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Kid gangs and class warfare in ‘Bowery Boys’


Oliver Twist meets Occupy Wall Street. That’s the most succinct way to describe the burgeoning comic series Bowery Boys by Ian Bertram and Cory Levine, and after years of it being hinted at online it’s now found a soapbox to tell its story: online for free.

Last week, the duo announced it will serialize the Bowery Boys graphic novel with three pages a week online at beginning July 4. Described as “A New York Story,” Bowey Boys is set in 1850s Manhattan, where a group of young men try to reach the brass ring of the American Dream but face obstacles such as political corruption, street gangs, labor unions and rampant racism. At the center of this is Nikolaus McGovern, the only son for a God-fearing union leader who’s in deep over laborer’s rights, and the paths he crosses with politicians, businessmen and entrepreneurs. But in addition to that story, a big draw here is the art by Ian Bertram, a recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Here’s a four-page sample of Bowery Boys:

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Oliver Twist meets Occupy Wall Street in Bowery Boys

After posting last week about New York’s SVA magazine Ink, I discovered a unique project by one of the artists, Ian Bertram, and writer Cory Levine called Bowery Boys.  Described by the authors as a coming of age story about four young men growing up in mid-19th century lower Manhattan, the creators are currently shopping it around to various comic publishers.

“I had recently read an article about how 19th century New York lacked a public sanitation system and garbage would be piled literally chest-high in the streets, and it led me to pitch Ian on a story set against an urban backdrop of the filth and congestion of lower Manhattan in that era,” Levine told CBR. “My thought was that the richness of his line work would really bring the setting to life, and the detail with which he draws would pave the way for the readers to immerse themselves in a period piece.”

Although Bowery Boys was written before Occupy Wall Street existed, it’s inspired by the very same elements even though the setting is over a hundred years apart.

Bowery Boys definitely tries to tap into the cultural/political zeitgeist, and without affirming or dismissing the OWS movement specifically, it certainly acknowledges that an increasingly loud racket or rabble is demanding our attention and there is merit to that noise.”

Here’s a look at the cover and the first five pages of the series, although the duo plans to have it colored before publication.

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