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Native Comics from Up North

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  • Rob
    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,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 12, 2007
      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
      http://www.bluecorncomics.com/nacomics.htm .

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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