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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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looking in on Loyalty & Liberty

Loyalty & Liberty is a webcomic that Tamara “Meezer” Clarke is producing here in Massachusetts. It’s a one-person labor of love, so the story appears slowly, about one page a week, and the punctuation in the word balloons isn’t always standard.

On the other hand, Loyalty & Liberty is one of the most detailed depictions of the coming of the Revolution that I’ve seen in comics form. The first story arc is titled “The Powder Alarm,” and it begins with the early-morning removal of gunpowder from the militia storehouse in Charlestown (now Somerville).

I agree that that event and the colonial reaction the next day were when the political conflict turned into a military one, when the royal government lost control of most of New England. So it’s nice to see attention paid to that event—and to see an accurate picture of the powderhouse as redcoats wait for daybreak before going inside. (After all, you don’t want to carry a torch into a gunpowder storehouse.)

Clarke and her husband are Revolutionary War reenactors, so she values accuracy in visual details. Most comics artists who come to depict this period don’t realize, for instance, that a regular infantry uniform was different from the uniform for a light infantryman, a grenadier, or a musician, or that different regiments wore slightly different uniforms, or that “redcoats” in the Royal Artillery were blue. Clarke is interested enough in British army life to portray rivalry between different types of soldiers.

This comic also promises to be more politically balanced than most. Clarke is Canadian, and originally intended to portray to Loyalists’ perspective on the conflict. Now she’s aiming to show both sides. And I plan to keep peeking in on her website regularly to see how the story is coming along.

I keep thinking that something else makes Loyalty & Liberty unique. What is it? What is it?

Oh, yeah! All the characters are portrayed as cats.

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