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Research part 2: The 1920s

The years immediately after The Great War were ones of prosperity for America, but also ones of change. It was difficult for the young men and women to settle down after World War I. The boys had been dying in the trenches and returned home with a devil may care attitude, living for the day and just plain happy to be alive. Women had entered the workforce while the men were out fighting and they weren’t eager to give up the new found responsibility and freedom.

Into this hotbed of excitement and economic prosperity came Prohibition. Looking back it is hard to understand how anyone could have thought the idea was a good one during a time when all of America was breathing a big sigh of relief and ready celebrate life, but it happened. This opened up the door for all manners of illegal activity, with regular citizens breaking the law on a regular basis when they took a drink at their local (hidden) watering hole.

I have always been fascinated by life during wartime, but life immediately after wartime is one that is equally interesting. The 1920s and the 1950s were both periods of great change in American society. The 1920s as a setting for “Three Princes” was a great choice not only because of its rich criminal history but because of the great changes in society that I could include in my story– things like Prohibition, jazz, flappers, The Immigration Act, and President Coolidge. Even the clothing for both men and women would make for good visual storytelling!

But this was crime comics so let us not forget the criminals. The 1920s saw the rise of many famous and colorful criminals, including Al Capone. After learning about the decade in general– its history, its politics, its people, its fashion, and its slang– I researched its criminals of which there was many. Learning about criminals led me to learn about how they ran their organizations. I ran into many references to Irish American gangs and felt this was a good fit for my story. I knew early on that I did not want to focus on Italian gangsters so it was an easy choice when it became apparent there were many Irish gangs at work during the 1920s.

I was surprised how many photographs I found from the era. These really helped me envision the 1920s as I wrote my script. I would pour through photos of city streets and people going about their daily lives, making notes in my notebooks about certain things that stood out for me. Some of these things made their way into my story or will serve as references for the artist tasked to draw my tale, but it all provided me with a context in which to work.

You might ask why go through all this trouble? Well, I am the kind of writer that needs to know the context of his story before I can tell it. For Psychosis, for example, I did a lot of research on mental hospitals throughout the ages, poured through numerous photographs, and read about psychological disorders and their various treatments. Much of what I learn through my research won’t make it into my stories in detail but it all serves as the foundation that allows me to tell what I hope is a well put together story. I believe a reader can tell when you’ve not done your homework.

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