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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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Eighteenth-Century Comics from E. J. Barnes

One of the contributors to Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750 is the Cambridge writer-artist E. J. Barnes, who tells the story of Thomas Morton’s short-lived early-1600s colony at what is now Mount Wollaston in Quincy.

She’ll also be on our “History in Comics” panel this Saturday at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (M.I.C.E.).

Among E. J.’s previous history-based comics are two with roots in the eighteenth century.

“A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed” takes the text of Jonathan Swift’s satirical poem from 1734 and illustrates it with scratchboard art. E. J.’s images turn Swift’s snarls about cosmetic beauty into true horror, and the scratchboard effect is reminiscent of the crude woodcuts printers carved quickly for broadsides.

“Caroline’s Catalog” tells the story of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), a British astronomer. Sister of Sir William Herschel, who discovered Uranus, she started out correcting the standard star atlas of the day and ended up identifying eight new comets and publishing an updated catalog of the Northern Hemisphere sky through the Royal Astronomical Society.

E. J. has a background in science as well as art. (A couple of years back we discovered that she was a student of Leonard Nash, the Harvard chemistry professor who provided the “L.” in “J. L. Bell.”) She wrote “Caroline’s Catalog” to explore Herschel’s experiences in a time when avenues for formal scientific training and recognition were closed to women.

Folks can see E. J. Barnes’s work at M.I.C.E. in Porter Square, Cambridge, this weekend.

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