- Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys
Whether Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg served as direct inspiration or simply an icon for the late nineteenth-century zeitgeist, a host of real-life adventurers followed his lead and undertook their own record-setting round-the-world treks. In this graphic novel Phelan recounts three such journeys. In 1884 Thomas Stevens traded life as a miner for a cross-country trip on a newfangled bicycle—the big front-wheeled job, no less. His initial success impelled him to secure the patronage of Colonel Albert Pope of the League of Wheelman, and Stevens promptly extended his trip around the globe, regularly tipping over the front of his Columbia high-wheeler along the way. His adventure was followed by the better-known exploits of Nellie Bly, who took Verne’s challenge seriously enough to parlay it into a stunt for the New York Globe. Outfitted with little more than a couple of dresses and a plaid coat and cap, intrepid Miss Bly beat her own goal of seventy-four days by sea and rail, only to receive a tepid reception and no bonus from her employers. Finally, retired sea captain Joshua Slocum rebuilt an old sloop and sailed it in the world’s [End Page 102] first solo circumnavigation. Phelan invests each tale with its own distinct mood and style—the humor of Stevens’ bumbling machine, the quick cuts between Bly’s travels and her employers’ journalistic maneuvering, the heart-aching loneliness and eerie hallucinations of Slocum’s peril-ridden voyage. Deftly controlled splashes of translucent watercolor tease along the outlines of Phelan’s spidery ink lines and sure-handed pencil dashes; the buttoned-down neatness of frames and gutters is an effective counterpoint to the daring and uncertainty of the adventures themselves.