World War I is a complex war. A conflict whose roots are unclear to most people; the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie of Austria is the spark that plunges Great Britain, France, Russia, the United States, Germany, Austria-Hungary and almost 25 other nations into war.
But what are the causes of World War I?
Other conflicts in American history are clearly defined–the Revolutionary War was about independence from Britain, the Civil War was fought over the questions of slavery and state’s rights, World War II was fought to stop the Axis nations from invading other nations, even Vietnam was fought to stop the domino effect of Communism.
The roots of this world war range from imperialism, nationalism, mutual defense alliances and even militarism. But World War I also offered the perfect environment to escalate an arms race between nations who had technology to flex. Airships flew during this war in the shape of dirigibles, balloons and airplanes. However, these wondrous innovations gave way to air combat techniques. Keep in mind, the machine gun, tank, and chemical warfare were also developed and refined during this conflict.
In Beautiful Scars, the Great War serves as one of the backdrops to Ridley Shaw’s life. He, like many Brits, enlisted into service because it was the honourable thing to do. In a war where ideology and patriotism create volunteers, Ridley enlisted because, deep down, he feels the need to protect his family. He is a romantic who feels his sacrifices are for the good of his home.
War is not a good thing, much less great. But sometimes, it is a necessity. There is a wonderful editorial illustration created by Winsor McCay for the New York American, in February 7, 1915 urging the United States to face its fear against the concept of war, represented by a dragon. (It is worth noting, prior to entering the War in 1917, the United States remained neutral.) The illustration’s title is entitled: “We Can Be Free Only By Conquering Fear,” and for nations engulfed in this conflict, they faced the dragon they released… or were devoured by it.
Soldiers were thrown into the crucible or war regardless of station or background and fought because it was demanded of them–but if they met in peacetime, they might have become fast friends. Even though these soldiers wore different uniforms, they had similar backgrounds–they ranged from farmers and mechanics to aristocrats and artists. For 30 million soldiers (nine million killed, 21 million casualties), they stared down the dragon and fought in the trenches and in the air with bullets or poetry. There are many war poets to describe the experience of World War I: Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and John McCrae among others. “In Flanders Field” helps to clarify the plight of the soldier:
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
2014 marks the 100th year anniversary of World War I. Guin and I decided to commemorate this milestone with a new cover for Beautiful Scars. In it, Ridley Shaw fearlessly faces Nightshade the Dragon. He is alone in his reconnaissance plane, the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8; the rear gunner is absent, evoking the missing man formation. However, to his wing, a Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker Triplane flies in tandem. War unleashes the dragon that every nation involved must face.
This Commemorative Edition Cover is available at this upcoming 2014 San Diego Comic Con. We will wrap Beautiful Scars with these new book covers. They will be free, so stop by and pick up this Comic Con exclusive! Guin and I are located in Artist’s Alley, II-21.
Thank you for helping us to honour the World War I Centennial!