The Comic Queen

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ken Boesem’s 1918 and War Story: An American Parable

As Kerry reported, the Vancouver Comicon was a successful day for us. Not only did we get to meet and talk with Greg Rucka, Steve Rolston, Michel Gagne, and James Lloyd, but we also picked up a few comics treasures.

Two comics of special note are both by Ken Boesem. At the last con in Vancouver, I bought Boesem’s “On the Rocks” and after reading it knew I wanted to read more by Boesem. This time I picked up “1918” and “War Story: An American Parable.”

First off, I have to say I appreciate the time and, I’m sure, cost Boesem puts into the production of his comics. While “War Story” is in a more typical mini-comic format (4.25 x 5.5 in.), “1918” was produced, like “On the Rocks,” in a larger size (5.5 x 8.5 in.) on substantial paper with a heavier card stock cover. The print job itself is high quality as well. In other words, Boesem takes care with his product and this is just a reflection of the care he takes with his stories.

“1918” ($4) was published last August and included in the 2003 SPX Anthology. This wordless story follows the inception and spread of the influenza pandemic of 1918. The Spanish Flu, as it is also called, infected a fifth of the world’s population and killed somewhere between 20 to 70 million people in just one year.

In addition to the 10-page story, Boesem writes a four-page historical essay about the pandemic and includes a page list of non-fiction, fiction, children’s books, film/TV, and plays dealing with the influenza pandemic of 1918. The most striking page of the comic is the cover illustration showing a skeleton wielding a scythe and representing the flu, striking down a mass of very small human representatives who all together appear as grass.

The other comic I picked up was “War Story” ($2). The illustrations in this comic show pictures of typical American life in the present day: families watching the President on TV, displays of patriotism, pro- and anti-war groups clashing, etc.

However, the words coming from the illustrations are from a quote by Nazi leader Hermann Goring as recorded by psychologist Gustave Gilbert in the mid 1940s. Perhaps some may feel Boesem’s execution of his point was heavy handed, but I thought it was disturbingly on point.

I recommend both of these comics from Boesem. You can find out more about the comics and ordering information here.


  • At 8:59 AM, November 18, 2004, Blogger Kerry said…

    I read War Story yesterday and I thought it was incredibly powerful, especially for its tiny size. I've read On the Rocks and 1918 as well and they are great too. Boesem never fails to impress me.

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