Fiction became fact and dreams materialized in the circumnavigation journeys of three adventurers in the late 19th century, and in celebration of Columbus Day, I wanted to share a graphic novel that narrates their journeys. In Around the World, Matt Phelan spins these three adventurers’ stories into the whirlwind graphic novel, broken into three sections that detail each of the record-setting tales.
First, meet Thomas Stevens, a miner turned wheelman who dreams of becoming the first person to circle the globe while riding a bicycle. Only a few years after Stevens, female reporter Elizabeth Cochrane, better known by her penname Nellie Bly, sets out to break the fictional circumnavigation record Phileas Fogg set in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Finally, not long after Stevens and Bly, mariner Joshua Slocum begins his adventure to be the first man to sail solo around the globe.
Phelan’s artwork in Around the World is subtly gorgeous, full of pretty greens, blues, oranges, and greys. In addition to the colors, the flowing style works especially well for ocean scenes and for expressing motion. That said, I often found Phelan’s pages of un-narrated pictures a bit confusing. In particular, the beginning of each story tends to be hard to understand; then, as the story progresses, the plot becomes clearer.
Nevertheless, I think the unique true stories and beautiful artwork make up for any storytelling deficiencies. Around the World is a worthwhile read, especially for those who love one-of-a-kind adventure stories and want to commemorate Columbus Day with a little historical dabbling.
Happy Columbus Day!