Weaving Tales in Word and Image

A Review of Hope Nicholson’s (ed) “Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection” (AH Comics Inc, 2015)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo for Moonshot

Cover Photo for Moonshot

The comic book industry has generally had an exploitative relationship with indigenous peoples. Generally indigenous peoples have been portrayed in comics as villains or sidekicks and their character development limited to cultural stereotypes and one-dimensionality. In superhero comics, generally even the superpowers of indigenous superheroes have been expressions of cultural assumptions – communal relationships with animals and trees and special connections with nature. Indigenous people have often been portrayed as extensions of the landscape. Hope Nicholson’s “Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection” tries to open up a space for indigenous stories that come from indigenous peoples. The collection features the work of 30 authors and artists expressing diverse stories that render indigenous voices into image and written word.

Often when asked to contribute to collections that interact with cultural and artistic expressions, indigenous people are encouraged to talk about the past, which problematically structures indigeneity as something of the past rather than a vibrant, current culture. This collection emphasises the vibrancy of indigenous culture, including tales from the past, but also modern adaptations of these tales, new tales of the present, and science fictional tales of the future. These are tales of superheroes, animal spirits, dark figures from the water depths, space travellers, futuristic inhabitants of other worlds, encounters with otherworldly and sometimes extraterrestrial beings, encounters with possession, tales of robbery and recovery, robopocalypses, and environmental travesties.

David Mack plays with the interaction of indigenous identity and Deaf culture in his superhero character Echo, who explores her understanding of herself as a Deaf indigenous woman. David Robertson and Haiwei Hou play with light and colour as they play with the Cree tale of Ochek the Fisher and opening the world to new light. Dayton Edmonds and Micah Farritor use animal and anthropomorphic animal spirit forms to tell the story of the gathering of bright stones to become the stars and Coyote’s accidental scattering of the stars across the canvas of the sky. Sean and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsely and mention3 tell the story of the Qallupiluk, a figure from Inuit tales who rises out of the cold water. Arigon Starr and David Cutler tell a cross space future version of “The Young Man Who Turned Into a Snake”. Elizabeth LaPensee and Gregory Chomichuk use only visuals to tell the tale of a hunter encountering the Star People. Michael Sheyahshe and George Freeman tell a tale of two brothers with special gifts who seek to solve the disappearance of their mother on an alien world. Tony Romito and Jeremy D. Mohler tell an arctic tale of an inuit hunter who encounters otherworldly beings from under the arctic ice. Ian Ross, Lovern Kindzierski, Adam Gorham, and Peter Dawes explore the impact of anthropology on indigenous cultures and the robbery of indigenous artefacts by anthropologists. Richard Van Camp, Rosa Mantla, and Nicholas Burns explore the interaction between the traditions of The Night the Spirits Return among the Dene and the Celtic-originating tradition of Halloween. Todd Houseman and Ben Shannon tell a tale of the future where pollution has destroyed much of the North American continent and a war between humans and robotic life forms has meant widespread devastation. Jay and Joel Odjick examine a first hunt and the interaction between the human and animal world. Elizabeth LaPensee, Claude St. Aubin, and Andy Stanleigh explore the impact of mining and the attempt to connect to the Memegwesiwag, a people who love copper and can only be seen by the pure of heart. These tales weave together in a fabric of intwined words and images, and also a twining of multiple worlds and worldviews.

The art styles vary in “Moonshot” between mixed media art, ink on paper, pencil crayon on paper, watercolours, fractal-influenced digital art, traditional comic panels and frame-breaking violations of the ‘gutter’ space between panels. They use word bubbles, text-free comics, or large swaths of text, illustrating the potential for expressing the idea of ‘story’ through multiplicity. This is a collection as diverse as the indigenous peoples who contributed to it. No longer relegated to the role of sidekicks or villains, the indigenous characters in these comics are able to tell their own tales, rich in complexity and multi-dimensionality.

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Gossamer Threads of a Tale

A Review of Dominik Parisien’s “Spider Moves the World” in Lackington’s Issue 6 http://lackingtons.com/2015/04/08/spider-moves-the-world-by-dominik-parisien/ 

By Derek Newman-Stille

Like Dominik Parisien’s poetry, his prose story “Spider Moves the World” captures the beauty in the grotesque. Parisien takes the figure of the spider and reveals the beauty of spidery movements, the wonder of being carried on a spider’s back and the essential relationship between human and arachnid. These spiders revel in music evoked by instruments of spun threads and eight-legged dances, weaving tales as easily as webs. 

Parisien spins gossamer threads of spider silk between poetry and prose, pulling the two together into a web of beautiful metaphors, roping words into a multiplicity of meanings that extends their scope to include the nuanced potential embodied in poetry. 

Parisien reverses the paradigm of the spider as a figure who lurks at the periphery of human interactions, largely ignored and cast off and places this periphery onto the human narrator, a figure who reaches out to the much larger spiders only to touch his own insignificance in their experience.  Yet, all of the spiders’ seeming aloofness is part of their difference from human experience and simultaneously part of their acceptance of him or her as another spider, a human with a spidery core.

The caravan is a central image to this short story, evoking the desire for change and the constancy of movement. The narrator desires some form of change and movement and has moved to the region of Greensea seeking new experiences, and, perhaps, an escape from the past. But the spiders are figures of constant change, alternating who leads the group each day and allowing their young to float away in billowing clouds of silken parachutes… but all of them reply to questions of identity with “I am spider”, speaking of their fundamental similitude. 

The narrator (nameless because he or she, like the spiders themselves, is never only one thing but always shaped by travel, by change) feels cushioned by this arachnid community, after all, what could be more comforting than being wrapped in a silky blanket of community….

To find out more about Dominik Parisien’s fiction, visit his website at https://dominikparisien.wordpress.com

To read this story for free online, vizit Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2015/04/08/spider-moves-the-world-by-dominik-parisien/