Wednesday, 16 May 2012

For Liberty - An American Revolution

Being British I confess to only a basic knowledge of American history, I know that at one time America 'belonged' to us, then we 'gave' it back but have remained friends ever since enjoying a 'special' relationship or something like that?

I know that's more than a simplistic view but we weren't taught any American history at school so what I do know is self-taught or more accurately gleaned from movies, TV documentaries and of course comics. I'm pretty sure that the first reference anywhere to the American Revolution that I ever came across was in an issue of my beloved Captain America;

                                       (cover pic courtesy of the excellent marvel wiki site)

I don't think I picked up any 'real' history from that action packed Jack Kirby issue but I was certainly the only boy at school who knew what 'Bicentennial' meant and as a consequence had the date 1776 in my head!

I know that around the same time I was starting to collect the 'Blick Instant Picture Transfer Books' and picked up one on the American Revolution which helped fuel my interest but other than short references in general (British published) Historic encyclopedias, that would've been about my limit.

                                   (cover pic courtesy of the fascinating action transfers site)

The American Revolution therefore, like The American Civil War, while of interest, has largely remained outside my greater understanding and when visiting the US and seeing the rows upon rows of books on the subject, is pretty daunting and (like the 1776 British?) I make a speedy retreat.

That's where comics have helped to some degree to plug the gap, particularly in recent years when the medium has opened up allowing factual and historical fiction books to appear and the ones that I've managed to track down including Archaia Entertainments Revere and IDW Publishing's The Dreamer series, both of which have their merits but take quite a fantastical turn on historical events.

And this is where Timothy Decker's excellent For Liberty comes in. Its respectful, dramatic and stimulating telling of the simple actions which lead to such a pivotal point in America (and Britain's!) history, as neatly summed up in his introduction;

           On a cold, clear night in 1770, British soldiers and American colonists clashed in Boston. This was the brink of war. For fifteen minutes, fear and confusion reigned over the city.

This perfectly sets the scene as matters escalate and lead to tragedy in an event known as The Boston Massacre, which I was totally unfamiliar with - except for the final reference to John Adams which reminded me of the excellent HBO series which I'm sure detailed the resulting trial? 

In any case, I was comfortable both in reading the book and my conversations with Tim at the recent MoCCA festival that the tale was well researched and well intentioned in bringing the story to a wider audience.

The only drawbacks may be the books length which at 'only' 40 pages is not huge but in my view is sufficient to effectively tell the story it sets out to. The other 'drawback', (if it can be said to be a drawback) is the fact that For Liberty is really an illustrated book rather than a comic or graphic novel, which means that it could struggle to find its audience outside of bookstores or the education system? But who am I kidding, the bookstore & education market is considerably larger and mores respected than the comics market so its not a bad place to be and Tim is to be commended for seeking out new audiences by attending comic shows such as MoCCA!

I should also mention Tim's artwork which is rich and highly detailed pen work with lots of cross hatching. Its very absorbing and, especially on my second read, I found myself lingering on the pages, taking in all the detail.

Tim kindly dedicated my copy to be enjoyed for "years to come" which I certainly intend to do and thanks to him I now have a better understanding of this important period of history, I just have to somehow resist diving further into history before I fill another few bookshelves!!

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