How do you give the century-old tale of World War I (WWI) the brio needed to captivate a 21st-century audience? If you're the New Haven Museum (NHM), you do it by commissioning an award-winning comic-book illustrator from New Haven, Nadir Balan, to create a series of dynamic, oversized, graphic-novel style murals, based on the dramatic WWI diary of one New Haven serviceman who witnessed firsthand the adventure, horror, and pathos of the front lines.
Reception: Tuesday, November 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. November 7-11.
Balan's dynamic palette of black, white, and brilliant red creates a nostalgic, comic-book style loaded with the iconic WWI imagery reminiscent of the "hero" comics that came of age in the 1930s --doughboys in uniform, tri-planes, Zeppelins, and plenty of explosions. The dynamic drawings drop the viewer right into the action with New Haven's Lt. Philip H. English. Replete with emotive scenes of both joy and loss, the panels create what the artist calls an "old-world narrative," but with decidedly contemporary flair.
The first 4-by-6-foot mural, depicting English's entry into the war, includes bold renderings of soldiers proudly marching off to war, with gleeful young boys tagging along through the streets of New Haven, a sliver of Camp Yale and the Winchester Arms Manufacturing Company, and English's distraught mother waving goodbye in the background. Each subsequent panel features a montage of images, a composite of the events and locations English experienced while serving as a mud-covered motorcycle courier, barreling back and forth along the front lines and among the farms and forests of France.