Organizing my Peace Corps books to donate them to one of the academic Peace Corps collections, I came across 8 comic books that were co-written in the late ’80s and early ’90s by Cindy Goff (Central African Republic 1983-85) and Rafael Nieves. The comics were first published by Entropy Enterprises in Minnesota, then by Slave Labor Graphics, in San Jose, California.
The co-authorship began, as the two explain in the first issue, because of their friendship. Cindy writes, “He [Rafael] got me hooked on comics early in our friendship. Why we are friends is hard to figure out. He grew up in a tough Puerto Rican neighborhood of Chicago; I in the lily-white suburbs of Minneapolis. He dislikes chatter and boisterousness, both of which I am accused of regularly. He dislikes chatter and boisterousness, both of which I am accused of regularly. He is quiet and serious and street smart, I am loud, silly and easily mugged.
Ralfael explains in his introduction that “Cindy Goff is nothing like the character “Cathy Grant”-except that they both shared the same initials, they both hail from Minneapolis, both wear glasses, both majored in Political Science and French in college, both lived in Africa for two years, both….”
The characters, they say, “have been blessed with “Cindy’s introspective recollection of life in C.A.R.
Cindy’s experience, I gather, as a PCV was the impetus for this series.
When the second issue is published, there is a note on the Editorial Page that “Cindy and Rafael are drawing not only on Cindy’s experiences but, on other peace Corps volunteers experiences as well.” They make the point that it is not an autobiographical account of Cindy Goff’s tour.
The brief series is told through the eyes of protagonist Cathy Grant, opening with Cathy getting the word from Washington that she had been accepted and is off to Training. Later stories delve into the reign of a mad dictator called Jean-Bedel Bokassa.
The first two issues of the series were published by Entropy Enterprises in 1987, with nine later issues published by Slave Labor Graphics (from 1988 to 1994). Two color graphic novels, Tales from the Heart of Africa: The Temporary Natives (1990) and A Tale From the Heart of Africa: Bloodlines (1992) were published by Marvel Comics (under their Epic Comic imprint.) Bloodlines was nominated for two Eisner Awards in 1993.
As far as I know, this was the first and only attempt to turn the Peace Corps Experience into a Comic Book series.
The comic only lasted a few issues and then Epic came out with a book, The Temporary Natives, a tale from the heart of Africa, published in April 1990. According to Dan Vado, the Publisher & Editor in Chief, “The special is being written as a companion piece to our on going series and is being written as a companion piece to our on going series and is introductory in nature so you don’t have to buy it to keep up with the story in Tales.”