Monday, November 10, 2014

Taxes, The Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels: A History in Comics of the American Revolution

In this "golden age" of graphic novels, one amazing aspect is that many older works are coming back into print. Taxes, The Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels is one notable example of this phenomenon. Originally published in 1994, it tells a very detailed, well researched, and juicy version of the events leading up to and also immediately following the American Revolution. It does not shy away from making judgments and portraying the founding fathers and their British adversaries in less than flattering lights.
Greedy Brits!
Greedy King!

Even prominent colonists, most notably George Washington, are taken down a peg or two in how they are depicted. I think that the editorializing is actually a great feature, giving a very specific slant to the proceedings. Mack's narrative style breathes life into what could be a bland rehash of historical events. Instead of cold facts, we get jokes, jabs, and other insights into the real people and conditions of the period.
Stanislaw actually appears throughout the book. The journey through US history is also in part shown through his ventures.
I love how he clearly and easily portrays complex issues such as Triangle Trade, the divide caused by northern and southern economies, and other political concerns using strong visuals and quick dialogue.
Not everything is kosher in the colonies' social orders.
And perhaps most importantly, even though there are maybe a couple areas where myths get reiterated (like the one that Paul Revere made his midnight ride by himself), the book strives greatly for verisimilitude, including scenes and information about the common people of the time. This book does not simply show us the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Franklins, and Hamiltons of the US colonies, it also shows us what roles women, slaves, Native Americans, and freed blacks played in these events. 

This book's artist/writer Stan Mack has been a comics creator for decades, known for his long running comic strips, "Stan Mack's Real Life Funnies," which appeared in the Village Voice, and "Stan Mack’s Outtakes," which appeared in Adweek. He also published the autobiographical Janet and Me, about a long term relationship cut short by cancer. Of late he has turned his attention to making historical comics in the form of graphic novels. He has collaborated with co-author Susan Champlin on Road to Revolution! and Fight For Freedom.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been full of praise. Publishers Weekly called it "a strongly recommended work whose 'cartoony' art style works well with a narrative that openly addresses the roles played by women, slaves, and Native Americans in the twenty-eight year struggle and its aftermath." The School Library Journal's Francisca Goldsmith described it as "accessible, thought-provoking, and highly discussable." Robot 6's Chris Mautner wrote that it was full of "energy and detail" and "never becomes a dreary slog or appears slapdash."

Taxes, The Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels was published by NBM. They have a bunch of information about the book here.

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