Starting this week we will be introducing you all to the creators and stories in Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750.

The first story starts in England in 1603. This may seem like it’s outside the confines of the book, but any story about the British colonies has to start in England, with the death of Queen Elizabeth.The story was written by Nick Bunker (Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, An Empire on Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America) and features pencils and inks from Chris Piers (Trickster and frequent author/illustrator for The Robot’s Pajamas), colors from Jason Axtell (Mr. Big), and letters by Jason Hanley (Elk’s Run, Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened).

In this tale, we follow the evolution of the first group of British citizens to colonize New England, from Puritan to separatist to Pilgrim, as they make their way from England to Holland and, eventually, America. When I started diagramming the stories in this book, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to start in England, and having read Making Haste From Babylon, I knew I wanted Nick Bunker to write the story. In my early years, the reason the Pilgrims left England was always due to this vague concept of “religious freedom,” the right to their own beliefs, something that was so central to the American Identity that it became the First Amendment of our Constitution. 

But history paints a slightly different picture, one where the Pilgrims really wanted the freedom to practice their OWN religion, and where a large portion of the people who came to America on the Mayflower weren’t even Pilgrims. The former is important because it sets the stage for the Roger Williams and the Anne Hutchinsons of this story, the people who were banished from the Puritan colonies, and the latter is important because it reminds us that, for the most part, traveling to America was a money-making opportunity for many of the people who came over. 

I think the story does a good job of setting the stage for this book. Colonial American history is complicated, and in our younger years we tend to be given caricatures of the people who came over. Men dressed in black with buckled hats. A helpful Native American who, after Thanksgiving, disappeared from our country’s origin story. Women who were largely non-existent. Fast-forward to something about witches. Fast-forward to a revolution, Freedom of Religion, etc. 

Fast-forwarding the details to get to big ideas and simplistic representations of people who, at the end of the day, were individuals. And, as with all individuals, some of them had ideas, dreams, and stories that broke away from the caricatures we assign to them. 

Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750 will be released in October from Fulcrum Books. You can pre-order it on Amazon now.

Coming to the American Library Association Annual Convention Las Vegas, 6/27-6/30, Artist Alley Table #2132!

1) Colonial Comics stickers, modeled off of British tax stamps…now you can levy taxes on things without offering representation!

2) Oragami Mayflowers that actually float!

3) A preview of Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750!

4) Holy Libs, a Mad Libs-parody of the Bay Book of Psalms, the first book printed in America!

5) Colonial Characters Trading Cards!

6) Future Builders to promote Try Looking Ahead!

Come get swag! Or come to the panel Teaching With Comics with me, Joel Gill, and Matt Dembicki on Saturday, June 28th at 10AM! Or stop by Fulcrum Booth #0343 at 11AM on Sunday, June 29th for a signed preview of the book! 

See you all in Las Vegas!

ALA Las Vegas is eleven days away and I will be there at Artist Alley Table #2132! And I’ll have these wonderful Colonial Character trading cards with me, illustrated by Scott White! Additionally!

1) Matt Dembicki (TRICKSTER, WILD OCEAN, DISTRICT COMICS), Joel Gill (STRANGE FRUIT, TALES OF THE TALENTED TENTH), and I will be giving a talk on Saturday, June 28th @ 10AM on the Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage entitled “Teaching With Comics”!

2) I’ll have some advanced copies with five stories from the book that I’ll be signing at 11AM on Sunday, 6/29 at the Fulcrum Booth (#0343)!

3) We will be participating in the Artist Alley silent auction with a wonderful page from Noel Tuazon! 

4) I’ll have a near-complete digital copy of the book that you can flip through on a cool touchscreen!

5) I’ll have some tax stamps that you can use to levy taxes on objects without offering government representation!

6) I’ll have future builders (an advanced technology based off of the more primitive Paper Fortune Tellers or Cootie Catchers, as they used to be called) that I made to promote TRY LOOKING AHEAD!

And, time permitting, maybe some more things - like origami Mayflowers, Futurist and Colonial M.A.S.H. and Mad Libs, and other old-school fun!

Basically, if you’re looking for a break from the regular old convention stuff, stop on by Table 2132 for a little nostalgia, some free swag, and a smile.I’ll be rocking the bow tie - you won’t miss me!

'll be at ALA Las Vegas at the end of the month with some previews of Colonial Comics Volume One, four Colonial Characters trading cards (mock up of the Tisquantum card attached, these aren't final yet, illustrations by Colonial Cover Artist Scott White) and, if all falls into place, a near-complete digital copy of the book. I’ll also have some TRY LOOKING AHEAD promo with me, obviously, including a TLA paper fortune teller for the kiddies. 

See you in Vegas! Well, some of you.

Cover Process

After some unfortunate delays, Colonial Comics Volume One (now titled Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750) is readying for a September 2014 release, only six months behind the original schedule. There is still frantic work going on behind the scenes, but there’s enough material coming in now that I can start sharing some awesomeness pretty routinely. And what better way to start than with the cover?

Scott White and I met up at an Anita’s New Mexican restaurant (we were supposed to meet at BonChon Chicken but they were inexplicably closed at 11PM on a Sunday) sometime in mid-December to talk about the cover design. I had some ideas, Scott had some ideas, and combined we had way too many ideas.

I remember saying that I wanted this linear collage that showed England in the upper left corner, the Mayflower crossing, winter, livestock, wars and massacres…just everything. Basically a cover that told every story that was going to be in the book. And Scott was on board! We were going to have the busiest 8x8 cover ever created. And it probably would have been terrible.

It took Scott all of a day to inform me that we were going for too much and he pitched a cover that had the Mayflower landing with Native Americans looking on. The original design can be seen below:

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I thought it looked great, but the Native Americans looked very threatening and that wasn’t the story we were trying to tell here. At all. So I asked him to lose the weapons and got:

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Again, it looked great…but it didn’t tell a story. So I pitched something a bit crazy to Scott. I asked him to make the focus of the cover the land. This vast amount of empty land. Empty beach, empty forest, very few people. One Native American and one landing boat – all in the distance. Small and not the focal point. Make the story about how much LAND existed, so that the eventual story of English colonists completely taking this land, unable to share it, becomes so much more tragic.

This first volume, after all, is about the establishment of the American identity – the good, the bad, and the ugly. So Scott gave me this cover, and I knew we had our cover the minute I saw it.

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And then he colored it:

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And then we needed to title it. I went with 1790 Royal Printing Font in order to make it look like old copy. I also grabbed some pages from the Bay Psalm Book and copped some of the design elements. Designed a title I really wanted to use…

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….but it didn’t fit with the cover. So I had to lose some elements to finally deliver…

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…but I needed the title to be bigger. So here’s where we’re at right now and I think it’ll stay this way…the (hopefully) official cover to Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750:

 

Dig it.

That map!

I asked my contact at the Massachusetts Historical Society if she had any leads on where to find maps of New England that I could use in Colonial Comics. She directed me to the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library which has a HUGE database of historical maps from around the world and I believe I’ll be spending the rest of my week there. 

So many wonderful, wonderful maps. The one above is the original plan of Boston from 1630. I love how it points out who will own what lands. Winthrop gets top-billing, of course. 

I am trying to wrap my head around one particular aspect of this map and that’s Corn Hill. According to Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, Corn Hill was the place where the Pilgrims stumbled across a reserve of Wampanoag corn seed that was buried in the ground. But that was in Provincetown, when they were looking for a place to settle, before making their way to Plimoth. I found another map of Boston from 1635 (below) that labeled the same area Fort Hill.

I must know the reason behind the name change!


The Official Handbook of Colonial America

We’ve been throwing around the term “interstitial” pretty willy-nilly over at Colonial Comics. The fact is, all of the stories need a one-page intro that starts on an even page and sets up the story. We decided to do an evolving map of New England as a watermark for those pages so that’ll be pretty fun to do. I’m going to Boston in three weeks for map collection (among other things) so that we can do that right.

But, the fact is, some stories will have an even-numbered page length so we need something to fill the gap. Additionally, there are several major characters that we simply don’t have the space or the manpower to talk about in the books. So I had an idea…interstitial pages that give bios of these characters but done as an homage to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Kind of like The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Redux Edition but with colonial-era British/Americans and Native peoples. 

So this is sort of a call for interested parties. You can get in touch with me at colonialcomics@gmail.com for more info. 

Now that my creators are getting more and more work done for the first book they’re starting to make announcements for me.

A. David Lewis (who is also the assistant editor for Colonial Comics) is currently doing some research for his story about Jewish history in Colonial New England and he working with the great JT Waldman

For those of you keeping track, our announced creators so far are…

  1. A. David Lewis and JT Waldman doing a story about Jewish life in the colonies
  2. Erika Swyler and Noel Tuazon doing a story about Elizabeth Glover, owner of New England’s first printing press
  3. Connecticut State Historian Walt Woodward and Matt Dembicki doing a story about Connecticut governor (and alchemist) John Winthrop JR.
  4. Alexa Dickman and EJ Barnes doing a story about Merry Mount
  5. And, I kind of strongly hinted at this earlier, so why not talk up Philip Hoare and Charles Fetherolf doing a story about whaling

That’s just five stories out of the 25 we have planned for this volume alone. 

A quick sketch from friend and frequent collaborator Noel Tuazon. Noel’s working with writer Erika Swyler on a story about Elizabeth Glover, owner of the first print shop in Massachusetts.