This is the second part of a two part interview with Larry Gonick about his book The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part 1: From Columbus to the U.S. Constitution
Scott Butki: The first four questions pertain to the historical period you covered with this book. Which historical figure do you find most intriguing? Which would you most like to have a drink with?
Larry Gonick: I wouldn’t mind hoisting a few with the first Emperor of the Han Dynasty, back when he was still a commoner. They say he was a great drinking buddy. Plus I might be able to get him into the time machine for a game of ping-pong, which I could probably win because he’d be drunk.
Which historical figure that you wrote about do you feel has been most misrepresented in the past?
I have no idea. Important historical figures, especially ones fairly close to the present, are represented so many different ways by so many different representers! Not too many other historians talk about Columbus as a bungler, though. The most under-represented historical figure has to be William I “the Silent” of Orange. You don’t see much written about him or the Dutch War of Independence anywhere outside of Holland. And yet his leadership and this war were critically important for modern history, and one of the few developments you can characterize as essentially positive.
Which historical development was most difficult to portray?
Just about anything that doesn’t involve action: philosophy, science, intellectual disagreement. Religion’s not so hard, though, because it comes with all this wacky imagery.
If you could go back and live during any historical period which period would it be?
What can I say? I like electric lights and central heating and indoor plumbing. How about Paris right now?