Comic Book

September 24, 2016

To whom it may concern,

One of the biggest complaints I get about Chequamegon History from friends and family is that the posts on the website are too densely-packed with historical information to be understandable to those who don’t have extensive background in the early history of this area.  One comment, from my brother, went something like this:

You and Amorin need to write more clickbait stuff like “Top 10 Chequamegon Villains Compared to Game of Thrones Characters.” Otherwise only historians will read it. 

While Cersei Lannister seems unlikely to appear on this site any time soon, my brother has a point.  Not everyone who is interested in this history has hours of leisure time for diving into Warren, Schoolcraft, and old speeches and letters.  While the introductory texts have gotten better in recent years (Patty Loew’s Indian Nations of Wisconsin and Howard Paap’s Red Cliff being notable examples), most of the mainstream secondary literature about this area’s history remains riddled with inaccuracies and misconceptions that offer little in the way of a bridge to the pre-1860 primary sources.

A couple years ago, the idea of a graphic novel came to me as a way to tackle this problem of access.  Starting on Inkscape and finishing with pen and paper, I scratched out thirty pages of the first chapter of what could be a book about the American colonization of Chequamegon (c.1795-1855) and how it impacted the people who lived here. I quickly came to several realizations:

  1. A graphic novel on this topic can and should be done, but it needs to be awesome, not mediocre.
  2. It will not be able to get beyond mediocre unless people who actually do this kind of thing for a living take it over.
  3. Chequamegon History has enough material to easily make this thing exceed 200-300 pages.
  4. I don’t know if I’ve watched Little Big Man too many times or if the old stereotypes are too hard to shake, but transcribing old documents does not make one able to write cross-cultural 19th-century dialog.  It’s hard. If most of the characters in this story are Ojibwe people, someone who can write a good joke, sexy pickup line, or solemn speech in realistic Ojibwe rhetorical style is desperately needed on this project.  Otherwise it will just be the same old “Cowboys and Indians” crap, which is exactly what this shouldn’t be.  The characters need to be real and multi-dimensional.
  5. There are many directions/perspectives this project could take that would be interesting.  My brain always tends toward written documents and Euro/Western historical thinking, but a diverse group of people could make something like this a lot richer.
  6. My knowledge of of 18th and 19th-century clothing, material culture and manners is woefully limited.
  7. I never really did learn how to draw basic shadows, birds, and perspectives.
  8. Comic-Sans is a terrible font.

Anyways, the rough draft of Chapter One has been sitting on my shelf for over a year collecting dust.  Finally, I have the courage to put it up here in all its imperfect glory:

Click to download the full 34-page pdf.

This does not mean this project is actually happening any time soon–at least not with my involvement.  However, I am curious what people think.  Does there need to be a Chequamegon History graphic novel?  What should it cover?  Who should do it?

~Leo

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3 Responses to “Comic Book”

  1. Al House said

    A comic book isn’t necessary. Just reading the old reports are fascinating.

  2. Brian Finstad said

    I personally like that it in in depth and not “click bait.” I consider this site a local treasure and feel we are so fortunate that you and Amorin are willing to put so much devotion into bringing this history to light for the rest of us.

  3. Amorin Mello said

    Leo, it might be worth contacting the Indigenous Comic Con about this project proposal. http://www.indigenouscomiccon.com/

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