Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 21: An Interview with Mark Shainblum

After reading Northguard, I knew I had to meet with Mark Shainblum and talk to him about his work in Canadian comics and the overall idea of creating a Canadian superhero. I was lucky that I ran into Mark at Fan Expo Canad and had a chance to chat with him.

In our interview, we talk about the characteristics of the Canadian superhero, the role of superheroes in the imagination, francophone Canadian culture, Jewish Canadian identity, the importance of having heroes who make mistakes, and comics as literature. Hear about some of Mark Shainblum’s upcoming projects as well as his extensive knowledge of comics and comic history.

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Fluid

A review of Jay Odjick and Patrick Tenascon’s Kagagi: The Raven (Arcana, 2010)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo of Kagagi: The Raven courtesy of Jay Odjick's website http://jayodjick.deviantart.com/art/Kagagi-cover-with-logo-68276887

Cover Photo of Kagagi: The Raven courtesy of Jay Odjick’s website http://jayodjick.deviantart.com/art/Kagagi-cover-with-logo-68276887

Portrayals of aboriginal people in comics are often tokenistic, two dimensional, and stereotypical. Aboriginal women in comics are sexualized, with costumes that are reduced to a few bands of leather and tassels. Aboriginal men are made into stoic figures. Aboriginal groups are often invented for comic book worlds, creating communities that have never existed and using a mish- mash of iconography from a variety of native peoples.

This is why it is so refreshing to see Jay Odjick and Patrick Tenascon’s Kagagi: The Raven, a comic that puts an Anishnabee man in the role of the hero rather than the sidekick or token diversity team member.

Kagagi: The Raven is a powerful story about transformation with a mixture of coming of age story, resistance to the superhero destiny, and overcoming systemic bullying… and perhaps that is why his superhero bears the Trickster qualities of Raven with a little touch of Nanabush.

Much like characters of historical Anishnabee tales, Odjick’s story is not easily resolved. There is no simple victory, no easy conquest of might over villainy, but rather a learning experience in which Matthew (who becomes Kagagi) confronts an enemy (a Windigo) as well as confronting his own limits and learns from the experience, gains further wisdom and self-knowledge.

With its blend of a dark, nighttime aesthetic with billowing clouds and slashes of blood along with Kagagi’s own dark, fluid, almost inky costume, Odjick and Tenascon’s art styles emphasize the dreamy, subconsciously dark quality of this narrative with pools of shadow and startling glimpses of the beautifully grotesque.

This is a fluid, transformative tale that opens up possibilities for a world of superheroism and future stories.

To discover more about Jay Odjick’s work and see his art, visit http://jayodjick.deviantart.com/ .

To find out more about Kagagi: The Raven, you can visit http://kagagi.squarespace.com/

Superheroic Sundays Throughout October

Canada has often had a complicated relationship with the idea of the superhero. We often see comics as a genre from “away”, not “of here”. Our comics have historically had a fairly short run, been overwhelmed by an American market, and have experienced our Canadian view that pop culture created in Canada is always going to be second rate.

Superheroes generally have an outlaw quality to them – vigilantes… and historically Canadian representations of law and justice have been centred around the notion of “good governance” and the assumption that our police figures are capable. We have all heard that the Mounties, for example, “always get their man”. So, the notion of a group of outlaws often hasn’t sat well with the view many Canadians have been acculturated to think of ourselves. Canadians have traditionally had a lot of difficulty with the notion of one larger than life figure who has a destiny to succeed beyond others. This is something we have often associated with American ideologies since it generally stems from the American Dream of the “self made man”.

Despite these short print runs and the scarcity of Canadian comics, there have been some amazing and incredible Canadian comics and superheroic figures. Canadian superheroes generally do something different, question their own role, and push genre boundaries to try to figure out how the superhero can fit in a distinctly Canadian cultural apparatus. Because the Canadian nation is often uncertain about who we are as a culture, our superheroes tend to be somewhat uncertain, tend to question things, tend to embody an outsider aesthetic.

Throughout October, I hope to bring you some questions, thoughts, and perspectives on the Canadian superhero and introduce you to some Canadian superheroes of the past and present who may fascinate, entice, and challenge you.

 

Mojo Disabled

A review of Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine (Grand Central Publishing, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille06a88f39f94401a3f86871d46c3bf5f5

There is a beauty in complexity, an ethereal quality to the display of Otherness and the richness of diversity. Sister Mine evokes the complexity of reality, the beatuty and power evoked by the richness of the human experience. Nalo Hopkinson’s characters are diverse in cultural background, ability, and engagement with the body, as well as multifaceted in their engagement with the magical, the mythical, and the otherworldly.

Sister Mine is rich with characters who often are cast to the fringes, to the Other Worlds within our world, and it is appropriate that she sees these characters as full of potential, as full of the Otherworld, the complexly spiritual. Conjoined twins, people with mobility disabilities, characters of diverse ages, sexualities, psychologies, economic backgrounds, and ethnicities are pulled into the novel in unique ways as she gives voice to those who are often rendered voiceless in a society that is focused on normativity and de-voicing those who don’t fit into its narrow definition of normalcy. Hopkinson evokes the complex engagement between identity and the body, diverse ways of knowing ourselves and how we relate to our physicality – our world and the physical parameters of our bodies.

Makeda, born a conjoined twin with her sister Abby, the “crippled deity half breed” of a human and a celestial deity that is evocative of the vodoun Loa, has always craved the mojo that her sister possesses. Undergoing surgery to separate their bodies, Abby ended up with something that Makeda felt she lacked, a certain spiritual power and ability to render her power into the world in the form of her singing voice. Makeda is called the “donkey” of the relationship by her celestial family, seemingly without any power that would render her other than human. She feels herself incomplete, less than her sister and merely a vessel that carried her sister who others seem to view as superior to herself. Physically separated, she feels tied to her sister intimately, unable to find herself and her identity as something different from her family (a place that she feels has been made clear to her by her family’s rejection of her). She leaves her sister’s house in an attempt to make her way in the human “claypicken” world, as one of them since she feels that she has more in common with a humanity without mojo than with celestials whose mojo can at times make her feel disoriented and woozy.

Yet, even among a humanity that she feels she can relate to bodily, there is still distance. She is still the child of a father who is a deity (though transformed by his fellow deities into a human being that now is experiencing Alzheimer’s) and a mother who was transformed into a sea monster and has been distanced from her from birth… and she still receives regular visits from an uncle who is death personified and a family of deities that feel that they can interfere with her life because she is family and less than them because she doesn’t have any of the mojo of a celestial. Out of place everywhere she goes, Makeda is able to see more than others, notice things that others would disengage with in their attempt to render things ‘normal’ according to their own status quo and predictable patterns of behaviour. She is a body seeking identity and discovering that nothing about identity is certain or fixed, but rather exists in a flux and flow of changeability that doesn’t entirely relate to her bodily ontology. She is caught in a system where others feel that they can change things for the good of those whom they believe are less than themselves, and sees that intentions based in superiority are often built on shaky ground.

To discover more about the work of Nalo Hopkinson, visit her website at http://nalohopkinson.com/ .

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 18: An Interview with Gemma Files

Gemma Files and I have been on a few panels together in the past and I have always found her incredible fun to talk to, so I was really excited that at Fan Expo Canada this year she managed to have a bit of time to do an interview that I could share with all of you listeners. Our interview is hilarious and simultaneously covers serious issues, marked with laughter and also important social questions. In our chat on Trent Radio, we discuss the use of Toronto by the film industry as the “EveryCity”… and the potential for horror in that anonymity and shapeshifting ability. We talk about Queer or LGBTQ2 content and kink communities and how these have lent themselves to the development of her fantastic fiction… particularly her Hexslingers series which features gay cowboys who use magic. We discuss the use of family and history in CanLit and how these can be factors making for a speculative story that is just as powerful for questioning ideas of ‘traditional families’. Gemma lends her insights about using characters who are morally ambiguous as well as the general problems with creating a ‘perfect hero’ and questioning of the whole social idea of ‘The Hero’. Overall, we venture into questions about subversive writing and the power to turn tropes on their heads as a way of empowering readers and authors.

Gemma talks about functional bisexuality in her characters, trans characters, and the general fluidity of gender and sexuality as a way of illustrating that change is powerful and that characters do change and transform and question notions of identity over time.

As part of her discussion of the subversive potential in literature, Gemma examines the wonderful world of fan fiction and the ability of fan fiction to insert questions into narratives that may not have otherwise asked them. She explores the ability of fan fiction to assert an otherwise ignored voice or people who are generally erased. She also examines the ability of fan fiction to serve as a queer medium allowing for gender or sexual transformations for characters.

Overall, our interview is a lot of laughs, a lot of fun, and a lot of social questions. At the end of this interview, you will find yourself being fairy-led to the bookstore to get some of Gemma’s books while simultaneously plotting out your next fan fiction story!

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.