Founding Fathers Funnies
Peter Bagge returns to historical biography. I enjoyed his Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, but Founding Fathers Funnies takes a much different approach: short tales of 5-8 pages with little respect for the subjects.
Instead of focusing on historical events, the well-known milestones take background to showing famous men arguing with or sniping at each other. Bagge’s loopy, snaky lines lend themselves well to caricature. His goal is to humanize these historical figures, to demonstrate how their “big personalities… big ideas and big egos” led them to clash with each other. Some of the included stories cover
- John Adams and James Otis
- how much of a jerk Tom Paine was
- Paul Revere getting his portrait painted
- Ben Franklin creating an almanac to tweak a competitor
- the ferocious Nancy Hart
- Captain John Paul Jones
- South Carolina’s John Laurens
- Ben Franklin, John Adams, and John Quincy Adams in Paris
- and the plainspokenness of Alexander Hamilton as he argued to free slaves and fooled around with his sister-in-law.
In between are some one-pagers about silly things they said to each other.
I’m not sure what the point is behind many of these stories, other than to show some pretty large feet of clay on these well-regarded founders. Contrary to the title, I didn’t find many of these pieces humorous. (The shorts were most effective at raising a laugh.) They were mostly forgettable, once read, although the notes at the back provide additional information. Perhaps those who love seeing the egos of the well-regarded pricked will enjoy the book more. I can see someone forced through a “great man”-oriented history class loving it, for example, as a counter-measure.
Many of these strips first appeared from 2005-2007 as backups in Apocalypse Nerd, but others are new. About half the book is in color. There are preview pages at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)