Colins inkstuds Comics Review Day #2: A Peoples History of American Empire

A People’s History of American Empire (A Graphic Adaptation)
Writer: Howard Zinn Cartoonist: Mike Konopacki Historian: Paul Buhle

Hey, how many graphic novels have a historian on the masthead? Back in 1980 Howard Zinn published the book A People’s History of the United States and his critical look at the often horrible reality behind the cherished myths of United States history changed the way many Americans looked at their past. The United States has always thought of itself as a place apart from the world, anointed by God ,uniquely virtuous and universally benevolent. Zinn pointed out that the United States was a nation like any other, often rapacious and cruel and always willing to kill in it’s national interest. A People’s History of American Empire revisits some of this history, however the title feels a little deceptive as once Zinn is born just before the great depression much of the stories focus becomes autobiographical as we follow Zinn’s disillusionment with his service in WW2 and his later political activism right up to 9-11. The cartooning by labour activist Mike Konopacki is competent, in 260 pages there’s a lot of ground to cover here and he manages to do it clearly and concisely. The use of contemporary illustrations, photos and documents to tell the story is rather overdone and the endless “repeat” generic panels of Howard Zinn lecturing (same image, different words) got on my nerves. A People’s History of American Empire is not a display of showy comics virtuosity but as a teaching tool, which I’m sure is how it was intended, it is an excellent introduction to the ideas of Howard Zinn.

Colin (yes, I borrowed it from the library) Upton

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