Comic Strip of the Day: Smarten Up

After reading the write-up for Colonial Comics: New England, 1750-1775 at Comics Worth Reading, I made a mistake that has both positive and negative outcomes for readers here: I accidentally ordered the Kindle version instead of the paperback.

The positive is that I was able to sit down and read it sooner and can report that it’s some very good work.

The negative is that I can only offer some very lo-res pages, like this page about Ben Franklin’s beginnings as a printer.

However, while the publisher — Fulcrum Press — does not appear to have released any hi-res illustrations, they provide a generous sample of the book, which I recommend, because you’ll see there, besides some of the artwork, the fact that they also include a good map and several “explainers” to tell you what you are about to read.

The sample also gives you a look at three of the artists in the book, which provides a sense of the variation and scope of both the stories told and how they are presented.

My only negative on it is that, while there is a strong intention that it be used in classrooms, I’d suggest that the teacher would have to bring a solid grasp of the period to it, because, while it does a good job of explaining the specific stories, it assumes you know the overall setting.

Even when it comes to something anyone who studied American History should know, like Triangular Trade, it challenges your assumptions.

In this segment, it provides a view of the rum/sugar/slave trade, which absolutely condemns slavery but also explains how it was justified by those involved.

It’s good history, but it would take a master teacher to be able to present it in a way that wouldn’t result in a special meeting of the school board, in part because it’s beyond the ken of most middle school students, and in part because the idea that otherwise decent people could make such a career choice was inflammatory even at the time.

Middle school kids can understand why Jean Valjean stole the bread. They can’t understand why Javert pursues him so relentlessly.

Asking them to grasp why someone would become a slave trader, or that Governor Hutchinson was not an entirely evil person, is asking caterpillars to fly. Some day, yes. But not yet.

However, while I wouldn’t bring 30 copies into a classroom, I’d strongly recommend it as a gift for a bright kid of 13 or more, and as a gift to yourself, too.

First of all, it’s solid history (even has a bibliography!) rather than the slapdash junk too often pawned off on kids, in which “little known facts” turn out to be bogus legends.

They also have the integrity to present small vignettes when they don’t have the sources to expand into a full-blown story, and they avoid the revisionist notion that, because a minority or a woman did something worthwhile, it means that nobody else was contributing at all.

As an example (and you can read this in the above-linked sample), Molly Ockett, the Abenaki healer, is not presented as the Leading Medical Authority of Her Time or The Magic Indian Who Possessed All Wisdom. She is simply given as an example of a native woman who rose above some truly wretched treatment and made a valuable contribution to her community.

That’s how history should be taught: With humanity, perspective and accuracy. I strongly recommend this book.


While we’re on the topic

Zach Weiner(smith) of Saturday Morning Breakfast Serials is posting a graphic civics lecture called “Laws and Sausages,” featuring his brother Greg, a professor of political science and quite a bit more.

Greg Weiner’s expertise is unassailable and the art is good, and, though I’m not a fan of graphic lectures, by which I mean comics in which a narrator tells you things, they are a very popular format and this is a good example.


Combining history and current events

I went off sufficiently on Wells Fargo yesterday, but cannot let Kevin Siers’ commentary on the topic go unpraised.

Yes, that’s an old-time manure spreader, from back in the days when the Wells Fargo Wagon was not only a trusted carrier of gold and passengers and more, but a particularly infectious earworm and if you click on that it’s your own fault.

Siers plays on that beloved image and the current news and if you’ve ever found yourself on a country road behind a spreader, you know that, even when it’s not actively flinging dung, rolling up your windows won’t protect you from the smell.

An excellent metaphor and well-researched.


And then there’s this

Over in Retail, Coop and Val are about to tie the knot, and I like the way they think.

There ought to be a statute of limitations on parents paying for weddings, but, certainly, Val and Coop are adequately launched into their adult lives and need to take responsibility for this, though there’s a little something else underlying her father’s reluctance.

I’d be a little cautious anyway about marrying an adult woman who still wants Barbie’s Dream Wedding.

Though traditions vary widely: At one of my reporter workshops, we were talking about a fascinating story one of the girls had brought back from India, where her family had attended a traditional, formal Indian wedding.

One of the other Indian-American girls started laughing and said someone in her father’s office bragged that he’d had 400 people at his wedding, to which her dad responded, “Oh? I had 10,000 at mine.”

When I got married in 1971, we contemplated a mountain top but then contemplated getting the grandmas up there and settled for a church in town to host our 40 guests.

She made her own dress, so the most expensive parts were my suit (I hadn’t owned one) and the band, which cost about the same amount.

The suit is long gone but the band has somehow re-emerged from the buses in which we found them:

 In fact, the color pic after “Magic Music was a phenomenon” was taken at our wedding.

2 thoughts on “Comic Strip of the Day: Smarten Up

  1. I think I understand the Wells Fargo cartoon (not a big news topic in Canada), but I found the drawing hard to read. It’s not clear to me if the chunks of manure are being flung from the wagon or are just hovering in mid-air, like the flies.
    A small thing, but it detracted from the good idea.

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