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Comic Book Takes Young Readers Back To The Revolution
Filed under: Books for Kids
It must be a dream, but it feels so real.
There are more historical details than a Ken Burns documentary. Then there is Alan Warren, the dashing young rebel. His passionate kisses are as real as the smell of the muskets and the cries of the wounded.
Is this a dream or an alternate reality? Whatever it is, you'll find plenty of men in tight pants but none of them leaping tall buildings in a single bound. No superheroes. No mutants. No green-skinned Goliaths yelling, "Hulk will smash!"
"The Dreamer," Lora Innes' comic book about the American Revolution, is something of a revolution itself. It casts off all the trappings of modern comic books. It is half old-school romance comic, half history lesson. Think Jane Austen meets Johnny Tremaine.
As a result, it draws a different audience than the Justice League of America.
Innes tells ParentDish her comic attracts mostly young women in their mid-teens through early 20s. There are a few sensitive guys among the fans, she says, but boys spend more time in Metropolis and Gotham City than Lexington and Concord.
Teachers and parents really love "The Dreamer."
"I've been approached by a number of teachers who use the comic in their classroom," Innes says. "That's very gratifying."
The Founding Fathers and other historical figures play supporting roles. Many are less well known than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The character of Alan Warren, for example, is a member of Knowlton's Rangers, which was a very real elite group of colonial soldiers led by Lt. Col. Thomas Knowlton.
Inspired by her exhaustive research -- including the real-life diaries of colonial foot soldier Joseph Plumb Martin -- Innes says she wants to give her young readers a ground-level view of the Revolution.
"I try to take readers with Beatrice back to the 18th century," she says.
Innes lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband Mike. She graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 2002. and has done illustrations for clients such as Fisher Price, Mattel, McGraw Hill, Nickelodeon, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster.
She started "The Dreamer" in 2006, hoping to attract the attention of Marvel or DC Comics. Instead, she found a passion beyond illustrating the exploits of superheroes.
"I'm happy where I'm at, writing and drawing 'The Dreamer,'" she says.
Innes grew up loving both history and comic books. She particularly liked "Gen 13," the story of teenage heroes drawn by J. Scott Campbell. "It took an MTV approach to being a young superhero," she says.
Her own artistic style is very crisp and clean with bold, sharp lines. "I love lines," she says. She doesn't darken them with ink. She makes her pencil lines even bolder with a photocopier. It's an unusual, if not (there's that word again) revolutionary artistic technique. "I think I invented it," she says.
"The Dreamer" appeared exclusively on the Web until the first six issues were picked up by IDW Publishing and distributed in paperback form. The trade paperback is available through bookstores and comic book shops.
This sometimes lures Innes' legion of fans -- from young women to educators to history buffs -- into uncharted territory. "Many of them tell they have found themselves walking into a comic book store for the first time," she says.
Liberals and conservative often point to the Founding Fathers to validate their political views. Innes says she sticks to 18th-century politics. She leaves modern politics to her readers. "I'm trying to tell a story," she says.
Still, people do tend to see political metaphors in her work. It was really bad during last year's election, she says "Everyone thought I would agree with their candidate."
Not really, she says. All she is trying to do is give readers a good story full of romance, adventure and maybe, just maybe, a little historical insight.
"My desire is to make that world come alive for you," she tells readers on her Web site. "Let yourself be transported back in time. Let yourself go on an adventure. ... 1776 is back. Enjoy the Revolution."
Related: Don't Know Much About History? That's About to Change
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