Best known as the creator of the long running Village Voice comics strip, Stan Mack’s Real-Life Funnies, cartoonist, children’s book author and pioneering graphic novel creator Stan Mack has teamed with writer/editor Susan Champlin to create a four book series of fictional graphic novels aimed at 10-14 year-old readers and set during important American historical periods. The book series will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books and the first title in the series, The Cartoon Chronicles of America: Road to Revolution! will be released in August of this Year.
Like the other books that will follow in the series, Road to Revolution! is set during a tumultuous social period in American history and readers can follow the adventures of a young boy and girl who team-up when they find themselves in the midst of important and exciting historical events. Set in Boston in 1775, Road to Revolution! focuses on the adventures of Nick, a fun-loving orphan boy and petty street-thief, and Penny, the spunky and headstrong daughter of a Boston Inn keeper that serves the British soldiers by day and plots against them at night. The series will initially include four books including one book set during the Civil War and another to be set during the California Gold Rush.
The Cartoon Chronicles book series is the latest in a select number of comics works published by Bloomsbury U.K and USA and its subsidiary Walker & Co. Those works include Mike Dawson’s autobiographical comics works Freddie & Me: A coming of Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody (2008) and a series of eight graphic novels based on scripts from the classic TV show The Twilight Zone. Bloomsbury Children’s list is about seven years old and publishes about 70 front list titles a year. Bloomsbury Children’s publishing director Melanie Cecka said the Mack/Champlain series is part an effort “to add different voices as well as American authors and illustrators to Bloomsbury USA’s children’s publishing program.” Cecka said that while comics were not “a big part of the list, we have been very selective and the format is delicious for the age group.”
While the Cartoon Chronicles series are works of fiction, Mack has a long history of creating well-researched albeit humorous nonfiction comics works. He and co-author (and domestic partner) Susan Champlin have taken great pains to research each book’s historical settings and events in an effort to create accurate as well as lively accounts and adventures for their characters. Each book will include a prose prologue that provides an accurate outline of the historical setting and relevant characters—each book will team up a young boy and a girl—as well as an epilogue that separates what is fiction and what is historically accurate in the book.
Mack is something of a pioneer in creating book-length comics works in fiction and nonfiction. In 1994 he published Stan Mack’s Real Life American Revolution, a cheeky look at the American War for Independence that made use of the irreverent humor characteristic of his Village Voice comics strip to enliven the historical setting. Now out-of-print, the book was originally published by Ballantine and combined Mack’s delightful and funny drawings, deep research and a relentless string of historically-informed wisecracks to relate the story of the American Revolution. Using a similar approach he created The Story of The Jews: A 4,000 Year Adventure, originally published in 1998 by Villard and published by Jewish Lights Publishing since 2001. It’s a full-fledged history of the Jewish people told through the skillful use of biblical stories in the form of wacky cartoons and based on careful historical research. He is also the author of Janet & Me: An Illustrated Love Story, an unusual and moving illustrated memoir published in 2004 that recounts the story of his 18 year relationship with his late partner Janet Bode, her struggle and death from cancer and his role as her caregiver.
While the new Bloomsbury kids series will also feature his signature drawings and humor, Mack said the new series will be different. “My older works were very ironic. They had a satiric distance. These stories will be straight, juicy adventure stories. The history will be solid but young readers won’t need to know the history to enjoy the books.” Mack and Champlin visited the historical settings in Boston and have done the same for the Civil War book, visiting locations in Virginia. And while all the books in the series will feature a young boy and girl, Mack emphasized that the girl will have an equal role in the narrative. The two young characters will have strong personality contrasts and “life events in the story will change both of them; politics will become a large force in their lives and they become involved in the action and fighting. This series is exciting. I can use all my interest in history and in education and relive my love of comics.”