Freeman Colby: From Primary Sources to Comics

Here’s a gallery of some Civil War primary sources & resulting comics pages from the Freeman Colby series:

Vol. 1: The Diary

Freeman Colby Vol. 1 started out as a (more or less) direct visual interpretation of Colby’s written “diary” (click the image to view @ full size):

Adding Visual Reference

Where Colby provides no description of historical sites, I found it useful to refer to historical primary source images:

(Note how those comics panels help us explore the lithograph’s details sequentially.)

Vol. 2: Supplemental Texts & Visuals

Basing Vol. 2 around Colby’s 1863 letters, I found it necessary to fill gaps in the record with texts & images from other sources. Below, some text from the 39th Mass. regimental history illustrates a gap of several months in Colby’s letters:

Bringing in Other Narrators:

To fill these narrative gaps, I find it useful to focus for entire sections on the people around Colby, who provide many details to complement Colby’s story & flesh out our overall sense of the time period.

Below = Walt Whitman’s pocket notebooks, drawn from Colby’s perspective:

… & then the Other Narrators Take Over the Story!

I quickly find the story wants to linger on & follow these additional narrators — This empathic curiosity is a common effect of drawing out somebody else’s story!
Below = drawing from the letters of Nurse Sarah Low, while Colby lies sick in hospital:

Learning to See (& Fill) those Gaps

Of course, if we’re really paying attention, we can see that Colby’s letters home don’t tell the full story of his situation:

Drawing out a long march from Colby’s perspective, we must consider what (or who) is in those blank spaces all around our characters:

We learn to mix in additional sources, with different perspectives on topics Colby doesn’t even mention:

From there, we can bring even more voices into our source-based conversation:

These voices help us enrich & explore the cultures & communities in which each character is crafting their own individual narrative.

For recent work-in-progress posts from Freeman Colby Vol. 3, visit the project’s PATREON...

Published by Marek

Cartoonist, musician, teacher.

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