cover image Johnny Appleseed: Green Spirit of the Frontier

Johnny Appleseed: Green Spirit of the Frontier

Paul Buhle and Noah Van Sciver. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (120p) ISBN 978-1-6839-6044-7

Academic Buhle (Bohemians: A Graphic History) and indie cartoonist Van Sciver (Fante Bukowski) examine an American folk hero’s legacy in this graphic novel. A legend of frontier folklore, John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman wandered through Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, until his death in 1845. An itinerant with a knack for land speculation, he planted and traded apple seeds, took only what he needed and gave away what he didn’t, and consequently left little behind but his trees, the accounts of those who encountered him, and a gentle legacy of naturalistic spirituality. This dearth of records leaves Buhle to explore the context rather than the content of Chapman’s life as he meanders through history and topics that relate to our “green spirit,” among them the role of apples in different civilizations, the various religious movements in early America, and the cosmic theology of Emanuel Swedenborg. Van Sciver’s rough indie aesthetic adds texture to Buhle’s often dry and academic text, which will appeal mostly to readers interested in an alternative perspective on this period of American history. (Sept.)