Sunday, May 22, 2016

Founding Fathers Funnies, by Peter Bagge

I have long enjoyed Peter Bagge's comics in Reason magazine.  Those typically comment on contemporary issues.  In his new collection, Founding Fathers Funnies, he applies his goofy illustrating and political insight to the Founding Fathers. 

Bagge isn't so much interested in a retelling of American history, but in telling stories from history that we might be less familiar with.  Some of the characters are ones we recognize--the Founding Fathers themselves.  But he also brings in lesser known figures from the Revolutionary Era, like John Laurens and Nancy Morgan Hart.  I particularly liked Hart's story.  She and her daughter Sukey slaughtered six redcoats in Georgia in 1779.  Bring it!  I also enjoyed the story of Ben Franklin's dueling with words against his rival almanack writer, Titan Leeds.  This must have been hilarious to their readers at the time.  It wasn't so hilarious to Franklin's wife, who thought "Poor Richards's" wife "Bridget" too nearly resembled her. . . . She did not appreciate the depiction.
Bagge assumes a basic knowledge of the Revolutionary Era by his readers.  But these comics can certainly be enjoyed by someone who remembers little from their history classes.  They are fun to read, but I should point out that Bagge does not whitewash the historical record; hagiography these are not.

By the way, when I picked up the book, I thought, "I'll share this with my kids!"  Then I opened the book and saw the title of the first selection: "Let's F--- Sh-- Up!"  As accurate as that may be of the revolutionary attitude, I prefer less profane language. . . . But that's as bad as it got.  The rest of the collection is not rife with profanity.

I could read Bagge all day.  He's so funny, yet so smart and insightful.  I only wish there were more of his political and historical oeuvre to read!

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