Take a look behind the scenes at the creation of “The Birth of the First Amendment,” with insights from illustrator Gary Varvel.
What does creating this graphic novel mean to you?
A) Most of my work is commenting on current events, but it was refreshing to bring to life this story about John Peter Zenger and the tremendous impact he had on America. As I drew Zenger’s story, I felt that I got to know the man and his suffering for the truth, and I believe he has not received the credit his sacrifice deserves. I hope that this book shines a light on the tremendous impact Zenger had in inspiring the Founding Fathers to include the Freedom of the Press in the First Amendment.
Talk about your thought processes and why you decided to be a part of this project.
A) This book is a unique way of connecting the present with the past. By using modern day reporters transported back in time, we put the reader right there in the midst of the trial. I believe this book will become timeless and hopefully will impact future generations of journalists and Americans to appreciate that our freedoms came at the expense of those, like Zenger, who stood up to authority for the right to tell the truth.
How has it evolved over the last months?
A) As I worked through the book, I began to feel what Zenger and his wife, Anna, must have felt, both the highs and the lows. I also realized that greatness comes from adversity. Anna became the first woman publisher in the colonies. Zenger impacted history. None of that happens without facing persecution first. By the time we get to the post-trial celebration, I tried to capture the exuberance that Zenger, Anna and Andrew Hamilton must have felt. I hope you’ll feel it too.