Meet the illustrator of “1776 — Breaking News: Independence,” cartoonist Tom Kaczynski

Meet the illustrator of “1776 — Breaking News: Independence,” cartoonist Tom Kaczynski


My name is Tom Kaczynski, and I’m a cartoonist. I grew up in Poland, during Cold War era. Roughly from the mid-‘70s until the mid-‘80s I was there. In the early ‘80s, Poland was under martial law, was declared. It was a communist country. There was like soldiers patrolling the streets. There were all kinds of tank maneuvers. Everybody was on edge. There was arrests on TV, and things like that. My dad was one of the members of the Solidarity movement. Solidarity was this workers movement. They made some demands for betting working conditions. Also there were political demands. The union was declared illegal. Members were jailed, members were harassed. There were definitely people who were killed, you know, by secret police. It was risky. So I think a plan was hatched, okay, time to go. And in ’85 we did it. We boarded a ferry to go to Germany for a two-week tourist trip, and we just didn’t get back on. Essentially lived in this refugee apartment block. Roach-infested. Not very nice apartments. The whole family lived in a single room. That’s what the building we lived in looked like. It was this really big concrete, gray block. So this looks like it’s us arriving in the States. America was definitely a country that loomed large in the imagination. You know, Ronald Reagan was the president at the time. He made all kinds of statements about bringing down the evil empire, Soviet Union, etc., etc. I was a kid and I totally was like, yeah, you know, Reagan, this is great. We’re gonna come to America. After living in Poland, there is very visible censorship, where there’s things that just can never be published. That doesn’t really happen here. It’s night and day. I started drawing comics probably around when I was about eight-years-old. Not really sure what the trigger was, but I just took to it. These are some of the comics I was drawing at the time. “Ameryce,” which means in America. So the very first panel is set already in the States. This is some stuff that I was really into when I was a kid in Poland. There was also these historical comics. So it’s really great that I get to work on some historical comics now. In a way I was preparing for it all my life. The story is essentially the story of American independence. But there’s all these events and things that happened before that sort of lead up to that moment. And a large part of that is the involvement of the early newspaper industry that was happening in the colonies at that time. How they helped create the nation, sometimes through propaganda, sometimes through argument. Through just disseminating the news, letting a lot of people know what was happening. I think the visuals can help tell that story maybe more effortlessly than sometimes you do with just sort of individual artifacts. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s the first time really that my work is on the wall. America is a 200-plus-year-old democracy. There’s all kinds of things that can happen that can change that course. And history can sort of remind us of that. Maybe help us prevent some of the things that could happen.

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