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 10, 2007

Comics Week at Boston 1775

Comics Week at Oz and Ends looked like so much fun that I’m going to post a series of remarks on comics depicting the American Revolution. School-library publishers are commissioning many new history books in comics form, and comics publishers are finding wider audiences for serious non-fiction. I’ll review several recent examples of both types of books.

But first, five years ago, Scott Shaw! used his Oddball Comics column at Comic Book Resources to share a few strange comic books from the Tomahawk series. This adventure comic, launched in 1950, was set in Revolutionary times, but apparently in the same version of the war as the Liberty Boys of ’76 series of dime novels: an endless backwoods struggle between a small band of Patriots and an always defeated, never exhausted company of redcoats and Natives, with many moments of freaky strangeness.

In the 1950s this comic book capitalized on the popularity of Westerns and the Davy Crockett mania: note the heroes’ coonskin caps. By the early 1960s, science fiction was taking over, making what was never historically accurate into a boiling stew of weirdness.

Shaw!’s postings start with a tale of Tomahawk, his band of fighters, and a dinosaur pining for its long-lost Viking master. Somehow that story also involves a missing blacksmith and the latest attack from redcoat soldiers and their Iroquois allies. Follow the “Next” link for four more Tomahawk tales, or as many as you can stand.

Here’s a bit of art for the flavor.

For artwork and snarky humor, Oddball Comics can’t match up to the similarly themed Stupid Comics from Mister Kitty. Alas, I found only one Revolutionary War panel there, from the mid-1960s Super Green Beret.


Anonymous said...

There was a great Captain America -- oversized! -- issued during the Bicentennial in which Cappy was sent through time by a Buddhist monk in short-shorts. He ended up in Revolutionary America -- where his uniform was spotted by one Ms. Betsy Ross. It gave her ideas. Oh no! A time loop! He went running down the cobbled street, holding his blue-coifed head and yelling "Aiiieee noooooo..." ...


J. L. Bell said...

In researching comics recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you search online hard enough, you can find panels from any Marvel or DC comic book ever published.

And sure enough, here are some of the panels showing Captain America’s encounter with Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin. And, wonder of wonders, it’s from a story written and illustrated by Cap’s co-creator, Jack Kirby!

The giant-sized 1976 edition is a collector’s item, but those pages have been reprinted in trade paperback form.