From Laurence Luckinbill. Adapted by Eryck Tait. Published by Dead Reckoning.
This story takes place as a one man performance. Teddy Roosevelt is preparing to give a speech when he receives a telegram that his son Quentin’s plane has been shot down over France and his fate is unknown. Teddy still takes the stage and the evening becomes a reflection on his life.
Of course the point is to introduce the reader to Roosevelt’s legacy through his autobiographical monologue. The speech becomes a performance and that brings the history we pretend to know but really don’t back to life. The average person knows the teddy bear, and he hunted, and maybe the Rough Riders. Although they’ve most likely forgotten where exactly they were riding or why it was rough. He is remembered as a mascot, as a cartoon character. Which is why a story like this is important and will become more so as time passes and ignorance digs in its heels.
I count myself among the ignorant. This book honestly laid out his youth, his marriages, his public service. Ups and downs. Failures and successes. While reading Teddy he simultaneously becomes larger than life and also a fallible person. I’ve never been a leader of men, but here Theodore is presented in such a down to Earth way I found myself questioning his decisions. Mostly the raising of his children. Of course these are different times and different situations. But taking care of cattle and fighting wars makes sense. Leaving your offspring with another in order to pursue these quests unburdened bothered me. I’m ready to take the 26th president to task over 100 years later. That’s the power of this book.
Not that this is all anger. Teddy starting out in New York politics paints him as the last honest man in the room. Maybe he’s still the last honest man that was in that room. While this story is told from his perspective, and he might be an unreliable narrator making himself look good, there must be something genuine to it for this part of the story to still be known today. For one man to speak up against corruption, even though he was unsuccessful, is so much more inspiring than… (turns on the news)… well, all of this.
It is too much to ask a creative team to produce similar works like this for more important figures in US history. But as an adult I learned an incredible amount about one of the more legendary presidents in the country’s history. Imagine what this book alone, or even similar books, could do within classrooms. History class has been viewed as boring for generations and it is only as we get older that some of us find the appreciation and seek out the information. Graphic novels such as Teddy could remove that stigma and create a spark for learning thanks to presenting history through the unlimited potential in the medium that is comics instead of a beaten up textbook that has been signed out to kids for the last 20 years.