Under the Banner of King Death is a new graphic novel about piracy rebellion and democracy

Eye patches, peg legs, black flags, scurvy, and parasitical relationships to nation-states and colonial empires; in a word, thieves. These ideas are associated with pirates and piracy in the Caribbean, the Atlantic, or the Coasts of Africa. Relying on Hollywood parody always distorts our reality, just as pirate Hollywood stars parody truth as a distorted reality.

But what if the parasite was capitalism and domination, and the pirates were the cure?

Marcus Rediker, writer, researcher, and documentary filmmaker of history from below, has devoted many years of his career to investigating the lives, loves, labors, and loss of pirates and other working peoples, helping to understand who they were more accurately and the role they played in working-class history, the impact on cultures of democracy and rebellion, and how we understand justice.

Rediker just released a collaboration with artist, illustrator, musician, and writer David Lester, Under the Banner of King Death: Pirates of the Atlantic, a Graphic Novel with editing by Paul Buhle.

"Featuring an African American fugitive from bondage, an undercover woman, and 'outcasts of all nations,' an arresting graphic exploration of the resistance and radical vision of 18th-century pirates.

A tale of mutiny, bloody battle, and social revolution, Under the Banner of King Death, novelizes for the first time the real pirates, an itinerant community of outsiders, behind our legends. This graphic novel breaks new ground in our understanding of piracy and pirate culture, giving us more reasons to love the rebellious and stouthearted marauders of the high seas.

Set at the pinnacle of the "Golden Age" of Atlantic piracy, this novel follows three unlikely companions, who are sold into servitude on a merchant ship and unwittingly thrust into a voyage of rebellion.

Mutiny ensues against the tyrannical Captain Skinner, who is thrown overboard to make way for democracy aboard The Night Rambler. The crew's new order provides radical social benefits, all based on real, documented practices of contemporary pirate ships: democratic decision-making, a social security net, health, and disability insurance, and equal distribution of spoils taken from prize ships."

For a discussion with Rediker, Buhle, and Lester about "Why we need Pirates," check out the article and excerpt from the graphic novel in Yes Magazine:

The alternative social order of the pirate ship was all the more impressive because it had been created by the "villains of all nations," workers of many races and ethnicities who, according to conventional wisdom, in their own day and in ours, were not supposed to cooperate….Rage and humor were key elements that characterized these outlaws of the seas: burning anger against the powerful, and the humor of men who chose freedom over servitude at any cost.