July 30, 1905: Daniel Corbin, a Washington railway entrepreneur, gazed upon an 80-metre thick seem of high-grad bituminous coal in southeastern British Columbia. This find led to the formation of the town of Corbin, where, in 1935, workers would wage a long and bitter strike that culminated in the writing of “a page of unparalleled police brutality in Canadian history.” (Quote from Ralph Wootton, official for United Mine Workers of Canada, April 30 1935)
‘Coal Mountain’ illustrated by Nicole Marie Burton and produced by the Graphic History Collective, is about the Corbin Miners’ Strike of 1935. The story remains relatively unknown outside of academic circles.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains of eastern British Columbia, Corbin was a company town of 600 in its first years. There was no power and now plumbing, and the only way in or out of the town was the railway.
Soon, families joined the miners. Miners without families stayed in the company boarding house for about a dollar a night – incredibly expensive housing costs for the time.
On the morning of April 17, 1935, the Corbin miners strike came to a head with a massive confrontation of miners, their wives, and Corbin Collieries company men, accompanied by B.C. provincial police.
Miners’ wives formed a front-line human shield ahead of the strikers. Linking arms, they refused to allow the company men to re-open the mines that had been closed for months.
The company, assisted by baton-waving police, lurched forward, slamming their way through the strikers and their wives. The brutality exerted on the miners’ wives prompted their husbands, behind them, to rush forward, making it impossible to clear the crowd.
First order of business is filling pre-orders from the lovely folks who supported me during my Indiegogo campaign–they are deserving of a comic on their doorsteps immediately, along with my most heartfelt thanks. It feels wonderful to have people around you who believe in your project.
This Summer has been such a blur of activity, I feel like I haven’t really had time to sit down and process my first publishing experience. From the get-go, I liked the idea of publishing creative work from someone other than myself for the first go at it–I feel like creating and producing are two very different processes that deserve their own special care and attention. Likewise, I wanted to give myself at least some mental time and space to look at the process as much from outside myself as possible–a hard thing to do when you’re staring your own brain child.
And so I impart to you the lessons I’ve learned from this experience from Day 1 – from initial planning, getting in touch with creators, editing, printing, fundraising, and retailing.
Make a Timeline. It’s not that we all follow calendars, but they help your brain foreshadow the journey in which you’re about to take part. Get a cheap calendar from the dollar store, or a get a big piece of paper, and lay out everything you think will be involved in the process of your project. Enjoy the Process. A lot of the editing work with 100 Year Rip-Off was incredibly tedious–essentially going over each image with a magnifying glass. But I actually enjoy this work, and find the focus involved therapeutic. If you find yourself going into territory that is boring or frustrating–but necessary for your project’s completion, find a way to make it a more enjoyable experience. Creativity, love, and care in work all stem from savored moments. Don’t rush it.
Make Connections. Anyone who has a project they want to share should always have this in mind. Everywhere you go, you have opportunities to talk about what you’re working on. Don’t get all shy and say “I don’t want to promote myself”. Stop it! You’re not shamelessly promoting yourself–you are promoting your work, which has a life all its own. And let me tell you, it’s way more interesting to talk about with your neighborhood barrista in the morning than the frickin’ weather or new version of the iPhone. Come off it. People love projects. They love hearing about what the people around them are working on. Share the process you’re involved in with others–and you will always find people who say, “When you’re done–save one for me.”
Seriously Calculate Finances. Seriously. I know everyone hates it, but understanding how much your project is going to cost is pretty important–especially when you’re asking people to help you out with money. This brings me to my next point, which is Indiegogo related.
Details of Delivery. Once your project is done, how’s it getting out to people? If you did a crowd-funding campaign, did you calculate for postage? How about international orders? These all seem like “good problems” to have, that you’re willing to table until you’re far enough along that they will come up–but think about them now. I included a promotional poster in with my Indiegogo campaign–one that I wanted to send unfolded to contributors. Well, after the campaign had ended, I found out that shipping it unfolded was going to cost 2-3 times as much as what people had donated for it! FAIL. Keep shipping in mind.
… I may add to this list later, but these are my immediate reflections on this particular project. I’d like to take some more time in the near future to really lay out the anatomy of the process, and perhaps turn it into its own How-To project.
100 Year Rip-Off, A People’s History of B.C. to be Re-released After 40 Years Canada’s Oldest ‘Graphic History’ on Record Highlights Stories of Working Class and People of Colour
July 20, 2013
Canada’s oldest recorded comic book history is coming back from the dead after more than 40 years—if it gets a little help. On the anniversary of B.C. joining Confederation, specialty comic book publisher Ad Astra Comics is launching a 40-day fundraiser for the comic book “100 Year Rip-Off: The Real History of British Columbia”. The campaign, which aims to raise a modest $800, will help to cover the costs of re-mastering and printing the comic for the first time in over four decades.
“100 Year Rip-Off: The Real History of British Columbia” is a blue-collar comic book history of the first 100 years of B.C.’s confederated history. Written by the late Robert Simms and illustrated by artist and current B.C. resident Bob Altwein, 100 Year Rip-Off was originally produced as a one-time 8-page broadsheet, accompanied by a counter-culture newspaper.
Ad Astra Comics, in consultation with Altwein, has digitized and re-mastered the work and provided complimentary additions to the content, including a map and glossary addressing the finer details of the original work. The text remains un-altered.
“100 Year Rip-Off is a graphic history that almost slipped into oblivion–right at a time when comic books and ‘graphic history’ comics in particular are reaching a peak in popularity,” says Nicole Marie Burton, campaign coordinator and founder of Ad Astra Comics, a micro-publisher that specializes in political and historical titles. The project is headquartered with the publisher in Toronto.
A quality printing of the re-mastered work means that 100 Year Rip-Off can get a new lease on life–and that means a new generation of readers will be able to benefit from these little-known stories of the province’s history.”
That history, according to 100 Year Rip-Off, includes a number of episodes in which B.C.’s residents were given the short end of the stick–as the name indicates. It documents, through meticulous research, the seizure of lands from B.C.’s First Nations alongside the banning of Indigenous cultural practices like the pot-latch. It progresses by chronicling the often-volatile history of labour struggles within the region, from the formation of B.C.’s first unions to the province’s recurring threat of a Winnipeg-style general strike. History enthusiasts will take interest in the detail of the text, while comic book lovers will enjoy the ‘School House Rock’ style of illustrations, so indicative of the contemporary comic and cartooning scene of the 1970s.
Burton points out that young activists may take interest in the rendition of the 1938 ‘Sit-downers Strike’ that took place at the Vancouver Art Gallery and in the Georgia Hotel–an action very reminiscent of the recent Occupy Movement.
100 Year Rip-Off is a standard-sized comic book of 30 black-and-white pages. Participants in the project’s IndieGoGo campaign can contribute for as little as $7 and get their own copy of the book mailed to them. Larger contribution packages include buying a bundle of comics at a reduced price–perfect for schools, unions, book stores, and special interest groups–along with a poster-sized version of the comic book’s reference map, which has been added to this specially re-mastered edition.
“The project is about revitalizing and popularizing the working class history of this province,” explains Burton. “But it is also celebrating the creative work of the comic itself, which in turn has become a part of our history.”
For more information, please visit the “100 Year Rip-Off” IndieGogo Campaign Page:
After confirming the project with the work’s artist, Bob Altwein, I am now set to begin reprinting 100 Year Rip-Off within the next two weeks!
An exciting add-on to this momentous occasion (my first experience with “printing”/”publishing”) is some supplementary information that I’m providing within this graphic history of British Columbia.
Click to enlarge
Posted here is an “Historic” Map of B.C. that I’ve drawn. It includes the territories of First Nations in the province; relief camps during the 1930’s, which were hotbeds of squalor and social unrest; and finally, the locations of B.C.’s 15 WWII-era internment camps, where thousands of Canadian citizens and residents of Japanese descent were held against their will. It was the largest mass exodus in Canada’s history.
Needless to say, I was a bit surprised that even this basic information (the numbers and locations of these camps around B.C.) necessitated several hours at the Toronto Reference Library. You think everything is on the internet… until you want to investigate history in detail.
While the map is located on page 3 of this 30-page comic book, I have also added a glossary of names and terms to the back, for those outside of B.C. who may not immediately understand that B.C. Hydro is our public electricity company, or that the I.W.W. stands for Industrial Workers of the World.
I look forward to your feedback! If this is up your alley, then stay tuned – #100Year Rip-Off will be available for purchase as a 30-page comic book in July 2013!