Give Us Liberty: The Lagos Brothers Discuss The Sons of Liberty
With The Sons of Liberty, brothers Alexander and Joseph Lagos have created a rich historical graphic series that turns two young escaped slaves into superheroes battling against the evils of slavery. Mentoring them along the way is Benjamin Franklin, helping to create a book that is moving, lively, touching, and compulsively readable. The Lagos Brothers talked about their groundbreaking work here.
What inspired The Sons of Liberty?
In 2001, Alexander had a vivid dream where two masked men were being pursued by British troops in a colonial town. Making incredible superhuman leaps from roof to roof under heavy musket fire, the two men managed to elude capture by leaping down into an alley. When they removed their masks, it was revealed that the heroes were two young African American men.
The premise of the Sons of Liberty series was born then: Two runaway slaves become masked vigilante heroes during the Revolutionary War.
Alexander called and relayed the story to Joseph, who found the premise equally compelling. We began a collaboration—crafting the script that was to become the first in a series of four books called The Sons of Liberty, published by Random House.
What drew you to this time period and made you want to focus a series during it?
Besides the setting in the dream, we were raised in the Northeast, surrounded by historical landmarks. A lot of history took place on the very streets we played on and several Revolutionary War-period events took place within walking distance of our home in New Jersey—it gets in your blood!
How do you ensure historical accuracy in the series?
Quite a bit of research goes into creating this series. The public library is our best friend during the research process, and we regularly travel to historic sites to help ground the story in reality. Any bit of information that catches our eye will likely make its way into the series. For the nonfiction portions of the story, we try to respect the contributions of real-life patriots as much as we can, but ultimately, this is historical fantasy and not a history lesson.
Tell us a little bit about the scope of the series. You’re two books into a planned four-book series. Where else do you envision the books going and what further stories should readers expect to see?
Book three will be complete by the end of this year and will be available by Spring/Summer 2012. We have an action-packed story to tell and hope your readers check it out. The story arc begins in book one, with our heroes, Graham and Brody, as young boys dealing with life on a cruel plantation from which they make their epic escape. They have multiple confrontations with a determined slave hunter and his pack of ravenous dogs; gain amazing superpowers and meet with all sorts of danger. Book two follows the boys through their teens, as they cross paths with many historical figures while trying to find their way out of the Colonies that are immersed in the Stamp Act riots. Once again, Graham and Brody meet with several life-threatening challenges and their friendship is strained time and again by their diverging perceptions of freedom and responsibility.
Book three, is packed with everything we love about the comic book medium: There will be super villains by the score, all-out war and drama galore!
How have you seen this book used in schools? Have you talked to educators about how it can be used to help teach history and other lessons?
The thing that makes this series useful to many educational institutions is the opportunity to get young people asking questions about real history voluntarily. This series opens the door for a unique learning experience by placing itself as a launching pad from entertainment to education. Many of the characters in the series are real: Benjamin Lay, Benjamin Banneker, Ben and William Franklin, Crispus Attucks, John Lamb and the Sons of Liberty—their lives become the framework on which we build the fantasy world that our characters call home.
You’ve done an Educator’s Guide to help teachers use the series in the classroom. What kind of response do you get from teachers and librarians about the series?
Schools across the nation have included the Sons of Liberty either in their curriculum or in reading lists. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers tell us that, after reading The Sons of Liberty, their kids want to know more about American history, particularly the Revolutionary War and the characters mentioned in the books. We have been asked to visit many schools and make presentations—which we gladly do as often as we can.
How do you two work together? Who does what on the books?
We discuss some of the general ideas that are relevant to the story in advance either by phone or by email. Joseph writes the first draft, sends it to Alexander, who tweaks the work or suggests scenes to help improve it. After which we share the scripts back and forth until we feel confident it is ready to be forwarded to the publisher for final editing. Once the scripts are approved, they are forwarded to the artist—Steve Walker on books one and two and Sami Kivela on book three)—then the colorist, Oren Kramek, and finally, letterer Chris Dickey.
What more can you tell us about book three?
The next book follows Graham and Brody into adulthood and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Our heroes will have their hands full surrounded by hordes of hostile enemies and supervillains. Graham and Brody are not bullet-proof and will have to draw on everything they have to survive these encounters.
What other projects are you working on? Do you have any other graphic novels planned or in the works?
We have several projects planned for the future, both together and individually. For the present time, however, we are dedicating ourselves to completing book four and getting the word out about The Sons of Liberty series.
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