Joan of Arc monument in Philadelphia
A Flower in a Field of Lions

A Flower in a Field of Lions: The Trials of Joan of Arc

In 2018, I had the privilege of writing the afterword for Tapestry Comics’ graphic novel A Flower in a Field of Lions: The Story of Joan of Arc. The editor has allowed me to publish the complete text here.


Regardless of how academic they are, historians still get hyperbolic about Joan of Arc. Depending on which biography you read, you’ll learn that when it comes to the medieval world, Joan is the most written about person who took part in the most documented battle and was prosecuted in the most sensational trial. Medievalist Kelly DeVries has pointed out that her first and last military engagements—Orléans and Compiègne—featured the most gunpowder weaponry up to those points in history, bookending a short, but lively military career. Today, historians tell us she is the most studied person of the Middle Ages, a period from which her name is the most recognized. And if you ask any cinematic medievalist, you’ll quickly learn the only historical figure with more movies is Jesus Christ.

Joan of Arc seems to impassion historians as much as she inspires artists. A massive French tome from 1898, The Image of Joan of Arc, attempted to catalog at least her most renowned images, featuring over 300 paintings, drawings, statues, etchings, coins, medallions, and stain glass windows. It admittedly only scratched the surface. The graphic novel in your hands joins this lengthy tradition of depicting Joan, which started with a simplistic 1429 sketch by a clerk in Paris who had never seen her, but envisioned a long-haired girl in a dress, carrying a sword and flag. Today, statues of Joan stand throughout America in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New Orleans, to name a few major cities. The National Gallery of Art in DC hosts six large oil paintings by French artist Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel whose immensely popular 1896 children’s book on the Maid remains in print today.

And what keeps Joan of Arc’s image so strong in popular culture, well outside of France? One explanation is her story can seem unreal, even beyond the stuff of comic books. French commanders visiting her childhood home in 1894 reflected that although they revered her story, a 16-year-old peasant girl approaching them today would get nowhere. When we try to imagine how it was that Joan led an army in the Middle Ages, consider how unlikely that same scenario seems today. While flying or punching through walls is comic book fantasy, we can believe these superheroines would garner followers and respect with these powers. Joan had to gain followers initially through her words, but this only got her so far. She needed military results. As Joan liberated town after town (upwards of 40 that we can name), she grew to her apex in power. When she failed at the walls of Paris, her support dwindled. Still, she remained just as aggressive, charging Burgundians outside the well-defended walls of Compiègne and into captivity. One of the many raw moments of this graphic novel depicts Joan reflecting with a tear in her eye, “And then…Compiègne.” If failure was Joan’s kryptonite, her aggressiveness was no healing sun.

A Flower in a Field of Lions draws on many of its predecessors for inspiration, but it also encapsulates that often missing raw, aggressive spirit of Joan of Arc—determined in battle, rebellious in captivity, and defiant in trial, even to her own destruction.

Scott Manning