By Alan Grant, Claude St. Aubin, Lovern Kindzierski, Todd Klein & Mark Zuehlke (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Beautiful, Educational and Fun, the perfect gift… 10/10
America’s been in lots of wars since it won Independence and has, in fact, started a goodly proportion of those for less than noble reasons. To be fair, Britain’s much longer record is no better, but most people here have never even heard of the brutal and frankly stupid conflict now known as The War of 1812.
Two centuries after the fact a small independent creative outfit known as Renegade Arts Entertainment (generally Alexander Finbow, Alan Grant, Doug Bradley, John Finbow, Nick Wilson and Jennifer Taylor: originators of comics and audio books, movies, animation, prose and graphic novels, merchandise and games) put their heads together and commemorated the story of the forgotten clash of political intransigents and empire-building politicians as a pictorial tome for youngsters featuring a multi-generational family caught up in the conflict.
The book won a number of prestigious awards and the narrative was later adapted into an animated motion comic (with the assistance of Arcana Studios and the Department of Canadian Heritage), iPad and digital PDF iterations and numerous other online formats as well as a wealth of educational materials for use in conjunction with the piece.
Author Alan Grant rewrote his comics saga as a prose novel and Oscar-nominated screen writer Tab Murphy remade the original story into both a screenplay and school play performed by students across Canada. There is even an 1812timeline.com you can follow whilst reading the version of your choice…
Hopefully that will be this brand new, fully updated and upgraded second edition, a stunning 175 page full-colour hardback tome which marries the powerful and enthralling graphic narrative with an abundance of fascinating extras.
Packed with additional illustrations, Alexander Finbow’s background-packed Foreword and the moving Acknowledgements page whets the appetite for the rollercoaster tale of ‘The Loxleys and the War of 1812’ by writer Grant, illustrator Claude St. Aubin, colourist Lovern Kindzierski and letterer Todd Klein.
Matriarch Aurora Loxley is justifiably proud of her extended family, three generations living and working together to build a farm and a life in a welcoming land. Originally from Pennsylvania she and her departed husband Abraham migrated to Canada after the War of Independence to the far side of the Niagara River where their burgeoning clan prospered near the Canadian town of York.
Extracts from her journal begin with the harvest of 1811 where well-earned celebrations are only slightly marred by talk amongst the men of war with America. Britain is currently battling Napoleon all over the world and the Royal Navy has been raiding American ships and ports, impressing men they claim are British deserters to serve in their embattled vessels. The practise outrages their southern neighbours the other side of the river, but many leaders in Washington DC act just as badly as the former regal masters they despise. The “War Hawks” in Congress are rapacious expansionists: wanting to wipe out the Indian peoples and believing it is their destiny to rule the entire continent.
As the idle party talk continues frail William takes a moment to capture the entire family (a dozen happy souls and their dog Duke) in a pencil portrait that depicts their last time as a happy, united family…
Everything changes on the night of November 11th when the Loxleys invite a frantic messenger into their home. He brings news that the main settlement of visionary Chief Tecumseh’s “nation within a nation” has been destroyed by a force of Americans in a night of massacre.
Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet have worked long to create a federation of disparate tribes as a bulwark against American westward expansion. Now the Yankees have taken the opportunity to move north as well and intend to drive the British out of Canada…
And so begins a deeply moving, informative, even-handed and intensely exciting tale of ordinary people moved to defend themselves against greed and aggression set against the backdrop of possibly the most ineptly handled, poorly executed war in history.
Despite being born of common greed and ruthless ambition by a few and ignorance and intolerance by a multitude, the haphazard, cravenly executed conflict nonetheless bought misery and death to thousands of serving soldiers, sailors and militia volunteers on both sides and domestic atrocity to an uncounted number of innocent civilians over the following two years and eight months.
Even America’s greatest victory, one of pitifully few in an overcautious, criminally mismanaged string of campaigns, was a ludicrous farce. Despite being considered a stunning triumph and affirmation at the time, the Battle of New Orleans occurred weeks after the war officially ended and nobody except the dead, maimed and missing really cared…
As the Locksley family splinters, the story powerfully covers the role of militias on both sides – as well as the valiant French-speaking citizens we know as Quebeçois today – and examines the crucial part played by and eventual betrayal of the native peoples.
Also seen through innocent eyes are the machinations of the politicians on both sides and the aftermath of the war…
For old fuddy-duddies like me who like their facts and analysis printed on paper there’s historian Mark Zuehlke’s epic, fascinating and lavishly illustrated essay ‘The War of 1812: Historical Summary’ – preceded by a stunning painting of ‘The White House in Flames’ by John M. Burns – to enjoy before a range of follow-up features offer further information through ‘Creator Biographies’ and alluring details on the other strands of the project such as ‘The Loxleys and the War of 1812 School Play’ and ‘The Loxleys and the War of 1812 Novel by Alan Grant’ both of which include excerpted passages and a piece on the ‘The Interactive iPad and Android Tablet app’ before everything concludes with a wealth of delightful ‘Initial Character Designs by Claude St. Aubin’
Despite the panoply of interactive iterations listed above, this sterling and compulsively readable chronicle ably proves one of my most fervently held beliefs: the comics medium is the perfect means to marry learning with fun and a well made graphic treatise is an unbeatable mode with which to Elucidate, Educate and Enjoy.
So buy this and do so…
The Loxleys and the War of 1812 © 2012 Renegade Arts Entertainment.