Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 4

For some reason, I skipped over page 4 last week. Sorry. I'll do page 5 tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peg Leg Pete, Issue 3

“The attack did not succeed as well as I had hoped, no small impediment having been the loss of my right leg.”—Peter Stuyvesant

In 2004 my mother gave me a book called The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto. It was a gorgeous hardcover with a seventeenth century sketch of New Amsterdam on the cover. When I read the description on the jacket sleeve, I smiled. The book was interested solely in the Dutch founding of New Netherland. “It just looked like something you would obsess over,” my mother said. “You don’t have it, do you?” I didn’t. I knew nothing about it, and for that my mother grinned, “I found one you didn’t know about. HA!” I asked her if she had read it. She gave me one of those “are you crazy” looks and said, “Who the hell wants to read a book about New York?”

It became my bible.

It was every historical morsel about New Amsterdam Shorto could find and distill into 325 pages of sheer reading pleasure. The next summer when I was down and dirty in my research, I bought a soft cover copy so I could mark it up and take notes in the margins. From it came so much of what I needed to make the history of New York an active and interesting character in the graphic novel. Shorto portrayed the Dutch not only as the pioneers of a diversified New York City, but of the democratic system in America. His intended hero was Adrien van der Donck, a free-thinking Dutch lawyer who persistently petitioned for representative government in New Amsterdam. But in it I found my aforementioned historical lynch pin: Peter Stuyvesant.

One of Shorto’s most astute observations came from his theory on the revisionist history of the Dutch impact on early colonial America. When New Amsterdam was turned over to the British in 1644, the powers that were went out of their way to erase the Dutch from the collective memory banks of history. Thinking back on it, in high school history courses, all I remember from that time period were all those drab Puritans. It was all Plymouth Rock and cities on hills and of course John Winthrop, that bore with the pointy goatee who seemed to have no sense of humor. These passages were usually punctuated with, “And to the south from the Hudson to the Delaware Rivers, the Dutch East India Company started this cute little colony called New Amsterdam which quickly fell into the prayerful and industrious hands of the British.”

So in September after a wonderful summer of losing myself in Dutch history (and an unexpected historical find in the East Village), I decided to send out an email survey to the 76 people in my contacts.

My idea was to put Shorto’s theory to test. I figured if I asked people who Peter Stuyvesant was and who John Wintrop was, for sure everyone would remember the latter and have no clue of the former. The email read as follows (I don’t use caps): hey all,
i need your help. i'm writing this essay and i need to ask you two quick questions. a survey if you will. answer honestly and don't google. just tell me the first thing that pops up in your pretty little heads. i thank you in advance. oh and since i'm sending this to everyone in my mailbox, if we don't speak for whatever reason or you haven't heard from me in awhile, i apologize, but your help is still greatly appreciated. explanation will come later if so desired (remember, don't google!) QUESTION #1: who is peter stuyvesant? QUESTION#2: who is john winthrop? hope all is well even if i don't really know you, justin

The responses will follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Peg-Leg Pete, Issue #2

“It is my intention to proceed slowly with our trenches.”—Peter Stuyvesant

One night as I was re-watching the Ken Burn’s New York documentary (Disc 2), like I did when I sat down to dinner, I heard the esteemed Peter Hamill say that no one had ever written the perfect New York City book. There were books about New York but never one that encapsulated the whole city. So, like any other cocky red-blooded 25 year old male, I thought I would set out to write one. Ha!
For two years I read as many books about New York history that I could find. One Christmas morning I received my coveted edition of Gotham, a mere 1236 pages of pre-twentieth century New York fun. My mother just looked up at me with my wide-eyes, like I was opening my Knight Rider Hot Wheels all over again, “Books shouldn’t be that long. Do you know what a pain in the ass it was to carry that thing out of Barnes and Nobles?” She glanced over at me flipping through the pages as I said excitedly, “You know, Peter Minuet didn’t really buy Manhattan for $24?” My father still thinking it’s important to encourage his little boy’s interests said, “Oh no?” Mom rolled her eyes and  grunted, “Someday you’ll tell me what this is all about, ok? So then maybe I can sleep through the night.”

 Regardless, over that next year I was reading and researching. I was on a mission from God (Peter Hamill) to write the Great New York City novel. Ideas cropped up here and there. Characters started over developing. Plot arcs where drawn up and down and over again. I quickly became overwhelmed. One book became three. Three books became seven and soon I was writing character sketches that went on for thirty pages. A few pages of a prelude to a prequel were written but they were left to rot in a blue Ralph Lauran shirt box under my bed.  I was symbolically burying my primer to this mammoth project in a catacomb that was once occupied by a great blue and red-stripped rugby shirt. It was too lofty and arrogant a dream. I simply settled on my historical New York fixation to be a decorative choice and immediately heaved a sigh of ho hum. 

Enter Courtney Zell: Good friend, talented artist, and companion on many crazy adventures, one of which included making a trust-fund baby cry at Mars Bar. One night, over one too many glasses of wine, I started telling her about this New York novel. It involved secret societies, vengeful whales and nerdy librarian linguists. I think I went on for about an hour. I figured she would immediately ask me to leave and seek help. She didn’t. She smiled and said she loved it. On a lark I blurted out, “How about making it a graphic novel?” She agreed although neither one of us knew anything about comics. But like two cracked-up pieces making a whole, we found our calling. At first, the book was called The Tulips, but something very Tiny Tim (may he rest) resonated. Next we tried, Owen Tulip in the Empire City. That stuck for about a month but it was like a mouthful of marbles to say. Then looking over some vintage art one afternoon we spied a poster from a 1925 film, New York, The Wonder City. That was it! Drop the “New York” and we were sold. We had a title, we had a story (that needed some tailoring), and we had a medium. Three years later, although not anywhere near the finish, we are steadily building our trenches.

What in the world does all that have to do with Peter Stuyvesant? Since so much of the story was rooted in history I needed to find that New York historical character who could be my lynchpin; the rug who tied the room together, as it were.  The staunch peg-legged governor of New Amsterdam seemed to be the fit.

Only one problem: no one had a clue this guy ever existed.

In our next issue of Peg-Leg Pete. Justin sends out a survey about Peter Stuyvesant and the proverbial good times roll.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chapter 1, Page 3 & THANKS!!!

WE HIT OUR GOAL!!! WOOOOHOOOO! And with 60 days to spare.
Thanks to all the backers who generously made that possible, no matter what crazy journey THE WONDER CITY takes you guys helped to bring us there. You truly are all citizens of THE WONDER CITY.
Courtney and I are still forging ahead with the fundraising, now with the publication funded we can go ahead and put any additional earnings toward tables at comic shows and shipping costs.
Many thanks again and enjoy page 3!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Velma's Journal--Velma At the Helm!

Velma Here,

So I've been practicing on this thing and I think I got it down. You type. You read it over. Then you hit "Publish Post." I think I'm going to be real good at this. Nicky or Justin, if you can see this, tell me if it looks alright. Also, I like this font. It looks like a typewriter. 

I miss a typewriter. So much more substantial than this machine. So now if I can only make this site start from the beginning instead of starting at the end. That makes no sense to me! Am I the only one who thinks that? 

Ok, if this works, I'll get to posting the journals.