Show & Tell

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to do a presentation to a class in Philadelphia. I saw this as an opportunity to start sharing 73 and get some reactions. I had been working alone on this project for long enough and it was time the story started seeing the light of day.

My cousin, Dr. Jeremy Sullivan (who has been a strong support throughout this entire project) teaches a class called Graphic Text at Arcadia University. He has a PhD in American History, is a fan of graphic novels and had recently charged his students with an assignment to create a biographical 4 page graphic novel. My work on 73 dovetailed nicely with his class assignment so Jeremy asked me to share my process and adventures with his class, giving them a behind the scenes glimpse of what goes into a project like this.


I covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. I began with the beginning. Detailing some of the family history including my grandparents William and Mary O’Brien (Left), and introduced the main characters of the story; brothers Richard (Top) and John Emmet O’Brien (Bottom).


Then it was on to some of the tools and resources I accumulated while learning about the telegraph and the civil war. Pictured are the pocket telegraph key and relay found in my grandmother’s closet and belonging to Richard O’Brien (left), my library of accumulated material that includes various picture books, articles, all the books published by civil war telegraph operators, novels from the period and a volume of Harper’s Weekly from the Civil War. Also pictured is my studio and work space set up; Drafting table, computer, printer, scanner, camera, library, all the resources I’ll need within easy reach.

Prelim Work

Next I discussed the preliminary work. How I began organizing the story on a yellow legal pad. Determining characters, locations and important events. The intention is to identify all the major components of the story and put them on the table so I know what I have to play with and can start giving it shape.


I ended the presentation with sketches of the first 14 pages of the story and a read through of the scripted scene. It features a 13 year old John Emmet being called to duty in the United States Military Telegraph Corps and his subsequent arrival at Fort Monroe.