Graphic Novel Format is a Unique Approach to Publishing Non-Fiction Historical Narrative
HOMELAND: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel is a groundbreaking historical and religious graphic nonfiction book that depicts the history of Israel from biblical Abraham to the present, with the latest graphics and state-of-the-art design techniques. This is the only complete history of the State of Israel on the market, bringing history, religion, politics, and the current Middle East situation into one comprehensive and compelling text. This four-color graphic history of Israel is academically vetted, guiding readers through the years with painted art that jumps right off the page. It's a captivating way for readers to absorb, understand and retain key information about almost 4,000 years of complicated history. "The Middle East is in the news nearly every day, yet there's a real lack of understanding about the area," says William J. Rubin, MA/MBA, Executive Editor of Nachshon Press and chief architect of HOMELAND. "We wanted to bring Israel's narrative to the public in a way that would be accessible, academically sound, and balanced." "The history of the State of Israel is a great story and I knew that this type of information would work exceedingly well in the graphic novel format." While the story is told from the Jewish perspective, it acknowledges that there are other narratives about the land. Written for adult audiences and students age 12 and older, HOMELAND is a book for readers of all faiths and can provide insight for everyone about the State of Israel.
Homeland Parts the Waters and Wins a Moonbeam
Portrait of a Moonbeam Award-Winning BookBill Rubin had a dream.
And it just won him a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.
Many biblical years ago, a man named Nachshon took a great leap of faith: he walked into the Red Sea. And then it parted.
Inspired by this, Bill Rubin took a leap of faith when he walked into waters of a different kind – publishing waters, and we know how treacherous those can be – and that faith in his mission was not only justified, but supported and rewarded.
The waters parted for him, too. He didn’t drown. Instead, his dream, a book called Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel, the first book published by Nachshon Press, won the first Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for young adult nonfiction. It’s a book designed to appeal to adults, as well.
Rubin, the Executive Editor of Nachshon Press, an imprint of the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, describes Homeland as “groundbreaking historical and religious graphic nonfiction.”
It’s a gorgeous book written and illustrated by two graphic novel and graphic nonfiction veterans.
Marv Wolfman has written comic books, educational books, children’s books, novels, animation, and TV scripts. After writing a DC comics series, he wrote the landmark 1986 book The History of the DC Universe.
That’s what caught Bill Rubin’s attention. Says Marv Wolfman, “Bill loved the format and thought it was also a good one to tell a real history.”
“Marv understood the idea of writing a historical narrative and making it interesting,” Rubin says, adding that the narrative was based on research, interviews, and a commitment to historical accuracy.
“We present this story with the latest graphics and state-of-the-art design techniques. Its compelling text has been extensively researched and academically vetted,” Nachshon Press notes in the opening of the book. “This is a story for all who care about Israel, travel to the Middle East, students 12 and older, as well as adults who want to learn about Israel’s complex birth and life and even those who disagree with Israel’s supporters. How the state of Israel came to be, how it survived against all odds and still continues to grow is an amazing story, and it deserves a worthy presentation.”
And it has certainly gotten one.
It took the editor, author and illustrator three years to create the impeccably written and lavishly illustrated, 128-page Homeland.
The history begins with the biblical Abraham and goes right up to the present.
“We let people know upfront in the book that history can be subjective,” says Wolfman. “When you have two sides to a story, let alone 12 sides, it’s open to interpretation. But, you have to have a point of view. Every book ever written about history has a point of view. The book is from the Israeli point of view. We tried to be fair, but we have a perspective, as every historian does. We presented the history straightforwardly without an opinion, and other parts we presented from an Israeli point of view. We didn’t whitewash anything and we didn’t condemn anyone.”
On Homeland’s first page of history, that balancing act is explained: “We open our study of the region where, by most accounts, civilization began…We will hear several different narratives of political and religious identity. You know that many different versions of the same events can be told, but at first we will try to adopt an insider’s perspective on each story. We will consider how each player…understands himself before we compare and contrast different viewpoints.”
“Every country got its land in many different ways: from settlement, wars, and even purchasing it,” Wolfman tells me in our conversation. “Every country’s lands have changed hands many times. The world is always in flux. You hope that everyone living in the land can eventually find peace and work together. The rest is politics and power, which are the same thing.”
Rubin, Wolfman, and illustrator Mario Ruiz believe that “every country should have a book like this.”
Rubin and Wolfman are both Jewish. Ruiz is Christian, and working on Homeland meant as much to him as it did to them.
Mario Ruiz, the former Editor-in-Chief and creator of Metron Press, is also the creator and artist of the graphic novels Samson: Judge of Israel and Testament. It was Testament, the sequential art style book about the Old Testament that caught Bill Rubin’s attention and led him to bring Ruiz on board as Homeland’s illustrator, graphic designer and art director.
“It was a labor of love,” says Ruiz. “It was also adventurous because it was Bill’s first endeavor in publishing, the book was a challenge, and we went to Israel, which was very surreal.”
They packed a 10-day itinerary into four days and criss-crossed the entire country.
“One minute we’re in a modern city, then the next minute – well, only about 45 minutes later – we’re in the desert with a Bedoin tribe and their camels, and we’re in a tent. I had to pinch myself,” Ruiz laughs. “Since Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey, there’s so much history in such a small place. We talked, I shot video, I took reference photos, we learned so much. Sometimes I felt like I was on a movie set. It’s a beautiful country. I want to go back there and take my family. It’s the fulcrum of the world. Everything happened there, the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I was surprised to see how tolerant the Israeli government is of other religions besides Judaism. People have this misconception that they’re not.”
In bringing Israel to life visually on the page, Mario Ruiz says, “It didn’t feel right to do it in traditional comic book style, so we took it to the next level, which was to paint it digitally on the computer with a couple of programs that gave it the same style and feel as if it had been painted conventionally. It has a very realistic look.”
Like Ruiz, Marv Wolfman is also quick to point out that Homeland “is not a comic book.”
He adds that “it’s as much for adults as it is for young adults and kids. Telling a story with pictures is as old as cave walls. My background in writing comics, where you have to tell a complex story in a short space, certainly helped here. It’s a 128-page, succinct, thorough overview of 4,000 years. It’s an incredibly valuable book because of that. It’ll open up a world you’ll know so much more about than before you read the book. It gives people enough information so they come away understanding Israel and why it’s a country that the Jews have pursued.”
As the story of Israel continues, so can a documentation of that story.
“I’d like to see a loose-leaf version of Homeland,” says Wolfman. “That way we can add to it over the years. That kind of book has never been done.”
Bill Rubin will tie Homeland’s promotion to Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008.
People of all ages need to know more about history, but Bill Rubin is particularly alarmed by how little today’s youth know compared to previous generations.
“Recent polls have shown that young people don’t know anything about history and geography, so there’s an enormous need for this kind of information,” Rubin says, “for a book like this not only for Israel, but for every country, to tell every country’s history.”
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Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, essayist, and the author of Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Omni, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and The Miami Herald.
Ms. Diamond was a writer and performer on Pandemonium, the National Public Radio (NPR) satirical humor program, for its entire run in Miami and select markets nationwide from 1984-1998. As an editor, she works frequently with other authors and journalists on both fiction and non-fiction.