Let's take a moment to revisit the exisential horror engendered by the last Presidential Election. It really shook my faith in America that it could have voted W back into office. I couldn't, and I still can't, think of any reason for this other than plug ignorance on our part as a culture. It seemed like something that required a response.
I didn't want to start making political art, because the very fact that I can't imagine a sane reason for voting for Bush is a pretty good indication that any political art coming out of me would be one-sided, strident, and, worst of all, didactic.
Politics were out. Ah, but History! History is interesting. History is narrative. And if we knew more history, we would surely make better decisions in the present, right? And comics are a great medium for depicting history in an immersive way. So, there it was: I was going to make History Comics and the world would become a better place.
And then, this job comes in to draw history comics for money! Comics that will be looked at by hundreds of thousands of middle and high school students! It seemed like evidence of some Cosmic Grace. The Forces That Be approve of my mission!
So, I get the first assignment. Roman Gladiators? Cool! I'd just recieved a big stack of reference books from Dover on Ancient Rome for another project I was thinking about. I'm ready and rearin' to open up the Roman Empire to youth of the Nation. But wait, what's this? They want it done as a parody of a Sport's Show? They're giving me suggestions for anachronistic jokes? Urine tests? Really?! Crap! They don't wany the comics to be educational vehicles at all! These comics are just "Yuks" to fill in between the real chapters! Comics don't need to be a distraction from learning, they can be an embracement of learning! AHHHHRGH!
I ended up trying to sneak educational content into the Yuk-fest that ensued. There's actually a fair amount of information on gladiatorial combat hidden in this strip. And, much to the credit of the editors at McGraw-Hill (and much to the credit of the cartoonists working for them who kept pushing the boundries of the assignments), as they saw more and more of what comics were capable of doing, they asked for fewer Yuks, and more content. Eventually, I found myself grousing in the opposite direction: How am I supposed to fit in any jokes when they're drowning me with facts?