Last time we looked Paul Buhle and Noah Van Sciver’s comic art biography of John Chapman, otherwise known as Johnny Appleseed, was published in a paperback edition by Alternative Comics. That was a year ago. It is now being re-issued in hardcover and digital editions by Fantagraphics Books. The production, typical of Fantagraphics, is gorgeous. Of course the hardcover is printed in China, a frontier of affordable book printing for publishers the world over. Everything we reported about the content of the Alternative Comics edition is still true. Here it is again:
Drawn by Van Sciver (author of The Hypo and Fante Bukowski, and a member of Mad Magazine’s “usual gang of idiots”) and written by radical historian Buhle (formerly a senior lecturer at Brown University and coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left), the book points out that Chapman operated not only as a believer in “nonviolence and vegetarianism, good relations with Indians, and peace among the settlers themselves,” but also as a sort of land speculator, “purchasing potentially fertile acres on contract (such as ‘bottom land’), planting saplings, reselling the land, and then moving onward” with “less interest in becoming prosperous than in spreading” his peace-and-love gospel. Not incidentally, his apples were prized “mainly for the making of hard cider, portable alcohol.” Which certainly helps to explain why Johnny Appleseed became such a popular legend.