Monday, August 8, 2016

From NPR to the Levy Project

Nearly two years ago I did an interview about the Farallon Egg War with Nikki Silva, which is airing on NPR's Morning Edition on August 15.  If so, I still have no idea what part of the two-hour interview that she conducted will actually make it into the brief audio segment, but in the event you stumbled onto this site after hearing that segment, welcome - you'll find plenty of material about the egg wars on this blogspot.

More recently, I've been working on a short comic about what has often been called America's version of "L'Affaire Dreyfus." That's right - I'm working on a graphic history about the 1967 court-martial of Dr. Howard B. Levy.

Levy, a conservative Brooklynite who developed an acute social conscience during his medical residency in the early 1960's, became clumsily but earnestly involved in the civil rights movement. And, after he was drafted into service during Vietnam, he became, somewhat accidentally, the genesis of the G.I. anti-war movement.

Levy's story is frankly among the weirdest, funniest, most inspiring tales I've ever heard.  It's like a Coen Brothers comedy, but with a wise-cracking Jewish Jeff Bridges in the lead.

Levy's court-martial was, at the time, a closely watched trial, with over 100 journalists descending upon Fort Jackson, S.C., for the sentencing.  The reporters included Pulitzer Prize-winning war reporter Homer Bigart, of The New York Times; the ever-shrewd Green Beret-turned-journalist Donald Duncan, who founded Ramparts; and the legendary Andrew Kopkind of The New York Review of Books.

But today, who remembers?

I'd like to fix that, while the great and funny Howard Levy is still alive, kicking, and able to recall so many Proustian details of his experiences. Talking to Howard on the telephone is like having someone take your hand and guide you through an intimate and very funny film about a truly galvanizing moment in history. The problem is, Howard Levy can talk faster than I can draw. What he really deserves is not just a comic book, but also a great video biographer.  That said, I am honored to get to draw the man and will continue to do so until the project is finished.

Here are a couple of pages, the proposal gets sent out next week.  The thin man is Levy, the fat man is the great civil rights attorney Charles B. Morgan, who represented not just Levy, but also Muhammad Ali in his own fight against the U.S. Army.  Levy's case was the first to invoke the Nuremburg Defense (in a manner quite different than its subsequent use during the Lt. Calley/My Lai court-martial.)

All the text balloons below contain actual quotes from actual people involved on base during the court-martial. I have to apologize in advance that someone I've quoted used the N-word. (In short, I'm sorry that most historical accounts might include some ugly language and ugly acts, but it's our responsibility to try to portray it accurately.)