Written by Eric Hobbs
Art by Noel Tuazon
In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast his radio play The War of the Worlds, adapting HG Wells's novel of the same name about a Martian attack to radio. Famously, people actually believed that the broadcast was factual, and panic broke out in a number of spots across the country (obviously the people of America were not as media-savvy in the 30s as the people of today, who know that everything broadcast by say, Fox News, is going to be true).
This situation provides the backdrop for The Broadcast, an excellent 2010 graphic novel by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon. The story is set in rural Indiana, and it uses the event as a springboard to explore class and race at that time.
Our main character is Gavin, the charming son of a farmer, who wants nothing more than to marry Kim Schrader, the daughter of a powerful local landowner, and run off to New York to help her pursue her dream of becoming a writer. As the book opens, Gavin goes to meet with Kim's father, to get his blessing to propose, but he ends up leaving insulted and angry. During this visit, we also learn that two of Mr. Schrader's employees used to own the land that he now pays them to farm. One of the farmers is fine with this situation, while the other, Jacob, a widower, is not.
The final player in this drama is Marvin, an African-American man who was attacked by a couple of whites and almost killed, who ends up near Gavin's father's farm, and is taken in by the very nice family to recuperate from his wounds.
The titular broadcast takes place on a stormy night, and the power goes out at a key point in the radio play, leading the characters to believe that the attack must be real, and that the radio station has fallen to the attacking Martians. Everyone panics, and all of our main players converge, with their families, on Schrader's farm, which is the only place in the area with a reliable storm shelter. The hope is that the families can hide out there until the invasion is over. The discovery of what happened to the men who attacked Marvin (it's not pretty) makes their belief in the seriousness of their situation even stronger.
The big problems is that Schrader's shelter can only hold a small amount of the assembled people, and so everyone falls to in-fighting, scheming, and class warfare. Jacob is the most direct character here, resorting to violence so as to protect his daughter, but Schrader remains the most interesting character.
Hobbs does a terrific job of setting up these characters and this situation, and then just letting everything play out as it should. Tuazon's art, like always, is scratchy and at times hard to follow, but that adds to the sense of confusion that the characters are feeling. Like their more recent book, Family Ties, this is a very good read that is not your typical graphic novel.