Deb Fox isn’t an Everett native, she’s from Southern California. She’s no historian, she’s an artist who has worked in TV. Yet as the creator of “Everett Massacre: A Graphic Novel,” she knows plenty about the city’s past.
At her home in Everett’s old Riverside neighborhood, one wall of her studio is papered with historic pictures. Some faces on her wall were key figures in the 1916 waterfront shootout that became known as the Everett Massacre.
Images of Jefferson Beard and Charles Curtis are there. They are the Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies killed Nov. 5, 1916, during the armed confrontation between Everett’s establishment and members of the Industrial Workers of the World union.
Known as Wobblies and seen by ruling locals as anarchists, the IWW members shot to death were Hugo Gerlot, Abraham Rabinowitz, Gus Johnson, John Looney and Felix Baran. Some accounts say as many as a dozen Wobblies may have died in the mayhem, with some bodies later fished from Port Gardner in secret.
It’s a saga that intrigues Fox, who has lived in Everett about seven years. “Everett was really rough and tumble. It was a violent time,” she said.
Her husband, Steve Fox, is retired from Boeing and serves on the Everett Historical Commission. He also sits on the board of Historic Everett, a preservation group that commissioned Deb Fox to write and draw the graphic novel.
Her story is a blend of fact and fiction. It’s the true-life tale of mill owners, workers, and the ruthless beatings of Wobblies that happened at Beverly Park days before the massacre. Fox also injected fictional characters, a young brother and sister caught up in the day’s violence.
To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot. For weeks, Wobblies had been coming to town in support of a shingle weavers’ strike on the waterfront. When about 300 Wobblies came north from Seattle on the steamers Verona and Calista that bloody Sunday, they were met by an army of locals bent on protecting business interests — and by Sheriff Donald McRae, who was injured in the gun battle.
The artist’s charcoal drawings capture the era’s smoky atmosphere on the waterfront and in a men’s club where town rulers plot against Wobblies. Her originals are larger than those in the paperback published by Historic Everett.
Fox said her research began nearly a year ago. She read Norman A. Clark’s book “Mill Town,” which covers the social history of Everett from its start to the 1916 labor strife. She learned more in the book “Lumber and Politics.”
“Everett Massacre” is her first graphic novel. “I grew up reading Archie comics, drawing my own comics and creating my own characters,” Fox said. “I was a storyboard illustrator in film and television, and did commercials. I segued into graphics and design.”
It was Dave Ramstad, who has long been involved with Historic Everett, who suggested Fox create the graphic novel.
“Everett has larger than life characters in its history — absolutely fascinating,” Fox said.
Fox will talk about her graphic novel at 1 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Everett Public Library as part of a month-long program of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Everett Massacre. Cameron Johnson, an Everett Public Library reference librarian, helped organize the speaker and film series. He also will give a talk, about the 1916 shingle weavers’ strike, at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the library.
“It’s kind of a mile post, one of the most powerful events in Everett history,” Johnson said of the 1916 violence. “There are still some strong feelings about it around Everett. We want to get people to talk about it.”
Fox is grateful to Historic Everett for sponsoring her book. “It was a fun, fun piece to do. The characters, like McRae, are amazing,” she said. “It’s easy to come at it from one angle. But the more I read about that time, the more I kind of understood the person in the middle — the average person of Everett.”
“Everett Massacre: A Graphic Novel” by Deborah A. Fox, published by Historic Everett, is available for $5 at these Everett locations: J. Matheson Gifts, 2615 Colby Ave.; Peak Fitness, 2902 Rucker Ave.; Lamoureux Real Estate, 1904 Wetmore Ave.; Black Lab Gallery, 1618 Hewitt Ave.; Wicked Cellars, 2616 Colby Ave.; Bookend Coffee Company, Everett Public Library, 2702 Hoyt Ave.; and Cafe Zippy, 2811 Wetmore Ave.; or online at http://historiceverett.org/