Updated: Mar 12
My blog entry for the opening scene mentions that one of the ways I use the nine panel grid in Two Generals is to represent the rhythm of breathing. The other way I use it is represented here: as a ticking clock. I'll go into more detail about the way I think about time and visual structure in my comics in upcoming scenes, but suffice it to say that the story's"clock" starts here, at the top of page 8, with Law Chantler's birth.
I'm ashamed to admit that I don't really know much about my grandfather's pre-War life. What little I do know is depicted on pages 8-10. Some of this is based on my personal knowledge (such as him enjoying the outdoors or dancing in Port Stanley), the rest based on old photographs and family trees that turned up during my research.
I didn't know Fred or Lydia Chantler -- both were gone by the time I was born -- but I had a good photo of each of them, so was happy to include them both. I did know Law's sister Florie a little, as a very old woman, so it was nice to meet her again here as a young girl.
The L&PS Pavillion (later re-named The Stork Club, after the famous New York nightclub) in the Lake Erie beach town of Port Stanley was the largest dance hall in Ontario at the time, and a place my grandparents spoke about often. And why wouldn't they? In the Big Band era of the late 1930s, some of the best musicians of the day (or any day, really) graced its stage. Imagine being young at that time, and living a short drive from a club where, say, Louis Armstrong might be playing. It staggers the mind, and judging from how often I heard Stork Club stories, I assure you they knew how lucky they were.
The Stork Club was still going strong by the time the Rock 'n' Roll era hit in the '50s and '60s, so my parents also had stories about the place. As usual, though, my generation got hosed: the place burned to the ground in 1979, shortly before my seventh birthday. It was eventually replaced by a beach bar that's still there, and while I admit that I've occasionally enjoyed its jukebox and margaritas, I can never quite shake my jealousy, or the ghosts of what was.
For a more thorough history of Port Stanley's famous Stork Club, please check out this entry at Railway City St. Thomas.
When I first pitched Two Generals to McClelland & Stewart in 2007, they planned to publish it through their children's book division, Tundra Books. Like a lot of mainstream book publishers at that time, they were looking to get involved with graphic novels, but hadn't yet necessarily grasped that they aren't all for children. So I was to asked to make sure the causes of the war were clear for an audience who might not have yet studied WWII in school. To that end, my first script draft contained a lot more of the kind of
material that appears on page 11.
Once the publisher at Tundra read that original draft, though, she realized that while this was a book that would be important for young people to read, it more rightly belonged on the adult side of the office. That, gratefully, allowed me to assume a higher degree of general WWII knowledge on the part of the audience. Which meant I could trim the stuff about the origins of the war down to what's now in the book, contrasting the way North Americans dealt with the Great Depression (dancing to swing music) with the way Germany dealt with it (electing a hyper-nationalistic authoritarian madman). It's a bit simplistic, but serves my purposes here in just a few pages. As I've written elsewhere on this site, I'm less interested in the politics of the war than I am in the realities of having to live through it.
If you're someone who follows my work closely, you may know that the image of the last leaf falling at the bottom of page 11 is one I repeated in my latest book, Bix. I can't seem to resist the autumn, with its combination of natural beauty and impending doom, or the obvious metaphor inherent in "the fall."
If you've read Bix, you'll also know that Louis Armstrong appears in it, an echo of his brief cameo in Two Generals. The two stories have a lot in common (20th century history, biography, a pair of close male friends, death as a prominent theme) so I guess neither of us should be surprised that the storytelling itself occasionally overlaps as well.