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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Gift: The Illustrated History of the Statue of Liberty (Graphic Novel)

by Henry Gibson & Alfredo P. Alcala

Publisher: Blackthorne Pub (May 1986)

Softcover 48 pages

Finished 10/24/2017

Amazon Listing

    Here’s an old one from the 80s that I dug out while culling the crap from the back of my house. It was originally part of my classroom library when I was wasting my time being a middle school teacher. It was frowned upon by the pretentious administration to stack the shelves with material that kids might actually like, so I filled it overpriced educational material like this. Despite the cynical intro here, it is not a bad book. Perhaps it is a little too historically detailed for the middle school age range to take in (especially with the pack of imbeciles they’re churning out nowadays), but well researched and flawless in historical accuracy.
    It was published to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the statue’s erection on Liberty Island. The story is often presented as the French just showed up at our door one day with a huge statue for us, as if it were a colossal surprise gift. It was actually brought over in various sections. The arm and torch was presented at the Philadelphia World's Fair in 1876 and the head at the (modeled after architect Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s mother- the body was that of his wife) in Paris several years later.
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi
    The amount of planning that went into the statue was incredible. It really was one of the most daring experiments in the world at that time. The main architect's dream was to create a statue to rival the ancient civilizations. So with typical Victorian zeal, he set about doing it. First he attempted to create one for the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, but was rejected. Then the French government, having changed from a constitutional monarchy to a full fledged republic, wanted to cement ties with the United States, and agreed to the plan. To the French, this was as much about advertising their greatness as a goodwill gesture. They had recently completed the Eiffel Tower and this was their next achievement.  There was some government funding, but it was mostly supported by bond drives, raffles, and lotteries. The details of the actual construction was fascinating.
The book was published by Blackthorne Publishing, one of the many smaller comic houses that popped up when the direct marketing boom revolutionized the distribution methods of the medium. Initially they focused on reprints of classic strips, like Dick Tracy and Little Nemo in Slumberland, and parody comics such as Hamster Vice, Legion Of Stupid Heroes, Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos, and Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos (The last two were parodies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which itself initially was a parody. So a parody of a parody. Is there a word for that?), along with a few action and educational titles- like the one here. Their marketing was interesting as they never planned to publish a series for longer than 6 issues and most titles were simple one-shots, thus sidestepping many a new publisher’s trap of trying to establish a universe immediately, only to have the whole damn thing crash and burn.
    The company found their distinction in publication of 3-D comics which was a growing fad at the time. They cornered the market on these titles and rose to become the fifth largest comic publisher in the United States. That is until they severely overpaid for the licensing rights to do a 3-D adaptation of the Michael Jackson video Moonwalker. This, combined with their audience’s overwhelming lack of interest in the pedophile singer, bankrupted the company.
The author playing the head of the Illinois Nazi's in The Blues Brothers
    The author is none other than Henry Gibson of acting fame, a fact that only registered to me while glancing at the back of the book 10 years after purchasing it. Some may forget who this is, but he was a regular on the horribly dated Laugh-In (only good now for cringe laughs), the head of the Illinois Nazis in The Blues Brothers, and as Thurston Howell in the underrated flick Magnolia.  If you haven’t seen the last one, forget the book and go watch it immediatly. How he got into writing this book is unknown. I could not find any information anywhere and now that everyone involved is dead, it’s a mystery for the ages. C’est la vie!

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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