{mosimage}Faster than a speeding musket ball ... More powerful than a company of Hessians ... Able to leap a battalion of bayoneted British soldiers in a single bound. Look ... in the sky ... it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s ... LaFayette!
    The marquis de LaFayette was a real-life hero  — a French nobleman and officer who came to the aid of the 13 colonies during the American Revolution and from whom Fayetteville takes its name. Much is written in the history books about the Frenchman’s contributions to our national freedom; and now, thanks to a group of graphics majors at Fayetteville State University and the backing of the LaFayette 250 Committee, the school children of Cumberland County will also learn about LaFayette ... the superhero.
    In an attempt to reach and teach children through alternative forms of education, a graphic novel — that’s a souped-up comic book to all you baby boomers — will be distributed throughout the school system. Illustrated by four FSU students — Stacey Robinson, Shakeam Campbell, Rebekah Holland and Robin Powell —  LaFayette: Hero of Two Worlds will be passed on to the county’s 8,000 middle and high school students in recognition of LaFayette’s annual birthday celebration to be held here Sept. 4-6, as well as giving students a valuable history lesson in a medium most children find more enjoyable than the sometimes dry and staid content of history texts.
    LaFayette: Hero of Two Worlds, edited by FSU art professor Jonathan Chestnut and Museum of the Cape Fear Director David Reid, is a loving nod to the old Classics Illustrated comic books which many a child used as a literary shortcut back in the day — reading the condensed and illustrated comic book adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Frankenstein rather than slogging through the novel.
    “When we were designing this graphic novel we talked about those Classics Illustrated comic books of the ‘50s,” said Chestnut. “They were reprinted in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so most adults know about them. We thought that by telling LaFayette’s story in comic book form we could hook some students who otherwise aren’t all that interested in history books.”
    Chestnut said the project was very close to his own heart for two reasons: he was — and remains — a huge comic book fan; and, he was one of those “special” students who was behind his classmates in scholastic achievement, building much of his vocabulary and firing up his imagination via the old brightly colored panels of Marvel and DC Comics.
    “I guess I just never outgrew those comic books,” said Chestnut.
    The project began a year ago and was started at the urging of the LaFayette 250 Committee. Each of the four graphics majors contributed to the illustrations, putting their own unique mark on LaFayette’s story.
    The book was bankrolled by the LaFayette 250 Committee, along with a substantial contribution from Piedmont Natural Gas. The Arts Council of Fayetteville /Cumberland County was also instrumental in the project.
Dr. Hank Parfitt, president of the LaFayette 250 Committee, came up with the idea for the comic book and says he couldn’t be more pleased with the finished product.
    “We didn’t tell the students how to draw the story,” said Parfitt. “They had pictures but used their own imagination to portray LaFayette.”
    The graphic novel will be distributed to students beginning Sept. 5 as part of the LaFayette birthday celebration. About 40,000 will be printed to serve students over the next five years, said Parfitt, who added that the Cumberland County Schools sanctioned the distribution of LaFayette: Hero of Two Worlds.
    The four FSU students who drew the graphic novel are scheduled to be at a public reception Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at City Center Gallery and Books on Hay Street. They plan to autograph the comic books that will be on sale to the public for $2.50 each.

Tim Wilkins, Associate Editor
COMMENTS? 484-6200 ext. 105 or tim@upandcomingweekly.com

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