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THE TRUE DEATH OF BILLY THE KID

The True Death of Billy the Kid:
Being an Authentic Narrative of the Final Days in His Brief and Turbulent Life
Graphic Biography by Rick Geary
56 8x10-inch pages, b/w
2014 Hometown Press
hardcover
$15.95

True Story of Billy the Kid coverThe life, crimes, and lamentable death of Billy the Kid have been written about nearly endlessly, making the New Mexico outlaw’s fate one of the best-known in American biography. Here, Geary adds his take to the pile. As always, he is scrupulous in covering the known as well as the unknown ground. Geary focuses on the last two months of the Kid’s life, beginning with his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse Jail on April 28, 1881, during which he killed both his guards, deputies James Bell and Bob Olinger.

How the Kid broke loose and killed Bell is one of the many disputed aspects of his life, and Geary covers all three of the traditionally cited possibilities.

Geary covers the principal events of the Kid’s life up to his jail break in three pages of illustrated captions. Thereafter, he deploys his usual method, coupling captions to pictures and authenticating the narrative with diagrams, maps, and the floorplans of buildings. I asked Geary, who lives in New Mexico near the action of his tale, how he determined the layout of Lincoln and the courthouse, and he told me the town and the building are today pretty much the way they were when the Kid was jailed there.

Geary’s captions are terse, almost devoid of adjectives. And the people in his pictures, as always, have about them a haunted almost furtive air, looking as if they knew they were being examined and were uncomfortable about it. The combined effect is of deadpan narrative, an entirely suitable mode for factual history.

BillKid

Both the Kid’s escape from the Lincoln Country Courthouse Jail and his death on July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner are rehearsed in detailed documentary fashion, action depicted and related step-by-step.

Geary’s drawing style, which I have admired for years, is ideally suited to the manner of his storytelling. Shaded linearly, the pictures have a flat, documentary aura; and his outlining with a naked unflexing line sometimes curiously crocheted at the edges adds a fustian old-timey feel to the proceedings, making history live again in a time-worn manner.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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