The eleventh story in the book is “Sui Generis, A Short Introduction to Ezekiel Cheever,” written by Christina Rice (Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, My Little Pony: Friends Forever), illustrated by Steve Harrison, and lettered by Jason Hanley. The story is about Ezekiel Cheever, one of the first headmasters of the Boston Latin School, the oldest and longest running public school in America. The title is a play on Ezekiel Cheever’s book, Accidence, A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue which is considered to be the first school book printed in America, with Sui Generis being a Latin phrase meaning “Unique In Its Characteristics.”

To say Ekekiel Cheever was unique in his characteristics is an understatement, but there really isn’t a term in Latin or English to accurately describe the man. Sui Generis will have to do.

I approached Christina to do a story for the book early on. She’s the wife of long-time friend in comics Josh Fialkov. Christina is a librarian living in Los Angeles and a phenomenal writer and researcher, so I originally asked her if she’d like to do a story on the history of Boston Public Library. Being a phenomenal researcher, it took her all of two seconds to tell me that a story about the Boston Public Library would not fit within the timeline of the book and that she should do something on the history of public education in New England. And, with that, she came across Ezekiel Cheever, a man who spent over seventy years teaching in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the celebrated school master of the oldest public school, and the author of the first school text book printed in America.

Steve Harrison did a great job with her script, pulling back some of the dialog and cutting down some of the panels to deliver a much more subtle story that captures decades of Cheever’s life over the course of several pages while also touching up upon his legacy and importance to the Boston public school system.

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

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Colonial Comics volumes II and III are now open for submissions.

The first volume of Colonial Comics focused on little-known stories of colonial New England between the years 1620 and 1750. The book featured a collection of historians, writers, and illustrators telling stories of female business owners, slaves, Native Americans, Jewish settlers, and more. With the next two volumes, we’re opening it up for some new writers and artists who want to work with us to tell the stories that tend to get passed over by the history books. If you’re interested in contributing, please read the full post and then start sending some emails to Jason Rodriguez at colonialcomics@gmail.com.

Who Can Contribute?

Anyone! Seriously, no comics experience required as long as you have a good story. In the first volume we had a good mix of published comics writers and illustrators, first time comics writers, and first time writers. Depending on your situation, we’ll pair you up with an editor and/or a writer and/or an illustrator who can best help you adapt the story into comics. In these books, content is king…and if you come to us with a story that we need to have in the book, we’ll do whatever we can to make sure you’re the one to tell it. 

What Kind of Stories are you Looking For?

For the second book, we’re focusing on New England from 1750-1776. The book will end with the Shot Heard Round the World and the start of the American Revolution. We would like to have stories about how the revolutionary spirit trickled down to the everyday people. So any stories that don’t feature the usual people we associate with the Revolutionary period (Franklin, Jefferson, Revere etc) will be seriously considered. If you do want to focus on a well-known person, you should tell a story that goes beyond the standard biography. For example, Alexander Danner pitched a story about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson having a discussion about germs which is a perfect fit for the book. There’s a revolutionary history aspect to it (they were on their way to a continental congress…which actually could make it a better fit for the third book) and a more off-the-beaten-path revolutionary aspect to it (recent advances in microbiology).This book will be released in Fall 2015 and completed (illustrated and lettered) stories will be due in March 2015. Stories should be no less than five but no greater than 15 pages long. The ideal length is 11 pages and we’re aiming to have 20 stories in this volume.

The third book currently focuses on the Mid-Atlantic region between the years 1606 and 1776. We’re currently just looking for interesting stories, and there’s no overarching theme for this book yet. With the New England book, we eventually saw enough of a divide in the subject matter to split it into two books. With the Mid-Atlantic books, we Virginia and Pennsylvania would be a safe bet. If they catch our attention, we’ll put them on the list. This book is aiming for a Summer 2016 release, with stories competed (illustrated and lettered) by December 2015.

What If I Just Want to Illustrate Someone Else’s Story?

Send us samples of your work and an idea of the type of story you’d like to work on (action, mystery, talking heads, etc). It’s really that easy. We’re always looking for new artists, colorists, and letterers.

Do I Get Paid?

Yes, all writers and illustrators will receive a small advance against royalties. Fulcrum has a long history of selling non-fiction books and a aggressive marketing plan to go along with it. Spot illustrators, colorists, and letterers receive page rates up-front and will get additional money from the Work For Hire bonus pool in the event the book sells well. 

Do I Own The Story?

Yes. Everyone retains copyright on their work but grants the book publishing rights. If we don’t decide to use your story we won’t assign it to someone else.  If we do decide to work with you we’ll talk you through the agreement, advances, royalties, copyright, etc. 

How Do I Know If My Story Is Original?

We will keep an active story list so you can see what stories are in development. Occasionally, there may be a story up there with no one assigned to it. This will be the case if I discover a story and don’t have anyone working it yet. You can try to pitch that story, but keep in mind I’m most likely actively looking for someone to take it. 

Please note that even if a story is in development, it does not mean that it will make it into the final book. Our aim is to have between 20 and 24 stories in each book. 

I’m Ready! How Do I Submit?

Send an email to colonialcomics@gmail.com and let me know who you are and how you’d like to contribute. If you have any samples of previous work send them along. If you’re not sure what you want to do yet but just want to put yourself on my radar and say “hi,” go right ahead. Better to know you now and the type of story you’re interested in, in case something comes up. 

And that’s that! Hope to hear from you all.

Jason Rodriguez

Editor, Colonial Comics

I will be at Baltimore Comic-Con on Friday, September 5th

I will be giving a talk on “Teaching with Comics” along with Colonial Comics contributor Joel Christian Gill from 3-4PM. Be there!

The Design of the Book Part IV: Classic Text Reproductions

What, exactly, was John Eliot reading on the intro page to “This Indian Work?” Why, it was Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God or, alternatively, The Algonquin Bible.

Throughout the book I provided reproductions of some of the important works of literature that are used in the stories. The page that introduces Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God is shown below:

You’ll notice the text of the bible looks like a picture, and that’s because it is. I wanted to capture the feel of the original books, but transfer that feel onto the page design used for the interstitals in this book. In order to do that, I first started with a scanned image of the source material, as shown below:

As you can imagine, these original texts weren’t always available in print-ready 300DPI. Also, the background textures weren’t the same texture used in the book. So some Photoshopping had to go down in order to transfer the above page onto my page template, in 300DPI, and formatted to the size I needed.

It’s really not as difficult as it sounds. Photoshop has this wonderful feature that lets you select a color range and, in all of the documents I recreated, the text was always much darker than the page texture. So I blew the pages up to a size that’ll work for the book (they got pretty blurry, obviously), selected a range of black which put a lasso around every word (and, occasionally, some of the background textures), and filled those selection in with black. I then deleted the background image and had to clean up my new layer a bit to remove some of the fuzziness around the edges. When that process was done, the resulting image looked a lot like the original page but it was print ready and fit with the design of this book.

I did this for two books - Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God, obviously, and Cheever’s Latin Accidence, which will be introduced next week. I also did a reproduction of the previously discussed Bay Psalm Book but I typed that one out. Not because it was difficult to reproduce, but because I turned it into a Mad Lib. We’ll get to that page at some other time…

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

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The tenth story in the book is “This Indian Work” by Tara Alexander (Once Upon a Time Machine) and Dale Rawlings (District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington DC). It’s a short story (five pages) about John Eliot, the man who commissioned the first bible to be translated into a Native American language (Massachusset, to be exact) and acted as a missionary to the Native Americans. John Eliot was the driving force behind what became known as “Praying Indian” communities, settlements that were populated by Christian Indians who were looked upon as allies by New Englanders. 

I’ve said it time and again, but colonial American history is nuanced, and that sentiment is captured so perfectly in John Eliot. On the one hand, you have that sense of European and Puritan righteousness that serves as the foundation for this idea that the problems with the native population can be minimized if they become more European. John Eliot was a true believer of the cause. And, on the other hand, you have a multi-faceted individual who had dissenting ideas about politics in New England, who wrote and published the first political book in North America which, in time, became the first banned book in North America. 

I didn’t want John Eliot to look like a bad guy. Or, at least not a bad guy in the traditional sense. He honestly believed he could make New England a better place, but his focus was misguided even though it was in-line with the thought of the times. 

Tara came to the book back in 2012. I was talking to her at a bar after New York Comic-Con. She traveled to New York from Arkansas with her husband to celebrate the release of her first published comics work, the opening story in the sci-fi/fairy tale mash-up Once Upon a Time Machine which was published by Dark Horse Comics and Locust Moon. I remember her telling me about her experiences in her younger years, volunteering for a missionary in Africa, and how, in retrospect, the experience was tainted with a certain conceit that she didn’t see back then. Being a fan of her story in Once Upon a Time Machine, I asked her if she’d like to write a story about John Eliot and she accepted the challenge. 

Knowing the direction she wanted to take, I asked Dale Rawlings to illustrate the story. Dale’s work has always had this Chick Tract x Punk Rock aesthetic to me, and this story had the potential to be an anti-Chick Tract. Rooted in scripture but grounded in reality, a man going into a depressed population and winning favor through promises of a better life if the inhabitants played along. 

Although it’s the shortest story in the book, it is incredibly powerful. It’s not ham-fisted or overly-righteous in its own way, as a I was afraid it could become. It’s very subtle, almost haunting in its execution. It relied on the art to tell the story behind the story, which is testament to Tara’s faith in Dale to tell the story that she really wanted to tell. It took a lot of confidence for Tara to hand it over to Dale like that, and Dale delivered 100%. 

It’s the kind of story that, as the editor who knew the intent and knew the two completely different personalities involved, I had to just look at and say, “I’m proud of you guys. You did great.”

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

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The ninth story in the book is “Lost Tribe,” written by A. David Lewis (The Lone and Level Sands, Some New Kind of Slaughter) and illustrated by JT Waldman (Not The Israel My Parents Promised Me). I’ve worked with David Lewis, who was an assistant editor in the book, many times in the past. The Lone and Level Sands, which is a retelling of the Moses story from the point-of-view of Pharaoh, has always been one of my favorite graphic novels of all time but I remember David from his Mortal Coil days and he wrote a story for my previous anthology, Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened. He was looking for a story to write and I suggested one on Solomon Franco, the second Jew known to have lived in North America and the first one to live in New England. However, due to a lack of information on Franco to make for a compelling story, David asked if he could write a story about the first Jewish congregation in Rhode Island and if JT Waldman could illustrate it. That’s a nice little package to wrap up for an editor, and I couldn’t say no.

David and JT’s story follows the history of Jews in New England, starting with the first ship to come up on shore, their establishment in Roger Williams’s Providence (which, as previously discussed, became a beacon for religious freedom in North America), and their long-standing history in the community which eventually prompted a famous letter from George Washington to the congregation following the American Revolution. 

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

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The eighth story in the book is “New Medicine,” written by Connecticut State Historian Walter Woodward, illustrated by Matt Dembicki (Wild Ocean, Xoc), colored by Arsia Rozegar (Hulk, Iron Man), and lettered by Jason Hanley. It’s about John Winthrop Jr., governor of the Connecticut colony, doctor, and alchemist.

Matt Dembicki was the guy who brought me to Fulcrum, and he offered to contribute to the anthology and asked if he could do something about Connecticut. We flirted with a couple of story ideas before I had the opportunity to approach Walter, who previously wrote a book about John Winthrop Jr. entitled Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676. We talked a bit on the phone about several possible story choices before settling on Winthrop Jr’s role as a doctor, which intersected with his role as an alchemist and his faith. Winthrop Jr. believed that medicine, alchemy, and faith were all essential to healing, and that you couldn’t have one without the other.

I really loved including this story, because it speaks to some of the early forays into real science in America, even if science in-and-of-itself wasn’t yet seen as the solution to life’s problems. Almost fifty years after Winthrop Jr’s death, medicine and religion famously butted heads when Cotton Mather (who, interestingly enough, was one of the driving forces behind the Salem Witch Trials) proposed inoculating New Englanders against smallpox epidemics due to some successful cases of inoculation recorded in England. It was a popular belief, at the time, that infecting a person with mild smallpox in order to prevent a more severe infection later was essentially doing harm to one’s neighbor and went against scripture. 

I suppose John Winthrop Jr was better at finding loopholes…

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

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The Design of the Book Part III: This One Design Element

I like it when an anthology don’t feel like an anthology. I like it when there’s a central them to the book (in this case, colonial New England), laid out in a way that makes sense (in this case, chronologically), with interstitials and design elements that work to bring the book together and make it feel like one continuous story that just happens to be told by a collection of talented creators. In order to do that, I first come up with some focal point, of sorts - a visual queue that can bring everything back to a theme before launching into the next section or story. 

This first book is all about establishing an American Identity. And part of it focuses on the bad stuff - the wars and the genocide, slavery and the treatment of women. But the book was never meant to give the impression that everything was evil, and that our very foundation was corrupt. I took a page from Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates to make sure that these earlier years were painted as a bit more nuanced. Because behind the scenes, you did have some social reformers and big thinkers and people who bucked the status quo. And that idea of making a better country, although muted and fought against at first, is really the foundation of the American Identity. And even though we’ve had a tumultuous history, and even though we’re still not anywhere near where we could be, there is still this inherent desire to be better that’s rooted in a large portion of our population. And, over time, the good ideas tend to win out, and we get closer to that idealized American Identity.

It feels like we inch towards the finish line, and that the finish line is constantly moving as new knowledge is made available to us, and in the moment it feels like we still have so far to go, but taken over the course of almost 400 years…we’ve gotten a lot closer. 

And what got us there? The ability to share ideas. And at first it was through town meetings and church assemblies, but we eventually started printing books and then newspapers and then magazines and eventually the internet comes along and now it becomes harder and harder to HIDE information, although it still seems like doing something with that information is sometimes impossible.

When I was a kid, my life was changed by EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth. That’s not an exaggeration. Before Spaceship Earth, I wanted to be a cowboy or a vampire hunter. After Spaceship Earth, I wanted to generate knowledge and share those ideas. It lead to two career paths, in a sense, one focused on science and one focused on writing. And in both of those paths, I had a core belief that sharing ideas and knowledge is a necessary part of the creation of an ideal society.

The Puritans, for all their faults, believed the same thing. They wrote down everything, and once they got a printing press they printed everything. And the first book that they printed was the Bay Psalm Book. And I decided that, since this first volume was ultimately about ideas, the Bay Psalm Book had to be the focal point of the design of this book.

So I grabbed a scan of the book, shown below…

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…and I isolated that one squiggly design element from the book and reproduced it in glorious 300DPI…

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…and then I used it. Over and over and over again. I used it on promo materials, I used it in interstials, I used it for the table of contents and the book guide and the reference section and the bios and acknowledgement pages. It was a tip-of-the-hat to the one thing that I feel will eventually bring us closer to that ideal American Identity. The desire within us to share everything we know, everything we feel, and everything we want.

But I doubt anyone will really see that unless I tell it to them…so, thankfully, it makes for a pretty fantastic border:

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

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The seventh story in the book is “Maverick Island,” written by J.L. “John” Bell (Boston 1775) and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill (Strange Fruit, Tales of the Talented Tenth: Bass Reeves). John was also an assistant editor for the book, and was one of the first people I talked to when I was putting this book together. He asked me if he could do a story about Maverick Island, particularly the story of John Josselyn’s trip to New England where he visited Samuel Maverick. In Josselyn’s memoirs, he wrote about his interaction with a crying African woman, and Maverick’s desire to breed black men and women in order to create a continuous stream of free labor.

I was taken aback by this story, because when it comes to America’s history with slavery we tend to think about Virginia, Georgia, and other southern states. But here is one account in New England that supposedly took place years before the first documented cases in colonial America that declared someone a slave. 

I desperately wanted the story in the book and John desperately wanted to work with Joel.

I was at SPX in 2012 when my friend Mike Maguire suggested I check out “this one guy’s book.” It was a book called Strange Fruit, and it was about uncelebrated tales of African American history.  I went to “this one guy’s” table and purchased all of his books and read them at the bar. I fell in love.

"This one guy’s" name was familiar, so I searched my email to see if I ever talked to him in the past. Turns out, it was the guy John name dropped as his dream artist for this story.

"You’re Joel Gill, John’s friend!" I said to him. 

I was with John at that point, Joel needed to illustrate this story. Additionally, Fulcrum needed to see Strange Fruit. I introduced the two of them and now Joel is part of the Fulcrum family, Strange Fruit was collected earlier this year and Bass Reeves, the story about a black man who became the most successful Texas Ranger in history, the inspiration behind the Lone Ranger, comes out in the fall.

It’s funny how things go, sometimes. I teach a publishing class at Arlington Adult Ed and my students always ask me if it’s luck or talent that gets you published. I tell them that it’s talent and opportunity. I give the fictional anecdote about the writer at the bar after Book Expo America who finds himself next to an acquisition editor at Houghton Mifflin. The writer is talented, and spent five years working on a book about airplanes. He overhears the acquisition editor saying, “I can’t buy urban fantasy books fast enough. It’s the only category we’re making money on. I don’t have enough pitches to fill the demand.”

The writer, realizing his luck, turns to the editor and says, “You’re at Houghton Mifflin? I have this great book about airplanes.” He spends the rest of his life saying how he was never lucky enough to get published.

One day at SPX, a friend of mine casually told me about this one guy’s book, and I saw an opportunity for my book, my publisher, and that guy’s book. And all three of us are better for it.

Thankfully, I didn’t pitch him a story about airplanes. 

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

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