Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rebels: A Well Regulated Militia

Rebels: A Well Regulated Militia by Brian Wood is a graphic novel that explores the lives of otherwise ordinary folk caught up in the extraordinary drama of the American Revolution. The main characters are fictional representations of real people. Historical figures pass through the narratives to add credence to the portraits of farmers, villagers, slaves, and natives. These stories span a lifetime, from the 1750s to 1800s, bringing the reader to Vermont, the Ohio frontier, the Carolinas, and the city of Boston.
Rebels: A Well Regulated Militia by Brian Wood
with Andrea Mutti, Matthew Woodson,
and other illustrators,
Collections of Rebels #1 through #10 inclusive
(Milwaukee: Dark Horse Comics, 2016).
 
 Anyone who can tell you much about the American Revolution is likely to be a political activist. Radicals, whether conservative or progressive, identify with the struggle for rights and independence, even as they find fault with it. On the left, the fact that the leaders were well-to-do merchants and lawyers explains the incomplete recognition of rights, the eventual three-fifths compromise, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and other betrayals of democracy. From the far right, libertarian science fiction author L. Neil Smith, who penned a set of Lando Calrissian stories, has an alternate universe in which Alexander Hamilton escaped to Prussia following a failed federalist coup to make George Washington king of America, leaving the republic to the true republicans.
Here, in essays apart from the graphic novel, author Brian Wood explains that he is a socialist. His passions for the commoner feed the compelling histories. The contextual events are real: Vermont’s war against New York, Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, and the Cowpens. The men and women who fought and suffered and died or survived are inventions of the author. 
“Creating Seth Abbot was partly to give myself a break – a fictional character allows us to tell the story we all want to tell without being trapped by historical facts and having my hands tied narratively. I mean, the Green Mountain Boys were real, as was Ethan Allen and the “noble train of artillery,” but I wanted to be control of the personal narrative of the main character. Seth needed to be a sort of everyman. I also wanted to be able to filter some of my own stories of Vermont childhood, the history that excites me, and the locations I know personally into that narrative.” – “Interview: Brian Wood Returns to Rebels with the Next Generation,” by Jeffrey Renaud in CBR Exclusives here. 
Within the ten stories is the continuing drama of Seth Abbott and his wife Mercy Abbott. He leaves her behind as he goes off to fight. The second time, he does not know that she is pregnant. He returns five years later. 


Among Seth Abbott’s adventures is his leading the team that brought the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights. In that story, Brian Wood’s socialist preferences lead him astray. He draws Henry Knox as a soft sycophant, a bookseller with no military or other practical experience. A bookseller he was. He was also a street tough, a hoodlum who acquired the trappings of culture and sold them successfully until Boston was occupied. That remaining so, we slog through the mountain snow and valley mud with the farmers who hauled the cannons. For them, it was just more hard work. As one veteran told me about his view of Army life compared to his home life, “In other words, the Army was a lot like Tuesday.”  


Jane Franklin Mecom promises to tell the story of
rebel printer Silence Brght
“We actually have Washington in the story in issue No. 4 along with Benedict Arnold,” he revealed. “Later in the year we’ll see Jane Mecom, Ben Franklin’s sister. I think it’s a good idea to drop these people in from time to time for context, but part of the point of ‘Rebels’ is to not re-tell the same stories everyone’s heard about these famous people, but to find the untold stories, the stories behind the folktales, and tell those instead. So you can expect famous cameos, but no more than that. Those public figures of 18th century America are often referred to as “patriots” — a term that has been misused, misappropriated and/or misunderstood in recent years, he said. Exclusive preview: “‘Rebels’ writer Brian Wood explores the Revolutionary War” Hero Complex LA Times May 12, 2015 here. 
Brian Wood invented Sarah Hull and her husband, Captain Samuel Hull. She is the “Molly Pitcher” whose service to her country included hauling water for the cannons and for the men who fired them, and then loading and firing those guns with them.  The real Sarah Hull was just as interesting. 
"But if we paid you, we would have to pay all the women who served."
“Sarah Hull, the wife of Major William Hull, was one of those women who followed their husbands to the camp, resolved to partake their dangers and privations. She was with the army at Saratoga, and joined the other American ladies in kind and soothing attentions to the fair captives after the surrender. She was the daughter of Judge Fuller, of Newton, Massachusetts, and was born about 1755. At the close of the war she returned home; and when her gallant husband was appointed general of the county militia, did the honors of his Marquée, and received guests of distinction with a grace, dignity, and affability that attracted general admiration.” “Sarah Hull” at AmericanRevolution.org here. 
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