This week at TwTT, Thomas Beasley, a graduate student in Classics and the annotator of the digital edition of the graphic novel, Age of Bronze, joined us to talk about the iPad edition of the comic, called Age of Bronze: Seen. Distributed by Throwaway Horse, the electronic version features not only a story line informed by a comparative literary analysis and drawings based on the best available history, but also a reader’s guide built into the app that brings historical context and archaeological foundations into the narrative. Although some people are still skeptical of the graphic novel’s role in education, Thomas points out that comics are dynamic and have been embraced by Yale as a valid form of literature, and that the addition of the reader’s guide opens the path to exploring graphic novels as teaching tools in other disciplines as well.
Although the electronic format may seem natural, before Age of Bronze was on the iPad it was a meticulously researched print comic on the history of the Trojan War. The author, Eric Shanower, sought to go beyond the well-known end to the war, recounted in Homer’s Iliad, to create a graphic retelling of the whole ten year conflict. With such a vast undertaking, no single source was sufficient. Instead, Shanower drew upon centuries of literature to create the story line. The comic is informed as much by purported first person historical accounts as by 20th century opera, resulting in a narrative that is historically grounded, but fresh and relevant to contemporary audiences.
While the story line draws on many sources across time, the actual art of the comic is based on archaeology and material culture. Buildings and sites depicted in the work will mirror the best archaeological reconstructions available, and a close examination of any frame reveals details that are based on extensive research. Figurines, jewelry, instruments, weapons, frescoes, and altars depicted in the graphic novel are all based on historical finds. Where data was not available from Troy, Shanower drew on relics from the nearby Hittite culture – trying to keep speculative drawing to a minimum.
Read more Digital Comics: Age of Bronze