Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BOOTH by C.C. Colbert & Tanitoc

Despite the cover prominently featuring Abraham Lincoln, I can assure you that the graphic novel, BOOTH, is really and truly about Lincoln's assassin: the compelling, dark & twisty stage actor named John Wilkes Booth. The script was written by author C.C. Colbert, the drawings are by the French illustrator Tanitoc, and the color - which is worthy of a sonnet in its praise - is by Hilary Sycamore.



The use of a graphic novel to examine this account of John Wilkes Booth's actions and beliefs is exceedingly clever, demonstrating in near-cinematic form what the times were like, and presenting Booth's actions in a forthright manner, including his long-time association with a prostitute (including a bit of topless female nudity), his racist remarks (which include repetition of the word "nigger"), and his courtship of Lucy Hale, the daughter of a prominent Senator who supported the Union and President Lincoln. Hale appears to have had a close relationship with Robert Lincoln, one of Abraham's sons; unaware of Booth's extremist tendencies, Hale agreed to a secret engagement to Booth for a time, which he broke off immediately prior to his assassination of the President.

The graphic novel depicts the chaos that existed during the Civil War, and shows how the Booth family was a family divided. John Wilkes Booth's brother Edwin was a staunch supporter of the Union, whereas Booth was a Confederate sympathizer. Edwin tried to dissuade Booth from spying for the Confederacy, but Booth was a committed racist and an ardent supporter of the Confederacy. He participated in conspiracies that were not backed by the Confederacy, but were more akin to white supremacists. With an almost religious zeal, Booth worked to depose Lincoln through kidnapping or assassination in order to spur the South to further acts of revolution.
Here's a page depicting the immediate aftermath of Booth's assassination of Lincoln, in which his exclamation, Sic semper tyrannus! (So always with tyrants!) is partially cut off:



And here's an image from earlier in the book where John Wilkes Booth first meets Lucy Hale at a charity event:



The book is exceedingly well-researched and the story it tells, while considered a fictionalized account, is accurate . . . and riveting. The author, C.C. Colbert, is actually acclaimed historian and noted history professor, Catherine Clinton, who can be counted on to get her facts right. She has provided a bit of back matter that explains the sources of some of her material, while also identifying some of the recent research that she was unable to include in this account of Booth's life. Here is a link to a blog post over at First Second books, which provides additional information on the art and color, as well as giving you a look at the complete wrap-around cover and another inside spread.


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3 comments:

tanita davis said...

This is actually really cool, and I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of graphics and First:Second.

Lauren said...

This looks great! What an awesome way to show Booth's story (which is, admittedly, incredibly interesting).

Kelly Fineman said...

Tanita: First Second is absolutely one of my favorite producers of graphics - such quality productions, and some of my favorite titles!

Lauren: It is a very interesting story, and there were parts of it I didn't know, which made it that much more interesting of a book to read!