Native Comics from Up North
- Indian Comics Irregular #161
Recently I reviewed several Native comics from above the lower 48
(i.e., from Canada and Alaska). None of them were exceptional, but
all were by Native writers and artists. For that reason alone, they
deserve a look.
STRONG MAN is the brainchild of the Association of Alaska School
Boards. The comic tells the dual stories of Dukt'ootl, a legendary
lad who goes through a series of trials to become a Tlingit tribe's
"Strong Man," and "Duke" (also Dukt'ootl), a modern boy who struggles
to pass tests, stay on the basketball team, and avoid bullies. The
stories closely parallel each other; each victory or defeat for
Dukt'ootl has a counterpart for Duke.
Unfortunately, this robs the comic of suspense. The events in Duke's
life seem preordained by the Strong Man legend. He's more of an
allegorical figure than a flesh-and-blood human.
The Chickaloon Village in Alaska has produced three comics worthy of
mention: C'EYIIGE' HWNAX, TSAANI, and BESIIN.
The stories are traditional legends intended to teach youngsters a
moral lesson. The art by Dimi Macheras, who also drew STRONG MAN, is
Saturday-morning-cartoonish but bold and dynamic. But the comics have
a couple problems that make them less than ideal. One is the muddled
messages; the other is the steep price tag.
THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE CHIPPEWAS OF NAWASH details how the
Canadian government managed to take most of the Chippewa land: by
playing on the Indians' lack of knowledge; by pitting one faction
against another; by stalling, making empty promises, or lying
outright; by threatening dire consequences if the Indians didn't sign;
etc. You get a sense of how the Canadian government (and by
extension, the US government) dealt with Indians unfairly, manipulated
and misled them, every step of the way.
This is simultaneously the book's strength and weakness. Since
there's no central character or storyline, just a series of loosely
connected episodes, it's rather tough slogging. I suspect many
youngsters will be bored rather than stimulated by the "educational,"
"thoroughly researched" material.
I met cartoonist Chad Solomon (Ojibway First Nation) at the San Diego
Comic-Con this year. He's the co-creator of the Rabbit and Bear Paws
comic strip, which I reviewed in ICI #132. Solomon has published the
first story arc as a graphic novel, THE SUGAR BUSH, and says it's
selling well. He's doing a great job of developing and marketing his
historically accurate, elder-approved comics.
The Healthy Aboriginal Network of British Columbia is about to come
out with comics on gambling addiction and diabetes. I've seen
previews of them and they look good. Meanwhile, a suicide expert has
praised the organization's first effort, DARKNESS CALLS. "This comic
has the potential to make a great difference to many," said Karyl
Chastain, the founder of several online support groups.
COWBOYS & ALIENS Upgraded
Platinum Studios is working on the second volume of the COWBOYS &
ALIENS saga (ICI #150). Titled WORLDS AT WAR, it has a new writer and
artist and a new look and feel. Except for some odd Apache tipis,
everything about its Indians appears well-researched and authentic.
Dan Forcey, VP of Content at Platinum Studios and 1/4th Onandaga,
wrote me to say: "If I had been in this position at the time the
original book was published it would NOT have been the same book. I
mostly wanted to say thank you for noticing the effort the new
creative team is putting into Worlds At War."
You can learn more about all these comics at
Blue Corn Comics