The Mayhem Sisterhood is a historic comic that takes place in mid 19th century Paris. During a period of war and political turmoil, two different women find themselves fighting for a joint cause.
For anyone who would like to know the historical background to the comics, here is an abbreviated version of important events leading up to October 1870, when my tale begins. Let's call it "The fall of the Second French Empire 101".
The Second French Empire begun in 1851 and ended in 1870. Its first and last emperor was Napoleon III, AKA Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew and heir of the other Napoleon (Yes, the dude with the 3 corner hat and Waterloo Battle), Napoleon III was elected as president in 1848, basically because he stayed away from the events of the revolution of February 1848 that ended the attempt to reinstate the monarchy in France, Tensions between himself and a pro-monarchy parliament caused Napoleon III to follow his uncle's example, and after a coup three years later he crowned himself as the second emperor.
Napoleon's regime had elements of totalitarian characteristics – suppression of the press, the manipulation of elections and the significant reduction of the power of the parliament. His policy of large scale industrial development, which on the one hand did assist in the rebuilding of Paris and strengthening of heavy industry and the building of railways, led to large national debts. His failures as a diplomat led him eventually to declare war on Prussia in 1870, despite Prussia's recent success during the Austro-Prussian war of 1866 and its military superiority.
This is one of my favourite caricatures ever making fun of Napoleon III, drawn by Honore Daumier
The war against Prussia was a complete disaster, mostly because Napoleon III insisted on leading personally the army despite his failing health and lack of any military experience. The French were so confident about winning the war; the soldiers weren’t equipped with French maps but only with German ones! Despite an initial success, the battlefield quickly moved into French territory, The Prussians eventually captured Napoleon III, after which the Government of National Defense (later the Third Republic) took his place in the leadership of France They rejected an armistice offer, after which the Prussians advanced and occupied most of France, besieging Paris during the winter of 1870. The starving Parisians were forced to eat rat and cat meat, while suffering from the cold.
The Siege of Paris
Napoleon III after his capture and surrender, together with the Prussian Minster President and General Bismarck
During these grim and desperate times, some Parisians believed they could resurrect the dream of a democratic republic, that previous generations have attempted to found, but failed each time. This is their story.
All visuals courtesy of WikiCommons. Facts based on Wikipedia and various books I have read- I personally recommend for further reading "Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends." by Mary McAuliffe - fun to read and informative too.