By LORNA CHEROT LITTLEWAY
FROM HER ROOTS IN HARRISBURG, PA, Barbara Slate, a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, made the “proverbial bus” trip to New York City in 1969 “to become an artist.” Before moving to Hudson 26 years ago, Ms. Slate made a detour through Sag Harbor and adopted a daughter, whom she named Samantha.
Slate’s journey to graphic novelist/illustrator of “Mirror Test: The Cassidy Hutchinson Story” included stints as a greeting cards creator, and comic book writer for DC, Marvel and the Archie series, which included “Betty and Veronica” and “Jughead.”
In an interview with The Columbia Paper, which runs Slate’s “Let’s Be Creative” cartoon, she explained the difference between comic book and graphic novel. Public opinion thought that comic books were “corrupting young minds” so the term graphic novel was adopted because it “sounds smarter.” She added that a graphic novel is longer than a comic book, “better bound and printed on better paper.”
“Mirror Test,” which was released in September by Hudson publisher Richard Minsky, is based solely on Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the Select Committee To Investigate The January 6th Attack On The U.S. Capitol, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
Hutchinson, a New Jersey native, was a White House intern from 2018 – 2020 and served as an assistant to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She was positioned a couple of hundred feet outside the Oval Office. She was 26 years old when she testified on television, June 28, 2022.
When asked why she chose as her subject Hutchinson instead of the better known Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican on the committee, Slate responded that Cassidy’s response to a Cheney question about being able to look herself in the mirror “really inspired me. She was a brave girl to break the code. She saw everything that’s why she’s so important.”
Slate added, “Telling the truth is a universal theme. What would you do facing these powerful men?” The title of Slate’s book is taken from that passage in Hutchinson’s testimony. Slate revealed that since testifying Hutchinson has written and is promoting her own book, “Enough.”
“She lives in seclusion and is still protected. Her family members are Trumpys and QAnon believers. Her only contact is with her mother.”
When asked if there is any effort to ban “Mirror Test,” Slate said, “Not yet,” and laughingly noted that book bans “increase book sales!”
“Mirror Test” is not Slate’s first political graphic novel. In 2019 she wrote and illustrated “The Mueller Report,” (also published in The Columbia Paper), a widely praised, easy-to-understand breakdown of the complex investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Said Slate, “I can’t believe I read it!” She refers to the characters, including Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and former President Donald J. Trump, as a “gang of idiots.” Slate extols that comics make things easy to read and understand. “That’s why a 2 year old can read a comic.”
Other notable comic book and comic strip characters created by Slate include “Angel Love,” a New York City roller skating waitress who aspires to be a cartoonist; “Ms. Liz,” a feminist, who appeared on greeting cards and regularly in Cosmopolitan Magazine, and “Violet,” who was inspired by the OJ Simpson trial. “Violet” is a model, who shoots her boyfriend and “is too beautiful for police to arrest.”
Slate teaches kids to adults how to create graphic novels at schools, libraries, and art centers. She has taught at The Cooper Union in New York City and at Columbia-Greene Community College. The 76 year old author is currently teaching a virtual course at The Center for Book Arts in New York City. Slate calls teaching “a blessing.”