The Adventures of Blanche
Rick Geary is best-known these days for his true crime stories exploring historical murders, such as his recent The Lindbergh Child. In The Adventures of Blanche, he tackles similar past settings — three world cities during the early 1900s — but the action is definitely fictional.
Geary’s traditional pen-and-ink style, with its thick lines and distinctive caricatures, does a wonderful job building a different world for the reader. As Blanche writes home to her parents, we see through her eyes these cities during the early 20th century. Instead of using her text to carry the brunt of the story, the visuals are essential.
In 1907, Blanche travels to New York’s Greenwich Village, where she stays with a European professor and his wife for concert piano training. The city is excavating for the subway system and building skyscrapers. When Blanche hears late-night noises in the walls, she finds she has stumbled across a secret society! After many exciting turns, including a furious chase in horse-drawn wagons, she becomes the toast of the Musical World.
That status takes her to Hollywood in 1915, brought to Los Angeles to head a new music department for a motion picture studio. It’s a town full of young people doing astounding creative work. This chapter has several cameos — Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith — as Blanche winds up mesmerized by the power of movies as both an art form and a way to communicate ideas. Meanwhile, a drive for union organization is riling the town with protests, demonstrations, sabotage, and violent incidents with outside agents.
Blanche survives her run-in with an attempt to stop the filming of Griffith’s Intolerance, but in 1921, she decamps to Paris. She was intending to embark on a concert tour of Europe, but her promoter has left her stranded, and she is questioned about the apparent suicide of a shipboard acquaintance investigating a new source of energy. She winds up working on a musical co-written by Gertrude Stein with sets designed by Picasso. The city is coping with the dispossessed veterans of the past World War, but Blanche runs into an old friend from Hollywood. Once again, the story concludes with a fantastic chase, this time up the Eiffel Tower!
This series shares Geary’s love of accurate, detail-based history with his murder tales, but its stories are lighter and more fun. There’s never any question that Blanche will be just fine. And for a proper Midwestern young lady, she sure winds up doing some amazing things!
The book reprints three previously published comics with a new introductory story. A preview is available at the publisher’s website.