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American History in the comic books
(Photo courtesy: Jason Rodriguez)

By Joshua Pilkington

Colonial Comics offer a different view and setting for students of American History

Finding the right material to make reading fun and history entertaining can be a difficult challenge.

“I like to read teen fiction books,” said Samantha Archuleta, 11, of Aurora. “I really don’t like reading about history, because it’s pretty boring.”

History, whether taking the form of historical fiction, non-fiction or a classic novel, is a challenging subject to teach as well, according to Social Science teacher Andrew Baker.

“Social Sciences aren’t a creative science. You aren’t making anything, you aren’t theorizing anything – so it can be a little more challenging to teach,” Baker said. “It can also be dry material for a lot of kids, especially kids in their tween years. What’s interesting about social sciences, however, is that most anything you read or write is based on historical events or events that will be historical for future generations.”

It’s that type of challenge that led award-winning author Jason Rodriguez to take on an ambitious project: presenting colonial history in a way that lectures can find engaging and entertaining.

Colonial Comics

Colonial Comics is a graphic trilogy featuring unconventional stories of Colonial New England from an eclectic collection of writers and artists, fiction and nonfiction authors, university professors and renowned historians.

According to Rodriguez – who edited the comics alongside J.L. Bell and A. David Lewis, the idea is to create something entertaining and educational based on American history.

“I want to create a book that functions as both entertainment and education,” Rodriguez said in an interview with the Comics DC blog. “The main idea is to tell stories that you often don’t find in school history books that can, in turn, lead into larger discussions about colonial American history.”

Though much has been written and discussed on World History, Ancient History and Ancient Civilizations. The colonization of what is now the United States is still an underrepresented topic.

“In most history books and teacher prep texts, colonization makes up a small portion of American History,” Baker said. “The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the World Wars also take up a chunk of the text as does the Civil Rights Movement, but the events that got us to those places are glazed over in a paragraph or two.”

Rodriguez said that he aims to bring those events to life.

“What I want to do is fill in those gaps and tell stories about the Native Americans and women and free-thinkers and slaves and business owners who came to the Colonies and give a better understanding of what life was like over our first 150-plus years, the good and the bad,” Rodriguez said.

This first Colonial Comics graphic volume is a collection of 20 stories focusing on the colonial period from 1620 through 1750 in New England. Brought to life are stories, not found in history books that cover a variety of topics.

There are tales of Puritans and free thinkers, Pequots (a Native American tribe that inhabited part of New England when the colonists arrived) and Jewish settlers, female business owners and and dedicated schoolteachers, whales and livestock, slavery and frontiers, and many other untold aspects of colonial life.

Colonial Comics have begun to hit their stride as well as Rodriguez and other writers and editors have visited several bookstores, libraries and schools in an attempt to propagate interest in their comics.

Last week Rodriguez held three Q&A sessions throughout the metro area before hosting a panel at the Denver Comic Con at the Colorado Convention Center. Interest and reviews in Colonial Comics have been positive.

“This collection of stories about early New England will appeal to kids of all ages,” said Dr. Frank Cogliano, Professor of American History, University of Edinburgh. “These engaging tales are beautifully illustrated and grounded in the latest scholarship. Highly recommended for kids of all ages.”

It’s not just the written content that’s receiving positive reviews, as Rodriguez’s abilities have led online bloggers to comment on his artistry as well.

“Rodriguez manages a good balance throughout – from wordless tales to text-heavy historical factoids,” commented the Online Eccentric Librarian. “From almost comic lighthearted illustrations to woodblock type carvings and beautiful pastel watercolors.”

Colonial Comics: New England 1620-1750 is published by Fulcrum Books. To purchase visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s or other online book retailers. Copies are also available at local bookstores and comic shops.





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