How do Seth's "The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists" and Chester Brown's "Louis Riel" present and fictionalize Canadian history?

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In both works, Canadian history is presented through the idiosyncratic interests of Seth and Chester Brown. Seth fictionalizes Canada's relationship to cartoonists to create a narrative that aligns with his imagination. Brown leaves out a lot of Louis Riel's story to emphasize the parts of his life that he finds most fascinating.

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In Seth’s The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, Canadian history is presented through the lens of mostly fictional cartoonists. He creates a false history in which cartoonists were once revered figures in Canadian culture. Put in conversation with Chester Brown’s graphic biography, it’s as if Seth fictionalized Canadian history as a means to put cartoonists on the same iconic pedestal as real-life, legendary political figures.

Equating cartoonists with famous leaders who risked their lives might strike some as foolish. Thus, Seth subverts his story with some rather ridiculous comic book ideas and by drawing figures in a relatively exaggerated way.

Indeed, it could be worthwhile to compare the representation of people in the two works. Brown’s book, which bills itself as a biography, tends to present Louis Riel in a manner that is less comic and fun and more stark and serious. Brown’s choice to draw Riel this way might reflect the difference between Riel’s life and that of a cartoonist.

In his foreword to Louis Riel, Brown reveals that his work should not be taken as a full or complete portrayal of Riel. He says that he focused on the aspects of Riel that most appealed to him. Brown opted to pass up an accurate, complete version of Riel and Canadian history in favor of a narrative that aligned with his interests.

Likewise, Seth’s almost entirely fabricated account is not accurate because his goal is not to create a real history of cartoonists in Canada but a fanciful, peculiar one that appeals to his vision and imagination.

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How is Canadian history presented in Seth's graphic novel The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists and Chester Brown's comic strip biography Louis Riel?

Louis Riel is a graphic novel written and drawn by Canadian cartoonist Chester Brown. In it, Brown chronicles a portion of the life of the controversial and possibly schizophrenic Métis leader Louis Riel; he also talks about the possible conspiracy behind the Red River Rebellion, which is a theory not so commonly discussed or accepted by historians. Thus, this is not exactly an accurate portrayal of Canadian history.

Brown manipulates certain historical elements in order to create an exciting story in which he can directly or indirectly showcase his own personal beliefs, and he openly admits to this. His main goal is to focus on Riel's complex mental state and dive into his psyche, which is why he purposely changes several aspects of the true version of events. For instance, he also changes the physical appearance of Canada's first prime minister, John Alexander Macdonald, and draws him with an oversized nose in order to portray him as the main villain of the story, even though he later discloses that he doesn't actually believe that Macdonald was a villainous person.

It's an undeniable fact that Brown's comic is incredibly well-researched, which makes the fictionalized elements of history even more interesting, as it is clear that they are intentional.

In contrast, The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists—a graphic novel written and drawn by Canadian cartoonist Seth (Gregory Gallant)—has a more comical and fun tone than Brown's Louis Riel and is mostly fictionalized. Seth created the book as a companion graphic novel to Wimbledon Green and uses it to both explore and explain Canadian comics history.

To this end, Seth creates a fictional group known as "The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists" that operates in the fictional town of Dominion, Ontario. The readers are basically given a tour of the club's headquarters while Seth describes the individual styles of his fictional cartoonists: Sol Gertzman, Isadore Lameque, Henry Pefferlaw, and Sam Middlesex. However, Seth also describes the artistry of some real Canadian cartoonists and illustrators, such as Doug Wright, Jimmie Frise, Arch Dale, Peter Whalle, and Chester Brown.

Essentially, Seth creates an alternative history in which graphic novels and comic books are an important part of Canadian history and culture, and cartoonists and illustrators have a similar reputation, influence, and even relevance as politicians. Instead of giving the readers an authentic portrayal of Canadian history, Seth pays homage to that history by including several historical facts in the narrative.

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Could you help me develop a thesis statement for the question "How is Canadian history presented in Seth's The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists and Chester Brown’s Louis Riel? Why do both of these graphic novels fictionalize elements of Canadian history or present history in ways that are not entirely accurate?" I have some points; for example, I want to write about how history is not presented accurately because both authors fictionalize elements of history in order to create an exciting narrative.

The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists and Louis Riel both manipulate and rewrite history, but they do so in quite different ways. If you are looking for a thesis that includes both texts, giving a common reason for the ways in which they fictionalize Canadian history, this thesis should address the political and polemical purpose of each work. Though the targets of each polemic are different, the technique, in using fictionalized history to further the author's ideological agenda, is similar in both cases.

This thesis is generally accepted in the case of Chester Brown's Louis Riel. The book is widely regarded as a polemic, which presents Brown's libertarian agenda rather than attempting to arrive at a balanced view of Riel as a historical figure. The polemical nature of the book is somewhat complicated by the fact that Brown's views changed as he was writing it. He began with an anarchist perspective but found himself becoming more sympathetic to the conduct of Macdonald and the government forces.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Brown is interested in authenticity rather than accuracy. The truth he seeks to depict is artistic, not literal. He is quite happy to move characters around, placing them in situations where they did not in fact appear. He does this with Macdonald himself and with a character called Thomas Bland Strange, who, according to Brown, was included in the story because his name appealed to the cartoonist.

It may seem like a trivial point to say that Brown included a character solely because of his name, but this is an artistic choice which is obviously open to a novelist, but not to a historian. Brown's research is meticulous where he is dealing with questions of politics or philosophy, but he has no interest in presenting every event exactly as it happened. This is because he is including intellectual history within a fictional narrative, as, for instance, Tolstoy does in War and Peace.

The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, by contrast, is an invented alternative history, in which real people, such as Doug Wright and Peter Whalley, make guest appearances in Seth's fictional universe. The polemic here is not just political or even broadly aesthetic, but directed toward the value of one particular art: that of drawing cartoons. With his meticulous description of the the Dominion branch of the Great Northern Brotherhood, from its decor and furnishings to the people who frequented it, Seth makes the case for the aesthetic and intellectual value of his chosen form of artistic expression. This is a more concentrated and self-referential form of polemic than Brown's but is at least equally reliant on the manipulation and fictionalization of history.

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Why are Seth in The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists and Chester Brown in Louis Riel are interested in historical narratives, and presenting very specific historical narratives? In other words, instead of telling us the real history of Canadian comics, why do both Chester Brown and Seth mix fact with fiction and present only particular historical facts?

Chester Brown and Seth are both interested in presenting very specific historical narratives that mix fact with fiction to articulate their personal perspectives on their topics and craft imaginative stories. Brown aims to engage readers in the complex, controversial story of Louis Riel. He openly admits that he is not presenting a completely accurate history, but rather exploring elements of Riel’s story that appealed to him personally. His inaccurate depictions of McDougall and Macdonald and his villainization of Macdonald also allow him to craft a gripping narrative.

Similarly, Seth presents a fictionalized version of Canadian history in The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists to comment on a particular aspect of Canadian history and culture. He is attempting to bring attention to Canada’s indifferent approach to comics throughout history. To do this, he depicts a society in which cartoonists are treated with the same respect as politicians and heroes—the opposite of the way they are actually treated. By discussing fictional cartoonists in a fictional Canadian town Seth ensures the reader is not distracted by potential biases and instead reflects on the complex cultural legacy of Canadian cartoons. Also, like Brown, Seth presents an inaccurate narrative to craft a creative story that may be more exciting and engaging for readers than an accurate history.

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Why does the graphic novel The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists by Seth fictionalize elements of Canadian history or present history in ways that are not entirely accurate?

In the graphic novel The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, Seth fictionalizes elements of Canadian history because his aim is not to discuss an accurate history of the country but to explore the treatment of comics in the country. For example, consider how the book is set where several of Seth’s comics are set: the town of Dominion, Ontario. Dominion is not a real place, but by setting the text in a fictional Canadian town, Seth ensures that readers will not be distracted by the cultural and historical legacies of a real place and instead focus solely on the cartoonists.

Seth writes about cartoonists in this book as if they are as important as politicians in the country. This characterization is not historically accurate of course, but in elevating cartoonists’ status, Seth is suggesting that cartoonists should be more appreciated in Canadian society. And yet even though he is bringing attention to Canada’s lack of appreciation for comics, many of the cartoonists he made up are not great at what they do. This suggests that although Seth wants more attention on cartoonists, he also feels that they are overlooked in part because there has not been a long line of incredible cartoonists in the country’s history.

Oftentimes, authors fictionalize history like this to depict its fragmentation or the ways in which unique subcultures are overlooked by dominant historical narratives. Ultimately, Seth is using these people and places from his imagination to comment on the complexities of comic culture in Canada and it is easier for him to do this by fictionalizing elements of the country’s history.

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