'Bowery Boys' Comic Features 19th-Century Lower East Side Gang
LOWER EAST SIDE — The Bowery Boys are back, but just in comic form.
The violent anti-Irish gang that ruled parts of the notorious Five Points slum on the Lower East Side in the mid-19th century is the subject of "Bowery Boys," a new coming-of-age comic book. The free digital comic launched last week and will release three pages of the story each week, with the tale set to last for the next 18 months.
"It really parallels the idea of the immigrant experience, and I think New York City is a setting where a lot of immigrant stories played out," said author Cory Levine, 30, an Astoria resident, adding that the city's eternal issue of class division is also part of the story.
Levine, a former editorial staffer for Marvel Comics, created "Bowery Boys" with artist Ian Bertram. Digital painter Rodrigo Aviles added the color to Bertram's gray-scale drawings.
"[Bertram's] level of detail brings...to life the crowdedness, the filth, the claustrophobia of urban life," Levine said.
The story follows William McGovern, a union leader organizing strikes to gain more labor rights as his son, Nikolaus, navigates the unforgiving streets and back alleys of Manhattan's Sixth Ward, where Five Points was located.
While the story's characters are a work of fiction, the setting for the comic was well researched, Levine said.
"Even though it is a work of fiction, we didn't want to pull nonsense out of nowhere," he said, listing books such as Tyler Anbinder's "Five Points" and Jacob Riis' "How the Other Half Lives" as useful resources.
The comic, first reported by Bowery Boogie, will be released page by page on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week with the story set to last until the end of 2014.
"I enjoy delving into this coming-of-age story…of how people carved out a life here," Levine said. "I think that is what attracts a lot of people to New York City."