Like most kids growing up, I loved watching cartoons, I watched before I went to school and when I came back from school. I watched the requisite cartoons most kids did, such as the Warner Brothers staple, Looney Tunes. I also watched the cartoons specifically made for the kid who bought toys like GI Joe and MASK. One of the few cartoon studios, that pretty much showed me that the full range of emotions can be packed into a cartoon, were the ones done by Disney.
Of course, I enjoyed the shenanigans of the various characters, like Chip N’ Dale and Pluto. Then there were the almost human qualities that Donald Duck showed, specifically the jealousy he had towards Mickey Mouse. The one Disney feature, that stays with me to this day is, American Legends, where they retold each story, my favorite being John Henry, but my second favorite after being Johnny Appleseed, as both of their stories captured the American Dream as ideologized by writers and reporters before but told masterfully on celluloid, by the geniuses at Disney. In Paul Buhle and Noah Van Sciver’s Johnny Appleseed, the reader gets a scholarly look at the man behind the legend, John Chapman.
Buhle does speak plainly, as he quick to dismiss most of the American legends, that has been idolized by popular culture, either as purely fictional or overtly sentimentalized versions of the real people. He takes us back to his birth in a rural cabin, to his rough upbringing, the loss of his parents and his becoming a man in the rise of the wild frontier. He generally lived off the land, did not want to take of the Native Americans and did not want to have slaves, a good person, one that rarely gets told, if ever. By book’s end, we learn of his many influences, how he has touched every person he come across, forever altering their lives, shifting how Americans understand trees, fruits and plants, being very much the dichotomy of what people perceive as the “American Hobo” and the true meaning behind Arbor Day.
Overall, an excellent graphic novel that takes apart legend and lore to give the reader the truth of who really was, making him even more indelible to the reader. Chapman’s history as dissected by Buhle gives the reader both a comparative and true portrait of John Chapman. The art by Van Scivier is gorgeous and radiant. Altogether, an excellent book, that the world has deserved, especially since the very idea of America is being challenged.
Story: Paul Buhle Art: Noah Van Sciver
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy