Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Frank Will Be Signing in Salem on the 7th! (of December, that is!)

Hi friends! Just an advance notice that Frank Young will be in Salem, Oregon on Wednesday, December 7th. As part of the Holiday Open House at the Oregon State Capitol, I'll be one of around 20 authors signing Oregon-themed books.

As The Road To Destiny ends in Salem, Oregon, it's an apt place for the signing. The three-hour Open House will also feature a 27 ft.tall Noble Fir tree, surrounded by a replica village of historic Salem, and an A.C. Gilbert train. There'll also be live music and a food tasting.

The event takes place on 12/7 from 4 to 7 PM. The State Capitol is located at 900 Court St. NE in Salem, Oregon. I hope to see you there! Bring your copy of The Road To Destiny and I'll be happy to autograph it for you!

In a vaguely related photo-op, here's a shot of David Lasky, as he inked one of the final pages of the graphic novel, in a sequence that takes place in the Salem of the late 1860s...

Here is the finished, published version of that page--one of the most nicely-drawn parts of the book!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Names Hill--Where OT Travelers Left Their Mark

One of my favorite moments in The Road to Destiny occurs when the Weston family reaches Names Hill.

This was a powerful milestone in the Oregon Trail journey for any of its travelers. Located in Wyoming, by the Green River, Names Hill was a popular stopping-off point for journeyers. According to Wikipedia, the earliest names carved by European-American trekkers are dated 1822--27 years before the fictitious Westons made their trek.

The names on our version of Names Hill are mostly those of friends and loved ones--little "in jokes" for those significant folks in our lives. One friend's name rhymes with Names Hill, I just realized.

Below are some of the photo images we used as reference for this sequence in the book. Names Hill is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's great that this document of the real travelers of the Oregon Trail is preserved for future generations to witness.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ferries--Safe Passage Over Perilous Waters

 Though much of the Oregon Trail journey took the travelers across dry, open land, there were rivers to cross. Some were simple creeks, which could be forded without preparation. Others, such as the Green River, were formidable bodies of fast-moving water.

To cross such a raging river without a ferry was folly, at best and suicide at worst. A ferry was set up in the early 1840s by a group of mountain men--fur traders who preceded the Oregon Trail emigrants to the vast wild of the Western United States.

The ferry was sold to a group of Mormons around 1850. Eventually, it was purchased by a man named Lombard--and belatedly named after him.
The black-and-white photo above is a re-creation of this primitive but effective ferry. Here is David's interpretation of this yet-unnamed ferry--which was still operated by mountain men as our main players, the Weston family, safely cross the deadly waters:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another Review!

Self-described "comic book pundit/advocate/educator and comedic actor/performer" Corey Blake has reviewed our book on his blog.

In his words, our book is "targeted to preteens but it’s smart enough for older readers. The authors have done extensive research into personal accounts and other historic documents to get as accurate as possible. They tell an engaging story from the perspective of a fictional 11-year-old girl whose family makes the trek from Baltimore, Maryland, to Oregon in 1848."

From one improv comedian to another--thanks!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Natural Wonders of the Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail journeyers saw plenty of wide open, sparsely-adorned prairie. They also were wowed by natural wonders such as this twin sensation--Jail Rock and Courthouse Rock.

Here is David's fascinating interpretation of these two aptly-paired rock towers:

(This is the right half of a double-page spread. See the spread to its full effect in the book!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buffalo Chips: The Shocking Truth!

We'll spare you an illustration. David rendered this all-organic prairie alternative to wood several times in the course of The Road To Destiny.

When I wrote this book, I thought about how to approach this very real aspect of frontier life. I knew that the mention of "buffalo chips" would cause boy readers to smirk and guffaw--much as I would have done, in my childhood.

The best way to lay it on the table is as matter-of-factly as the emigrants would have faced the issue. Picking up the droppings of buffalo is no Sunday picnic, then or now. With trees at a premium--one that would increase tenfold as more people took the Oregon Trail trip--the dried leavings of these hoofed beasts were a traveler's best insurance of being able to cook a hot meal, boil water for drinking, shaving and washing, and (most importantly) make coffee.

David did a beautiful job on this page, in which Rebecca makes a practical decision between great literature and fuel for the fire:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our First Review (That We Know Of)!

Barbara Lloyd McMichael reviewed The Road To Destiny for the Bellingham, Washington Herald. Here's what she says about our book:

So now for something completely different: "Oregon Trail: The Road to Destiny." Sasquatch Books has just published this graphic novel by two Seattle cartoonists, Frank Young and David Lasky.

The story follows the fictional Weston family as it sets out on the Oregon Trail in 1848. We experience their bumpy progress and misadventures through the eyes of 11-year-old Rebecca Weston.

This is a story with action and pizzazz: SMASH! THUD! GRRRRRR... typical cartoon sound effects abound as the overland party fords rivers, meets with Indians, hunts game, crosses treacherous mountains, and copes with drought, disease, and heart-wrenching loss.

There is plenty of historical information packed into these energetic pages, but kids are so busy being entertained they won't resist being educated at the same time - heck, they won't even notice!

See Ms. McMichael's review in the Bellingham Herald HERE. We've gotten a couple of nice reviews on, and we hope to get more press coverage of the book this fall. In the meantime, Thanks, Barbara!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Secret Garden Book Signing...

If you weren't able to attend Tuesday night's book launch and singing at Seattle's Secret Garden bookstore, here are a couple-three photos taken by a friend who attended the event. It was a great time overall--around 80 folks showed up, and we sold at least 40 copies of the book. All in all, a most heartening event in which to christen the release of our first graphic novel as a collaborative team (and our first graphic novel, period)!

Local videographer Ron Austin shot some footage of the event. When he gets that edited together, we'll post a link to the video here. For now, still images will have to suffice...

Intrepid creative duo David Lasky (in suspenders) and Frank Young (not in suspenders) sign copies of the graphic novel (including free-of-charge sketches) and socialize in eight different directions at once!

A dramatic rear view as we improvise our way through a talk about how the Oregon Trail graphic novel came together. The talk went well, and we had some great questions from the other attendees. Thanks, folks (especially for laughing at my jokes)!

More book signing. We signed a lot of copies that evening! David did a delightful sketch of protagonist Rebecca Weston in many copies; I did my best generic ox portrait in several as well.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who attended--you made it a really special moment in our lives and careers!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oregon Trail Book Signing in Seattle Tuesday, September 13th!

Photograph by Paul C. Tumey. Thanks, Paul, for snapping this shot for us!

Our fine friends at Secret Garden Books, located in Seattle's charming Ballard neighborhood, are hosts of the first official Oregon Trail graphic novel event.

Tuesday, Septembee 13th, from 7 PM to 8 (and possibly later), David and I will be at the Secret Garden to sign copies of our graphic novel. If you're in the area, please stop by and say hi!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Sept 13, 2011, at Secret Garden Books, in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, Frank and I will be having our Oregon Trail book launch party! Come on by at 7pm and have your copy signed. I will even draw a little sketch of Becca, the book's main character, if you ask.

If you can't make it, the book is in stores NOW and also available from online retailers!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bonnets: Essential Headgear For The Oregon Trail!

Bonnets are an image of quaintness--of bygone days. Although they're still used, for practical reasons, by women in the farming world, they seem a frivolous fashion accessory from another century.

This headgear was essential for survival on the hot, dusty Oregon Trail. More functional than fanciful, the bonnet's goal was to prevent its user from sunburn, sunstroke and other UV-based hazards.

There was no sunblock on the Oregon Trail. Men wore broad-brimmed hats for the same reason. This headgear was hot and uncomfortable under the merciless rays of the sun. But without this protection, the Oregon Trail emigrants would have been utterly miserable.

In these days before sunglasses, bonnets also helped to greatly cut the glare of broad daylight. It thus allowed travelers keener vision, in case of unexpected dangers--or to spot roadside goodies, such as firewood, "buffalo chips" or cast-offs of prior Trail travelers.

People still wear hats, of course. Baseball caps, knit caps and hoodies are our modern bonnets. We have more sophisticated options to protect us from melanoma, sunburn or other issues. But we still wear hats--both for fashion's and for function's sake. This is one of the many small details that link us to our Oregon Trail-traveling forefathers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Some Horse Sense About Oxen--the Transportation of The Trail!

If you've ever seen an old Hollywood Western about frontier days, the Oregon Trail, or other Westward migrations, you've been fed a small falsehood.

Those movies, while quite entertaining, insisted on using horses as the animals who conveyed the migrants' covered wagons to the new Territories.

In truth, oxen were the preferred vehicle for Oregon Trail travelers. They cost less than horses, were sturdier, and needed less maintenance. Oxen ate grass, not oats. If there was green on the ground, they could graze to their heart's (and stomach's) content after a long day's trek on the Trail.

Oxen aren't as photogenic as horses, plain and simple. (We think they look pretty cool--they're fun to draw, as well!) Thus, movie makers chose the handsomer horse to lead wagoner's creaking carts on that long, dusty trail.

Next time you see a classic Oregon Trail movie, like the Jimmy Stewart-led 1952 Bend of the River, or the grim, excellent 1951 film Westward, the Women, try to find an ox in the cast! There may be one or two in the background, but the covered wagons will be drawn by horses.

Our graphic novel hopes to put an end to this horsey myth. Oxen rule!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Baltimore in the 1840s: America's Second-Largest City

In 1848, the year in which THE ROAD TO DESTINY takes place, Baltimore, Maryland was the second-biggest city in the United States. As these period photos show, it was a bustling, busy city. It was also rather grimy and ramshackle.

A city like Baltimore was a great place to be--as long as you didn't mind polluted air, the risk of catching diseases from the water, from refuse in the streets or from one of the many passers-by. It wasn't necessarily the best place to raise a family.

This was the decision of John Weston, the father of the family in our graphic novel. He has two children. One of them (Rebecca) is hardy and healthy. The youngest Weston, Charlie, is sickly, and the atmosphere of hectic Baltimore isn't doing him any good.

Charlie's health is one of the reasons John decides to pack up the life he and his family have known, and to head westward.

We didn't intend to "dis" Baltimore in our graphic novel. It seemed a practical place to launch the journey of the Weston family. To be fair, these unsanitary and health-threatening conditions plagued all large cities in the United States in the mid-19th century.

Things have gotten better since then, but pollution, pollen, and other particulate matter still cause urban sinuses to go out of whack. And it's still just as easy to catch a cold, via some careless soul sneezing on a bus, or in line at a grocery store.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Diary of An Un-Wimpy Kid--The Road to Destiny

This blog is devoted to a new original graphic novel created by David Lasky and Frank Young, entitled OREGON TRAIL: THE ROAD TO DESTINY. This 120-page, black and white graphic novel tells a lively story, based on American history. In the book, you'll meet Rebecca Weston, a smart, observant 11 year-old who chronicles the journey of a lifetime.

Rebecca and her family, based in bustling, grimy Baltimore, leave family, friends and familiar places behind in 1848. They take a life-changing trip along the Oregon Trail to find a new life for themselves in the yet-untamed Pacific Northwest.

Rebecca's father, John, is a newspaper writer. Inspired by his career, Rebecca decides to chronicle her family's trip.  Her narration informs the story throughout.

The Road to Destiny shows the ups and downs of this often-grueling journey. David and I enjoyed creating the character of Rebecca. Her viewpoint gave us a fresh and personable way to tell this story.

Rebecca's use of a diary is historically accurate. Much of the information we have about the experience of the Oregon Trail comes from personal accounts.

We have become so accustomed to the Internet, to PDAs, to the ease at which we can record our thoughts and observations. Many of us have portable telephones which can take digital photographs. On a whim, we can send these images to friends all around the world.

It's food for thought to realize how precious and fleeting these experiences are, and how much harder it was for people to capture them in the 19th century.

We kept this in mind in our characterization of Rebecca. She is most certainly not a wimpy kid...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Welcome to the blog for the exciting new graphic novel "Oregon Trail: Road of Destiny," from Sasquatch Books. Here is how our publisher describes it:

Based on extensive research into personal accounts of the Oregon Trail, comic authors David Lasky and Frank Young have created a graphic narrative of one family's epic journey. The main character is an 11-year-old girl whose family is setting course for the west to seek new opportunities and to escape the "overcrowded and filth" of the eastern city where they had been living.
Revealed is all of the planning, equipment, and logistics involved in such a trip. The book features a series of two-page spreads detailing a visual inventory of everything the family has with them — the parts of a covered wagon and a personal annotated map of the trail. Readers get a ground-level feel for what it was like to be part of this storied migration west — not a dry recitation of dates and facts, but an immediately memorable living history.
Frank Young and I will post sample art, sketches, and background info from the book. We hope this not only promotes the book, but also develops into an online resource for students of the Oregon Trail. Check in from time to time and enhance your Oregon Trail experience!

-David Lasky