High Five! Comics

Gateway Drugs: History Buffs

Posted on: September 15, 2009

Anyone remember Asterix? Yeah, me too! (Hey! I get it! FRENCH CLASS!! See what we did there?) We’ve all got at least one friend who’s a total history nerd, right? Well, welcome to High Five!’s definitive guide to getting your history-buff buddy into comics!

Marvel_1602First up, Marvel 1602*, which transplants several familiar Marvel heroes back to the Elizabethan era. I know, I know. The premise sounds stupid, and I thought so too, but I picked it up off a discount rack a while back, and man – I should have had more faith in Neil Gaiman. Sir Nicholas Fury is the master of her majesty’s spy game, and Rohjaz – well, you’ll just have to find out. Also starring Elizabeth I, Virginia Dare, James I, oh and some dinosaurs. Just ignore the dinosaurs, ok? I swear, this book is not as cheesy as you think it is, and putting our modern heroes in a 17th-century setting is a feat only Neil Gaiman could pull off. Read it!

250px-MausMaus. Oh god, Maus. Art Spiegelman’s riveting graphic novel tells two stories. First, the story of Spiegelman’s own youth in New York City in the 50s, and second, the story of his father, Vladek. Spiegelman’s father was prisoner #175113 at Auschwitz.  Maus tells that story, as well as tales of Vladek’s youth in Poland.  While largely an autobiographical piece, Maus uses animals as the main characters instead of humans. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats, the Russians are bears – but this comes off as anything but cutesy. This book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, so if nothing else grabs you, maybe the fact that a COMIC won a PULITZER will.

250px-300_comicTHIS IS SPARTA! Amirite? Dudebros everywhere loved the movie, but history nerds will like 300, especially since bits of it are so inaccurate they’ll be able to nitpick at length. (History nerds LOVE to nitpick, see: SCA. Which I grew up in, so I’m not mocking, I’m just saying.) Anyway, 300 is the comic re-telling of the three day long Battle of Thermopylae, waged between the Spartans and the Persians. Sin City‘s Frank Miller wrote this one so it can be a little…much, at moments. Just don’t say you weren’t warned, ok?

From_hell_tpbAnother movie! And this one starred Johnny Depp, so there’s a good chance the ladies reading caught this flick (even though it had next to nothing in common with the book. sigh). From Hell, by the always brilliant Alan Moore, speculates on the identity and motives of the terrifying Jack the Ripper. The book draws from records of the original case, as well as Moore’s own imagination. Many of Moore’s conclusions have been disproved – multiple times; but that doesn’t detract from the Moore’s ability to tell a truly twisted period tale.

Crecy_cover_artFinally, a suggestion from reader Ben C., Warren Ellis’ Crécy, which details parts of the Battle of Crécy, fought between the British and the French in 1346 during the Hundred Years War. The British were outnumbered something like 3:1, and they basically won the battle by shooting massive clouds of arrows at the French Cavalry, who were, being cavalry, on horses. Legend goes that the British only lost 40 men out of the ten thousand or so fighting. Crécy is something of a point of pride for the Britons. Warren Ellis is British, and he’s imbued Crécy with his particular brand of British snark. Read it!

Now, if someone would just make a comic about 1066, the Battle of Hastings, and the start of Plantagenet dynasty, I’d be a very happy girl. Oh wait they did- it’s called the Bayeaux Tapestry.

*Note: If you trust us and decide to pick up any of these titles, click the links in this post to buy! They’ll take you through to amazon, and we’ll get some miniscule percentage in commission.


3 Responses to "Gateway Drugs: History Buffs"

What about the gateway going the other way—books that can be good introductions to history for comics readers?

Some that come to my mind are:
* STAGGER LEE, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix
* SUSPENDED IN LANGUAGE, by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis
* MEN OF TOMORROW, by Gerard Jones

Three explorations of history in comics form, and one history of American comics.

You are still so SCA.

Crecy! Really. We may need a copy of that in our house. Are you surprised.

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