Comic artist creates civics art exchange with Bak

Bak students Hugh Moss and Kevin Mullen’s comic-like art on a Declaration of Independence art assignment impressed seventh-grade civics teacher Bonnie McCarthy so much, she sent it to professional comic artist Bentley Boyd, who expressed interest in an art exchange with the two students.

“I do a choice project assignment; you either write a break-up letter to England, or you do four pictures that illustrate grievances from the Declaration of Independence,” McCarthy said. “Both of those students did illustrations in a comic style. I knew that because [Boyd] did the same thing growing up. He’d appreciate it.”

Boyd had been working in the comic industry for a while. While he was no longer doing his Chester the Crab comic books as a full-time job, he continued to create his stories as a side-gig. He had been creating the civics-themed stories for 19 years.

“I’ve always loved comics and began drawing my own when I was in elementary school. I was drawing political cartoons for a newspaper in Virginia in 1999 when they asked me to draw a daily history comic to help students with the very hard state tests in Virginia,” Bentley Boyd, publisher and comic artist, said. “My oldest son was in third grade, the first grade in which students got the new state test, so I thought it would be fun to help him and to draw history because my college major was in history! I’ve been drawing Chester the Crab history comix ever since.”

The exchange began on Oct. 12. McCarthy emailed Boyd a picture of Mullen’s artwork. Boyd seemed overjoyed to see he had a fan and asked if he could exchange art with Mullen. Mullen’s artwork featured the Parson’s Cause story, authored by Patrick Henry. However, McCarthy had another student in mind.

“I said, ‘Hey! There’s another student here who is a visual arts major. I think he’d love to collaborate with you,’” McCarthy said. “I was just trying to make his day. I didn’t think he’d do anything.”

The two students involved, Mullen and Moss, never met Boyd formally. The entire transaction was conducted over email via McCarthy. According to the email chain, Boyd enjoyed the students’ art and sent some of his back in return.

McCarthy said, “He wrote me back and said ‘Let’s do an art exchange! I’ll send them cartoons.’ I think it gave the students more enthusiasm for history. They were more engaged in my class afterward.”