By Joe Barron
There was a time, not so long ago, when parents discouraged their children from reading comic books.
Pick up a real book, they’d say.
Today, in the digital age, mobile video screens are the biggest distraction, and a comic can feel like a real book, or at least a reminder of a simpler time when information was conveyed on paper.
Ed Harris, chief marketing officer of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, raised the point Aug. 1 during a ceremony at which the board presented Valley Forge National Historical Park with a check for $55,500 raised through the annual Revolutionary Run. Speaking in front of George Washington’s Headquarters, Harris announced the launch of “Patriot Tales,” the board’s new educational comic book.
“As the father of two young children, I’m not surprised to see studies showing that children 8 and younger spend more time on mobile screens – roughly 48 minutes a day – than they do reading,” Harris said “The intent of our comic book series is to connect with families and encourage them to discover and explore the story of our historic heroes and drive more traffic to this park and our other Montgomery County historic sites.”
“Patriot Tales” follows the tradition of children’s fiction by combining adventure with inspiration and unobtrusive historical facts. Vol. 1, titled “George Washington: The Spymaster,” introduces James and Lydia, two young tourists at Valley Forge Park who, magically, find themselves whisked back in time to the encampment of 1777-78. Caught trespassing by Continental guards, they are hauled before Gen. George Washington himself.
The general enlists the children’s help for a perilous scouting mission, and in the last panel, promises to present them with “the most important weapon needed to defend yourself against tyranny.”
Readers will have to pick up Vol. 2 to discover just what the weapon is. Fortunately, they will not have long to wait. The convention board plans to publish four issues per year and distribute them at libraries, elementary schools and historic sites throughout Montgomery County, as well as hotels, its own traveling kiosk, and the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
One potentially delicate aspect of the story is that Lydia, the older and smarter of the step-siblings, is African-American, and Washington, of course, was a slave holder. The issue is handled discreetly, however, as the general treats Lydia respectfully, almost as an equal.
“As with all of our marketing collateral, we develop creative content that highlights diversity,” Harris said, “and we’ll continue to do so in reflection of both our residents, and visitors, alike.”