in this free online promotional sample, and two, about George and Martha Washington, appear in the just-published My Space Dark Horse Presents, volume 1. But they’re still too hard to find.

Here’s a tantalizing taste from Ink 19’s interview with Bagge, showing how much thought he puts into those comical portrayals.

How much did you research the different historical figures? Are their personalities solely something that you’ve projected on them, or more or less based upon things you've read?

I’ve always read a lot about the founding fathers, though not to a scholarly degree. I’ve always been struck by what characters they were though, with very strong, distinctive personalities. Some people may not agree with the way I portray them, but I think I’m being pretty consistent with the way they come off not only in biographies but in their own writings. The only liberties I take is rephrasing things to fit into my little comic book stories, but other than that it’s all based on true comments and events.

So what specifically is it about the founders? Just your interest in American politics?

I can’t imagine a more interesting group of people to write about.

Any favorites amongst the fathers? You really socked it to [Alexander] Hamilton [for more information on Hamilton-socking, please consult the back cover of Apocalypse Nerd #1].

Actually, that joke was just as much at [Thomas] Jefferson’s expense, even though Jefferson was the one who always told that anecdote as ‘proof’ of what an ‘idiot’ Hamilton was. I think Hamilton was the smartest, bravest and most forward-thinking of all the founders. Unfortunately for him, he also was a bit too reckless and arrogant for his own good. Jefferson, on the other hand, was a brilliant writer and thinker, but he also was an unbelievable hypocrite, in that whenever it came down to sticking to his principles and living the good life he always opted for the latter.
Perhaps Bagge will eventually have enough for a Founding Fathers book, with longer looks at the Revolutionary statesmen.

[ADDENDUM: Today I discovered that the first volume of Comics Introspective, devoted to Bagge, includes some examples of “Founding Fathers Funnies” and more thoughts on the historical figures behind it. The preview download from Twomorrows doesn’t include those pages, but does show Bagge at work on a “Founding” page.]

In a similar mode, here is Kate Beaton’s “Benedict Arnold Invades Quebec, 1775,” part of her History Project.

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