Texas Tales Illustrated
Q&A with Illustrator, Mack White
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Congratulations to Mike Kearby and Mack White on being awarded the 2016 National Cowboy Museum Western Heritage Award for TEXAS TALES ILLUSTRATED: THE TRAIL DRIVER. A well deserved honor. Next up in the illustrated series will be Texas Tales: The Comanches.
Recommended for history buffs or parents or teachers wanting to teach Texas history to younger readers, Texas Tales Illustrated is an award-winning 30-page graphic novel series first published in 2011 written by Mike Kearby and illustrated by Mack White. The first issue deals with the years 1835-1836 and details in a factual manner the battle of the Alamo and the signing of the Treaty of Velasco. The second recently published issue tells the story of the Texas Trail Drives.
The stories are historically accurate and factually written and Mack White's illustrations are drawn with an obvious strong love of the subject matter. Both publications are modeled closely after the Classics Illustrated comic series of the 1950s and 60s, designed to both entertain and educate young readers uninformed of the subject matter and hopefully inspire them to do their own research and seek out history books and do more reading on their own.
Parents and teachers can show them to their children with ease of mind and confidence as there is no graphic gory violence, nudity or adult language used in these books; they are merely crafted to inform in an entertaining manner and adult readers can enjoy them as well. In the back pages are a written time-line of Texas Revolution events, a bibliography for further reading research, a copy of the Velasco Treaty and even a word search puzzle for the younger readers to search out key words and names from the story.
We had a chance to sit down and ask the series illustrator, Mack White, about the inspiration and process that is behind the creation of this entertaining and informative series.
Q. How did your fascination with Texas history begin?
A. My fascination began as a child growing up in the 1950s during the Davy Crockett craze that swept the nation when the Disney film was released. The release of John Wayne’s film “The Alamo” in 1960 further increased my fascination. Living in Texas, I could more easily visit the Alamo, Goliad, San Jacinto, and other historic sites, which made a great impression on me. When I was about twelve, I discovered the history section of the library and began to read more advanced books about the Revolution and early-day Texas in general. I found the historic Crockett, Bowie, and Houston much more interesting than the mythic versions depicted in films and children’s books. My interest continued to grow as I read more and more over the years. Today, the largest part of my personal library is my collection of Texana and Old West history books.
Q. How did the Texas Tales series come about?
A. Texas Tales Illustrated was the result of mine and Mike Kearby’s shared interest in Texas history. Mike is an award-winning western novelist. We met in 2008 when he hired me to illustrate his novel, The Last Renegade. During that collaboration, we had many discussions about Texas history. Mike, who is also a former teacher, wanted to depict Texas history in a way that would interest young people, and comics (my specialty) seemed the best way to do that. So we came up with the idea of Texas Tales Illustrated. Our first book was about the Texas Revolution, which tells the story through the eyes of real young people who actually experienced the revolution. Thus, the story of the Alamo is told through the eyes of 14-year-old William King, the youngest defender to die at the Alamo, as well as Enrique Esparza, eight-year-old son of defender Gregorio Esparza who took his family into the Alamo on the first day of siege. The massacre at Goliad depicts Francisca Alavez (known as the Angel of Goliad), a young woman who managed to save several men from execution by Santa Anna. The Runaway Scrape (the mass evacuation of settlers fleeing the Mexican army) is told through the eyes of Dilue Rose, a young girl who experienced it with her family.
Q. How are the issue topics decided? Can you share a little about the process of creating them?
A. The topics were narrowed down to three main eras in Texas history: the Texas Revolution, the Trail Drives, and the story of the Comanche Indians. Mike does the factual research and begins with a general story outline which we discuss, figuring out the best and simplest way to tell these complex stories in 20 or so pages. Then Mike writes the script. Meanwhile I research the visual details, in order to make the illustrations historically accurate. Then I adapt Mike’s script to the comics medium, deciding where we need close-ups, long shots, etc., making it visually flow. Throughout this entire process Mike is looking at my diagrams, rough sketches, and artwork, and we’re continually discussing it, solving problems, coming up with new ideas, figuring out the best approach. It’s a great collaboration.
Q. Are there any plans for future editions? Do you have any specific favorite tales you'd love to collaborate on?
A. We’ve completed two books so far: the Texas Revolution and the Trail Drives. Now we’re starting on the third and final book in the series, the story of the Comanche Indians, the predominant tribe of Texas. It is an epic story, beginning with their migration from the Rockies to Texas in the 1500s, and continuing into the 18th and 19th centuries as their way of life came into conflict with the Europeans who were colonizing the region. The longest and fiercest of all the Indian wars in American history were the ones fought between the Comanches and Texan settlers. It’s a thrilling story, ultimately tragic, with colorful figures such as Quanah Parker, the last great Comanche chief. We also want to devote special attention to the Comanche’s culture and way of life, a fascinating topic in itself that deserves more attention. We’re very excited about this book.