Time’s cover story this week: Mark Twain, America’s First Superstar:

Whether Twain was talking about racism at home, the foreign misadventures of the Western powers or the excesses of the era of greed he initially flourished in after the Civil War, his target was always human folly and hypocrisy, which turn out to be perennial topics for further study.

For Christmas last year, my company assembled an “inspiration” book. Each team member was responsible for contributing a few pages of photography, illustration or layout. Something to show off what we were capable of, or inspired by.

I mentioned I’d love to do a treatment of Twain’s The War Prayer. I’d never seen an edition that did it justice. Like most folks, I’m sure my bosses assumed that, being by Twain, it was probably light-hearted and only mildly political.

About a week before deadline, they read it.

I ended up doing two quick 2-page spreads with “inspirational” quotes and classic design objects.

There is what everyone remembers about Twain, and there is what he actually was. And for whatever reason, the gap between the two seems abnormally wide.