Witness the carnage and heroism of the Battle of Stalingrad!

This week marks the 73rd anniversary of the defeat of German forces at the Battle of Stalingrad, often called the turning point of the Second World War.  Wayne Vansant’s online webcomic graphic novel Katusha Book Two: The Shaking of the Earth covers the battle in it’s opening chapter.  Book Two has just started daily serialization at the official Katusha webcomic site, katushagirlsoldier.com, where it begins it’s run simply as Chapter Seven, continuing on from Katusha Book One’s Chapter Six.
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As the book opens, Katusha, Milla, and Taras have been driven east from their native Ukraine, enter the city only to find it under siege.  As they help a local mortar unit (made up of girls Katusha and Milla’s age, and led by their school teacher) they are driven into the city where they run into the girls father, who is there to contribute his valuable technological experience to the war effort.
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It is decided that the girls will go east, to train in tank school, but first they must escape the German onslaught.  As they flee by boat the ships in the surrounding Volga river explode, victims to German planes and artillery.  Reaching the safety of the riverbank, Katusha looks across at the vision of hell that was the Battle of Stalingrad.stalingrad_volga02
Vansant has produced comics and graphic novels on an enormous range of military history topics over a three decade career.  Starting with his long run on the seminal Vietnam War comic book, The ‘Nam (with writer Doug Murray), Vansant has used graphic novels and comics to tell fictional tales and non-fiction histories about conflicts including multiple books on World War II and the American Civil War, as well as World War I and the Korean War.
The Battle of Stalingrad has long been seen as a “turning point” in the war.  Vansant commented,

“It has been argued by many what the true turning point of the Second World War really was:  The Battle of Moscow proved to Hitler that he could not win the war ‘On his terms.’  The Battle of Kursk is called ‘The Military Turning Point.’  But Stalingrad was the ‘moral turning point.’  The people of occupied France believed that they would be in Nazi manacles for 20 years.  But after Stalingrad, the French, the Dutch, the Poles, and all the other captive people of Europe knew that the corner had been turned.  It was more than  a turning point in war, it was a turning point in history, and the Russian people have every reason to be proud of their accomplishment.”

About Katusha Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War:

Now running as a daily webcomic at katushagirlsoldier.comKatusha Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War is a graphic novel trilogy by Wayne Vansant.  It is a story of courage, survival and family; of self-sacrifice, betrayal, brutality, and suffering; it is a tale of love, told against the backdrop of the bloodiest conflict in human history: the 1941-1945 war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.  Sixteen-year told Katusha and her family flee the 1941 German invasion of Soviet Ukraine to the forests to begin a partisan war against the occupiers.  Later, Katusha enters the Red Army where she is trained as a tank driver.  By 1945, Katusha commands her own tank, and takes part in the final battle for Berlin. Katusha Book One: Edge of Darkness and Katusha Book Two: the Shaking of the Earth are available in print and digital format from katushagirlsoldier.com, Amazon.com, Comixology, and many others.   Contact katushagirlsoldier@gmail.com for all rights inquiries.

Help Fabrice Sapolsky bring the first EVER Kung Fu NOIR comic book series to life!

Fabrice Sapolsky is Chief Creative Officer at Grand Design Communications, heading up our magazine packaging services for great clients like Panini and 2B2M.  But Sapolsky also wears another hat in the comics game – that of a powerhouse freelance writer!  Sapolsky is the co-creator (with David Hine) of Marvel’s Spider-Man Noir character and wrote last year’s Image Comics series One Hit Wonder (foreign rights available from GDC).

And today, February 2nd, Sapolsky launched a Kickstarter fundraiser for his latest comics series, Intertwined, which he co-created with artist Fred Pham Chuong.  They aim to raise $9000 and on their very first day they’ve already raised more than a quarter of that amount!  The official Kickstarter page is at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/530822722/intertwined-by-fabrice-sapolsky-and-fred-pham-chuo.  Check out their promotional video below!

From the Kickstarter page:

THE PITCH It’s 1971. The world is in a very strange place. The Woodstock generation is still making waves. Feminism is ascendant, while the Black Power movement has fractured, and war still rages in Vietnam. But, above all, New York City is still a very violent place. The city is in economic decline, and it’s hard for anyone to maintain a decent life, especially immigrants. InterTwined is a story about legacies. About what it feels to be an immigrant in general, and an Asian one in particular, in the 1970s New York area. Following the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, many people from Asia came to the United States. The series borrows elements from the Spider-Man and Daredevil mythology, only to build its own. What if the urban hero was an immigrant?

So what are you waiting for?  Go on over to Kickstarter and support this great project!

Katushagirlsoldier.com has been viewed 100,000 times and now you can read Katusha Book Two for free

The webcomic site katushagirlsoldier.com began running a page-per-day serialization of historical graphic novelist Wayne Vansant’s Katusha Book Two: The Shaking of the Earth on January 25.  The site, which began a year ago with a serialization of Katusha Book One: Edge of Darkness, has had more than 100,000 page views and more than 10,000 unique visitors since.

The webcomic debut of the second book of Vansant’s Eastern Front trilogy begins its run on the website not as a seperate volume but simply as Chapter 7 in the story, and comes as anticipation builds for the publication of Katusha Book Three: On Wings of Thunder.  

As the first three pages unfold, two motorcycle-riding German soldier survey their newly conquered territory while singing the classic love song “Lili Marleen“.  The song, based on a poem written in 1915, was popular on both sides of the European theater.  In America, it was recorded by Marlene Dietrich as part of anti-Nazi propoganda efforts during World War II, and was later featured in the film Judgement At Nuremberg (1961), in which Dietrich starred, and became a hit with Allied soldiers across Europe and a staple of Dietrich’s subsequent one-woman cabaret shows.  In 1962 the song became German chart hit for American singer Connie Francis, who released six previous singles in German.  The song has been featured films and television productions, including Lilli Marlene (1950), The Right Stuff (1983),  War and Remembrance (1988), Bad Day to Go Fishing (Mal día para pescar) (2009), and in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1980 film Lili Marleen, itself a loose history of the German singer Lale Anderson, who was known for her 1939 recording of the song.

By page two the soldiers spot a supposed peasant girl bathing in a local pond and their attention is drawn elsewhere.  This short sequence, featuring two unsuspecting German soldiers thinking of nothing more than love songs as they traverse an occupied country, illustrates the great depth of Vansant’s research and the strength of telling history with graphic novels:  he doesn’t simply report the event in the history books – he places the reader inside the Eastern Front, with all it’s tactics and players.

This is but a prelude to the full Chapter 7, in which Katusha, Milla, and Taras are reunited with a beloved family member in the midst of the horrors of the siege of Stalingrad before the sisters are sent off to tank school.

KATUSHA is one of PoP!’s Best of 2015!

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Katusha Book Two: The Shaking of the Earth  has topped PanelsOnPages’ “Independent Feature Best of 2015″ list.  The comics and pop culture website raved:

Wayne Vansant’s Katusha trilogy is such an excellent look at World War II and those it affected, both on the front lines and well behind them. The first volume is also well worth the purchase, but wasn’t included here simply because Book Two is where this trilogy really took off. Book Three is expected any moment now and would be a great time to pick these up if you’re interested in a less sensationalized but still very detailed, riveting look at a landmark time in World history.

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PoP! previously reviewed the first two volumes of Wayne Vansant’s Katusha Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War trilogy when the books were released on the #1 digital comics platform, Comixology, writing:

Another thing [Writer and Illustrator Wayne] Vansant is so great at is showing the horrors of war without being overly graphic. So many other comics, from other Submit titles all the way up the food chain, prefer to let it all hang out. As in, guts. Many creators and editors, be it for realism or sensationalism, love to show violence and gore in their books to the point it desensitizes readers and just makes them not care about whatever story may be buried under so many miles of exposed arteries. When the New 52 started, there was blood and dismemberments everywhere! Katusha Book Two: The Shaking of the Earth is a shining example of less is more. Vansant shows some of the effects of war, for sure. In a book like this, there’s not much choice. However, Vansant shows just enough of the effects to get the point across. In addition, he also uses the characters’ dialogue and captions to tell the reader how long-lasting those effects were in brilliant style.

Six popular fiction tropes KATUSHA has in common with books, TV, and movies

Wayne Vansant’s KATUSHA GIRL SOLDIER OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR has been added to the popular fan-edited wiki tvtropes.com.  A massive resource on all kinds of fiction, tvtropes.com describes itself as:

…a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.  Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means ‘stereotyped and trite.’ In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.

Here’s six ways tvtropes.com’s KATUSHA page shows what Wayne Vansant’s epic of the Eastern Front has in common with some of the most popular works of fiction:

1. Anyone Can Die – defined as “Anyone Can Die is where no one is exempt from being killed, including pets, children, the elderly, even the main characters (maybe even the hero)!”

The opening paragraph of KATUSHA BOOK ONE states “No one was safe.”  Another example of Anyone Can Die:  George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis for TV’s Game of Thones (which actually featured Arya Stark stating “Anyone can be killed” in the second season trailer).

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The Starks and the Tymoshenkos have more in common than they would probably wish.

2. Genre Savvy – a Genre Savvy character “doesn’t necessarily know they’re in a story, but they do know of stories like their own and what worked in them and what didn’t.”  Tvtropes.com notes that Uncle Taras is genre savvy “in spades”.

Another example given of a genre savvy character:  Roy Mustang of the anime Full Metal Alchemist

©2015 Wayne Vansant katushagirlsoldier.com

3. Too Dumb To Live – “The character who puts life and limb at risk by doing things that no sane human being would do.”  TVTropes.com cites the Soviet officer who gets killed standing too close to the bridge he’s blowing up.

Another example of Too Dumb To Live:  Almost every Red Shirt on Star Trek: The Original Series

Be it Soviet Red Army or Federation Red Shirt, just duck!

4. Shown Their Work – “…when the creators tweak their stories to show the viewer/reader what they have learned. The trick is to do it so this advances the story instead of stopping it cold. When it’s done right in a well-made work, awards for its educational value can be just as nifty as the artistic awards.”  Wayne Vansant’s meticulous research definitely qualifies KATUSHA.

Another example of Shown Their Work given by tvtropes.com: the works of Frederick Forsyth

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5. La Résistance – “A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits using the The Power of Friendship to fight against a tyrannical rule… always underdogs, they fight using guerrilla warfare and by raising the rabble of the people by revealing unpleasant truths about The Empire.”

In KATUSHA BOOK ONE, Katusha, her family, and friends form a partisan band to resist the German occupation.  Another example of  La Résistance: the kids of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

This may be the only thing that Katusha has in common with South Park.

6. It’s Personal – “this is where a character (or characters) has a highly close, emotional investment in the story’s conflict.”

There are many examples of this in KATUSHA, especially in Zhenya Gersteinfeld, who saw her parents executed by the Germans at Babi Yar.  An example from fantasy literature cited by TVTropes.com:  Harry Potter’s personal vendetta against the wizard who killed his parents, Lord Voldemort.

©2015 Wayne Vansant katushagirlsoldier.com

Zhenya only escaped execution herself with the help of her friend Vasily.

Altogether, tvtropes.com found twenty-eight popular fiction tropes identifiable in Katushabut in a work as massive (over 500 pages) as Katusha there’s bound to be more.

In fact, Katusha creator Wayne Vansant has spotted a few more tropes that could apply to his graphic novel and webcomic series.  Uncle Taras personifies the tropes The Charmer (“When he starts talking he can charm a crowd and it’s easy to see how he gets people to follow him”) and Badass (“a character who gets away with outright insane stunts”), a trait he shares in common with one of Vansant’s favorite TV characters:  Boyd Crowder of Justified.

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Wayne Vansant: “I suddenly thought of a very intelligent (although uneducated) person, who is philosophical and thoughtful, and loyal to his friends and those he loves, but can also kill at the drop of a hat.  It is of course Uncle Taras, but another is Boyd Crowder of ‘Justified‘, to me one of the most complex fictional characters of recent times.”

KATUSHA GIRL SOLDIER OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR is a graphic novel trilogy by Wayne Vansant.  Book One and Book Two are available in print and e-book format from Amazon.com, Comixology, and many other vendors.  Book Three is expected to be published in 2015.  Read the webcomic for free at katushagirlsoldier.com.

Action Lab’s HERALD: LOVECRAFT AND TESLA coming to TV

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Action Lab’s comic book series HERALD: LOVECRAFT AND TESLA has been one of the breakout hits of 2015 and now it could be heading to television.  The clever teaming up of two of the most interesting men of the early 20th century is an ongoing series from Action Lab.  Grand Design Communications represents foreign rights for HERALD: LOVECRAFT AND TESLA.

Entertainment news website joblo.com wrote about the TV deal:

HERALD is such a smart idea that, just seven months after the first issue hit the stands, the rights to adapt the Action Lab Entertainment comic into a television series have been picked up by Romark Entertainment and Markerstone Pictures. Newcomer Jared Battaglia has been given the task of handling the adaptation.

Watching Lovecraft and Tesla fight monsters every week sounds like fun to me. If HERALD does end up going to series, it’s definitely a show I would check out.

Hollywood Reporter: Marvel’s “summer crown jewel wouldn’t exist without Roy Thomas”

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, featuring two characters created by GDC client Roy Thomas, has grossed more than $600 million around the world in its first ten days.

The long-awaited Avengers: Age of Ultron opened to movie theaters around the world and with it the spotlight is on the legendary comics creator Roy Thomas, the co-creator of the titular villain Ultron and the breakout hero the Vision.  The sequel, which took in more than $180 million at the domestic box office over the weekend, is one of many film and television projects featuring characters and concepts that Thomas created during his decades-long career as a comic book writer and editor.

The Hollywood Reporter puts Thomas’ influence well in context and goes on to cover his transition from fan to “pro” and some of the major media characters and concepts he went on to create:

Stan Lee is the face of the Marvel Universe, but its summer crown jewel wouldn’t exist without Roy Thomas… in 1965, Thomas was just a 20-something comic book superfan from Missouri who walked into Lee’s office looking for a job. He was already working as an assistant at DC, where he was miserable. Lee hired him on the spot. It was a good hire. Thomas went on to co-create Ultron and The Vision in the pages of Avengers in 1968 and also created a number of Marvel mainstays, including Adamantium (you are welcome, Hugh Jackman), Iron Fist (coming to Netflix soon) and Yellow Jacket (the villain played by CoreyStoll in the upcoming Ant-Man).

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Roy Thomas was also interviewed in Rolling Stone magazine for their April 24 issue.  In a Hulk-themed issue, Thomas and Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt discuss the early history of Marvel’s green giant, the roles of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in creating the character, and how Marvel is now compensating the original creators of characters when they’re used in movies and television.

Three newspapers in South Carolina, where Thomas lives with his wife (and frequent collaborator) Dann, carried interviews with the legendary writer.  The Times and Democrat featured a photo of Thomas at the Hollywood premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron and The State quoted him as happy to go the premiere but that “I can’t wait to see it in an IMAX theater in 3D with a big tub of popcorn.”  The weekly Free Times made note of Roy’s long run as writer of Avengers comics as well as his influence on two other hugely popular fictional franchises, Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian:

Thomas penned about 70 of the first 100 issues of Avengers, the superhero team-up that has since spawned one of the biggest franchises in film history — Variety reports that Age of Ultron, which opens in the U.S. on Friday, grossed $201.2 million in its first weekend internationally. He also spearheaded the ’70s and ’80s adaptation of Star Wars that buoyed Marvel during a rough financial patch and helped launch the series that popularized Conan the Barbarian.

The Hollywood Reporter story (and others, including Mashable and the Rolling Stone interview) went on to detail the history of the creation of The Vision by Thomas and artist John Buscema.  Introduced in Avengers #57 (October, 1968), the super-powered android has been a mainstay of the Avengers ever since.  Played by Paul Bettany in the new film the Vision is being called breakout character of the year’s biggest movie.

This is not the first time that Thomas’ characters have graced the screen and it won’t be the last.  Netflix will be featuring two of Thomas’ characters in upcoming Marvel-produced series: his martial arts creation (with Gil Kane) Iron Fist, which has been the subject of recent casting speculation in scores of online articles; and Luke Cage, “Hero For Hire”, which Thomas created with Lee, Archie Goodwin, John Romita Sr., and George Tuska.  Marvel Studios has also recently hired writers for Captain Marvel, their first female-headlining movie, to be released in 2018.  Captain Marvel’s alter-ego, former Air Force officer Carol Danvers, was originally created by Thomas and artist Gene Colan in 1968.  A reboot of Red Sonja, the “She-devil with a sword”, which Thomas co-created (with Barry Windsor-Smith) is in the works, having recently hired a new screenwriter.  Another 1980s film project, Frank Frazetta and Ralph Bakshi’s animated fantasy Fire and  Ice, for which Thomas co-wrote the screenplay, is being developed by Robert Rodriguez. Some of Thomas’ other characters and concepts that have been brought to film and television screens include the Quinjets, the Marvel universe’s fantastic flying vehicles used by the Avengers and the Agents of SHIELD (and now on toy shelves everywhere), the Irish hero Banshee (with artist Werner Roth), featured in 2011’s X-Men: First Class, the Japanese X-Man Sunfire (with Iron Man co-creator Don Heck), who was featured on the anime Avengers: Disk Wars, and was the original leader of Big Hero 6) and perhaps the most popular comic book hero of modern times, Wolverine, whom Thomas created with Romita Sr., Len Wein, and Herb Trimpe.

Roy Thomas will mark fifty years writing comics in 2015, and he hasn’t slowed down.  He will pen a new Red Sonja story for Dynamite Publishing’s upcoming Red Sonja #1973 and continues to work on the Amazing Spider-man syndicated comic strip.  He was also recently honored with two Eisner Award nominations: “Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism” for his work editing the magazine Alter Ego, published by TwoMorrows; and “Best Comics-Related Book” for authoring the well-received over-sized hardcover for Taschen, 75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen.  His three creator-owned series with Heroic Publishing, Anthem, Captain Thunder and Blue Bolt, and Alter Ego, are available in digital format from Comixology, ComicsPlus, Amazon, and through Heroic’s website.   Thomas’ extensive back catalog of comics are being rapidly collected and released regularly to the book market, with more than a dozen titles scheduled to be released in the first half of 2015, including collections of Avengers, Star Wars, X-Men, Elric, Warlock, and Sub-Mariner.

Katusha Book One is comiXology’s Featured Submit Comic

Katusha Book One: Edge of Darkness is now available on the #1 digital comics platform, comiXology.  Issued through Grand Design Digital and comiXology’s Submit program, Katusha Book One has been named the “Featured Submit Comic” and is currently being featured at the very top of comixology.com in a feature ad along with Saga, Daredevil, and DC’s new crossover, Convergence.  Thanks to our friends at comiXology for this fantastic launch on their renowned platform!

Katusha features top of page on comixology

War Is Boring profiles Wayne Vansant

War Is Boring, a collection of reportage covering current and past conflicts and hosted at medium.com, has issued a feature-length profile of GDC client Wayne Vansant.  In an article titled “Meet the Comics Artist Who Draws War in Meticulous Detail”, Kevin Knodell writes, “Wayne Vansant brings a historian’s touch to comics from the Eastern Front to Vietnam.”

Grand Design Communications represents rights to Vansant’s historical fiction trilogy Katusha – Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War, and has represented Vansant in the sale of numerous non-fiction military history graphic novels.

Knodell writes:

Wayne Vansant, the son of a World War II veteran, grew up on war stories. As a child, he loved hearing adults talk about the war, reading about it and watching movies about it.

As a result, the 65-year-old comics writer and illustrator has had a lifelong fascination with military history. He’s best known for his work on Marvel’s cult-favorite war comic The ’Nam. But his other projects range from stories set in Normandy, the Eastern Front and Korea.

Vansant has made something of a name for himself with his military history comics — distinct for their painstaking research and realism. He recreates uniforms, equipment and landscapes in exhaustive detail.

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Knodell delves into Vansant’s long history as a graphic novelist and reveals some of the author’s working philosophy and process:

Today, Vansant overwhelmingly illustrates military history, but has also chronicled the Abolitionist and civil rights movements.

He’s worked with writers like historian Dwight Jon Zimmerman and political activist Joyce Brabnar, and has frequently done his writing and research solo.

To tell historical stories in a visual medium, Vansant has to be meticulous. For him, it’s not enough to just to get the eventsright. It has to look right.

That means looking through thousands of photos, visiting museums, and going to the actual battlefields. In Vansant’s eyes, no detail is too small.

“I want the trees to look right, the ground to look right,” the artist said.something else cool about the article is how it mentions katusha and some other stuff

Vansant also talks at length about Katusha – Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War and his desire to see it more widely published upon completion.  The first two graphic novels in the trilogy, KATUSHA BOOK ONE: EDGE OF DARKNESS and KATUSHA BOOK TWO: THE SHAKING OF THE EARTH are currently available in digital and print format from Grand Design Publishing, and are currently being serialized as a webcomic at www.katushagirlsoldier.com.  The third and final volume, KATUSHA BOOK THREE: ON WINGS OF THUNDER, is nearing completion:

Katusha depicts the Eastern Front through the eyes of Ekaterina “Katusha” Tymoshenko — a female child soldier. She begins the war as a naive 16-year-old Ukrainian guerrilla and ends it as a hardened 20-year-old Soviet tanker.

The war on the Eastern Front was a vicious one. It was the bloodiest battlefield in history’s bloodiest war. The Soviet military had the highest casualty rate of the whole conflict — which meant that the Soviets couldn’t afford to turn away recruits.

Women frequently found themselves in combat roles, fighting as guerrillas, gunners, snipers, fighter pilots and yes—even tankers.

The young Tymoshenko is hardened by years of battle. But while Vansant said she loses her innocence during the course of the war, it was important to him that she maintains her moral core. The war may make her a killer, but she doesn’t lose her capacity for empathy.

I MARRIED ADVENTURE 75th Anniversary DVD out now

Grand Design Communications represents graphic novel rights to Osa Johnson’s classic autobiography I MARRIED ADVENTURE, and the Johnsons seem to be popping up everywhere these days – Huffington Post just included “Osa” as one of “14 Baby Girl Names Inspired By Strong, Adventurous Women“.

But I MARRIED ADVENTURE wasn’t just a best-selling book – several months after the book was released and became one of the best sellers of the year, a film version also titled I MARRIED ADVENTURE was released.  The Johnsons were seasoned filmmakers already, so it made perfect sense to compliment the release of Osa’s book with a movie too.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the release of the film, Alpha Video has teamed up with the Martin and Osa Johnson Museum to release a new DVD edition of I MARRIED ADVENTURE, being sold on Alpha’s Oldies.com website.  Here’s how Oldies.com describes the special edition:

Actual footage is artfully blended with dramatic recreations in this amazing documentary which presents the adventures of American explorers Osa and Martin Johnson. Based on the 1940 best-selling book of the same name, this fascinating film follows the exploits of the Johnsons as they travel the primitive wilderness of Africa and the South Seas during the late teens through the mid-1930s, recording all their expeditions. From Borneo to Nairobi, captivating nature photography captures a wild lost world. Narrated by Jim Bannon, best remembered for playing Red Ryder in four films between 1949 and 1950.

This 75th Anniversary Edition of I Married Adventure is brought to you by the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum, dedicated to preserving the legacy of these two remarkable naturalists. A bonus postcard of Osa Johnson is included.

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