In The End We Are More Than Ever Alone (tentative title)
A graphic novel about the last year in the life of Emma Goldman, one of history’s greatest left wing orators and radicals who died in Toronto in 1940.
Helen, a cranky, successful novelist accedes to her mother’s dying wish: To complete a book about her life-long heroine, Emma Goldman, a radical anarchist. But it can’t simply be words it must be a graphic novel, because to Helen’s mother, “Nobody reads prose anymore.” As if this is not irritating enough, Helen is stuck working with Eric, an illustrator with no experience drawing graphic novels, but he “makes a good cup of tea” according to Helen’s mom. Adding to Helen’s stress is that her mom has already lined up a publisher and the finished book is due in a year.
So begins Helen and Eric’s race to create a book out of her mom’s rough first draft. Helen is a thorough, thoughtful, stickler for detail while Eric is undisciplined but has a flare for creating cinematic and inventive art. Helen is a feminist but Eric is seemingly apolitical. Within this context the pair navigates the creation of a graphic biography based on letters Emma Goldman wrote in Canada during that last year of her life.
Helen and Eric uncover Emma’s life of arrests, beatings, prison, deportation, exile and the melancholy of unrealized ideals. The pair begins to ask themselves, “How is that possible?” that Emma remained a committed radical for 50 years.
During that last year in Canada, as Nazism invaded Europe and the Second World War began, Emma raised the banner of free speech and waged a battle to save a man from deportation and death. It would be the last poignant act of resistance in her 50 years as a revolutionary.
As issues of truth, power and authority arise between Helen and Eric, the graphic novel itself becomes an ideological battlefield that Emma Goldman would have been keen to step onto. But a deadline looms and work must be done.
As for the drawings, I will reference the visual techniques of film noir rendered in watercolours to evoke the historic sections of Goldman’s life in Toronto in 1939. Present-day segments will be drawn in a looser, bolder manner that will utilize simple lines of watercolour pencil. Overall I will be creating the book in watercolour and acrylic paints, pencil and pen.
WHO WAS EMMA GOLDMAN?
Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist, feminist and revolutionary known for her fervent political activism, passionate writing, and raucous speeches. In the recent political landscape she would have surely have been in the forefront of the Occupy movement and at the Battle in Seattle.
Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire (present-day Kaunas, Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the U.S. in 1885 and lived in New York City, where she met her life-long comrade Alexander Berkman. In 1893, she was imprisoned for one year for attempting to incite unemployed workers to revolt against capitalism.
During the early part of the 20th century she spoke to audiences in the tens of thousands across North America. Her lectures and writings on prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality were ahead of their time. Her infamous lectures on birth control landed her in prison. Throughout her life she had to contend with police surveillance and violence as well as physical threats from members of the public, and an onslaught of media hysteria.
In 1906 she founded the magazine Mother Earth which was eventually banned for it’s articles on anti-militarism. In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for their opposition to American men being drafted into World War I.
After her release from prison, Goldman was stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported to the Soviet Union. At first, she supported the revolution in Russia, but soon discovered it was a totalitarian state.
After escaping Russia, she was forced into exile, being deported from countries across Europe. Eventually she was permitted to settle in the south of France where she wrote her 993 page autobiography, Living My Life.
During the Spanish Civil War, she ran the English language press office of the anarchist trade union, CNT/FAI, raising support for the fight against fascism. In 1939, when fascism triumphed in Spain, Goldman, gripped by depression over the anarchists defeat and the suicide of her friend Berkman, she moved to Toronto, Canada, where she died at the age of 70.