Under the Banner of King Death

Now out from Beacon Press is Under the Banner of King Death by David Lester, Marcus Rediker, and Paul Buhle.  Based on Villains of All Nations by award-winning historian Marcus Rediker, this arresting graphic exploration of mutiny, bloody battle, and social revolution offers a window into the uniquely egalitarian world of eighteenth-century pirates, and their surprisingly modern approaches to community building, found family, and pluralism.

With vivid illustrations rendered boldly in black and white, this adaptation draws readers into a beautifully visualized and fascinating cast of characters, telling the tales of three unlikely companions, who are sold into servitude on the merchant ship The Night Rambler and unwittingly thrust into a voyage of rebellion: John Gwin, an African American fugitive from bondage in South Carolina; Ruben Dekker, a common seaman from Amsterdam; and Mark/Mary Reed, an American woman who defies stereotypes by dressing as a man.

Mutiny ensues against the tyrannical Captain Skinner, who is thrown overboard to make way for democracy aboard The Night Rambler. The crew’s new order provides radical social benefits, all based on real, documented practices of contemporary pirate ships: democratic decision-making, a social security net, health and disability insurance, and equal distribution of spoils taken from prize ships.

Under the Banner of King Death novelizes for the first time the real pirates behind our legends. This graphic novel breaks new ground in our understanding of piracy and pirate culture, giving us more reasons to love the rebellious and stouthearted marauders of the high seas.

In a world of increasing authoritarianism, Under the Banner of King Death is an inspiring reminder of a time when those on the bottom fought back and achieved, against all odds, a democratic and egalitarian social order, if only for a short time. This compelling visual feast of rebellion in action will appeal to readers of all ages, as well as fans of HBO’s Our Flag Means Death.

David Lester is a graphic designer, illustrator, musician, and graphic novelist from Vancouver. His past books include Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, and 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike.