Corbin, British Columbia, is largely a ghost town now. Located in the southeastern part of the province, close to the Alberta border, if you decided to make a trip to visit you might find an old graveyard, greying shacks, and maybe even a resident or two nestled in the mountains. However, you would likely find nothing that would indicate a bloody strike had taken place there more than seventy-five years ago.
In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, many workers’ struggles were happening in British Columbia, as they were elsewhere across Canada. One source notes that strikes and lockouts in the province doubled from the previous year and the simmering discontent soon boiled over. Amidst the more popular actions and confrontations that year (the relief camp workers strikes, the On to Ottawa Trek, the Battle of Ballantyne Pier) the events that happened in Corbin are lesser known.
Nicole Marie Burton’s new work, “Coal Mountain: A Graphic Re-telling of the 1935 Corbin Miners’ Strike” aims to change that. Created as part of the Graphic History Project, with research and production support from Graphic History Collective member Robin Folvik, Burton’s work brings alive the story of the Corbin Miners’ Strike.
Look closely, you will see small, historically accurate details (the tree stumps behind the houses on page 6, for instance) only made possible with Nicole’s extensive visual research. Other details came from the memory of those that once lived there.
I drew most of the story’s inspiration from 2 interviews with a woman named Grace, who lived through the miners’ strike when she was 11. Previously, all I’d read of the strike was documentation that was either in bits and pieces, or seemingly so editorialized that I questioned its accuracy. Grace offered a human connection, and an answer to questions that matter a lot to artists: What did the houses look like? What were her parents like? What did she eat for dinner? How did she and the kids of the town spend their time? These and other questions led me to actually be able to envision Corbin as a community of living (and struggling) people, and not just as some page in the books of history. –Nicole Burton
We are excited to share Chapter One of Nicole’s work, available now through the link
Nicole Marie Burton is a comics writer, illustrator, and promoter based in Toronto. She is the founder of Ad Astra Comix, a political comics publisher, and regularly provides workshops about using comics for social change. Coal Mountain is her first full-length comic.
Learn more about Nicole and her work!
This looks amazing…and not just because my last name is also Burton.
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