Titanic Clashes

Clash  

A review of Chadwick Ginther’s Too Far Gone (Ravenstone, 2015)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Too Far Gone, the final book in the Thunder Road Trilogy by Chadwick Ginther brings together the threads of transformation that have been woven throughout the trilogy. Ted Callan, body tattooed by Dwarves and inheriting the powers of several Norse gods, has straddled the border between myth and superhero throughout the series, playing with the border between ancient myth and modern. Ted begins to embody another aspect of the superhero tradition – a conflict between his superhero identity and his civilian identity. Ted returns home to Alberta and has to cope with the clash of his past and present, his civilian and superhero selves coming into conflict as Ted temporarily buries his power under the performance of human normativity. Even Ted’s tattoos are transformed from Norse symbols to generic tattoos, allowing his appearance to change while his identity does. This may not be a superhero unmasking, but rather is a superhero unmaking, a suppression of difference under the guise of normalcy and mundanity.

Too Far Gone is a text of change involving the clash of past and present and disparate identities. It is a transformative text and this transformative background is not only illustrated through Ted’s changes but through the changes he evokes in others as he realises that his behaviours have consequences for everyone around him. The topic of change is played out through Ted’s engagement with his identities, but it is further complicated by the presence of Loki in the text and Loki’s trickster quality. Loki is fluid, changeable, able to fluctuate through identities and interested in playing multiple parts. Loki can fluctuate in gender, appearance, and personality over time. S/he is mostly identified through his/her smile, a feature that instantly identifies the Trickster quality of the god/dess. Loki also represents the conflict of time periods, both an ancient Norse god from the time before Ragnarok and a potential future for a new way of looking at the world. Loki becomes an embodiment of the uncertain, the changeable, and the chaotic, simultaneously Ted’s greatest ally and greatest threat, and this uncertainty and vulnerability only increases the stakes Ted invests in his friend.

Ted is pulled between nostalgia and the desire for change, with past and present conflicting. Being back in Alberta, where he first encountered the monstrous Surtur who was responsible for his introduction into the world of Norse magic, Ted is forced to explore ideas of closure while also facing consistent reminders that he has changed so much that the things that were familiar, comfortable, and normal for him can no longer exist. He recognizes that the familiar, easy idea of home that serves as a comfort to others only reminds him of all that he has lost and how much he has changed from the type of person who could have a home or normal life. This return to Surtur and final conflict is one with the power to change the face of the world and nothing is certain any longer in this world of collisions between past, present, and future. Myth and real life collide to remake ideas of what is normal, comfortable, and taken-for-granted. 

To discover more about Too Far Gone, visit Ravenstone’s website at http://www.ravenstonebooks.com/spec-fic/too-far-gone.html

To find out more about Chadwick Ginther, visit his website at http://chadwickginther.com

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Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 24: An Interview with Jay Odjick and Discussion About Kagagi

In this episode, I discuss Jay Odjick’s Kagagi and then air an interview that I conducted with Jay Odjick at Can Con. Jay is the creator of Kagagi, a comic book that has recently been made into a television show for APTN (The Aboriginal People’s Television Network). In my discussion of Kagagi, I explore the representation of aboriginal peoples in past comics, particularly those written by non-aboriginals and the stereotypical portrayal of aboriginal peoples in popular comics. I contrast this with Jay Odjick’s Kagagi, an aboriginal superhero written by an aboriginal person and focus on the depth of character portrayed in Kagagi. I conduct a short analysis of the artistic style of the comic and compare it to other comics and other artistic styles.

In our interview, Jay Odjick and I talk about the origins of Kagagi, the history of the legends that shaped the idea of this superhero, trickster figures, aboriginal justice, comparisons between superhero figures, zombies, the horror aesthetics of the comic, and so much more.

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.

Remember to check out the Kagagi website at http://kagagi.squarespace.com/ and A Tribe Called Red’s website at http://atribecalledred.com/. They are the brilliant and amazing folks who did the theme song for the Kagagi television show.

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/

Blind Vision Quest

A Review of Douglas Smith’s The Wolf at the End of the World (Forthcoming)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo for The Wolf at the End of the World courtesy of Douglas Smith

Cover photo for The Wolf at the End of the World courtesy of Douglas Smith

The Wolf at the End of the World is a tale that would resonate with the spirit of any environmentalist – the struggle of diverse species to survive, the conflict with human greed and capitalism, the invasiveness of the human presence on animal life, and also the potential for a shift in human consciousness toward a connection with the animal world, an acknowledgement of our dependency on our environment and eco diversity. As he often does, Douglas wields myth as a tool for pedagogy, much like myth-tellers have been doing throughout history. He taps into that vital essence of the story to reveal truths that we ignore in our mundane world and teaches complexity through the poetics of language and potentials of symbols.

Smith’s work, as always, is full of potent ambiguities, the moral questions that fill us with the potential to interrogate our world and challenge the assumptions that have become part of living our lives. He does this through beautiful prose and an exciting and powerful story. Smith tackles issues of huge importance for our understanding of modernity such as the relationship of the human to our environment, the power of greed, the emptiness that comes from loneliness, the danger of secrecy (particularly government initiated secrets), ideas of ability and disability, the relationship of indigenous people to the state, and the general issue of bodily and identity difference. He recognises that accepting difference is a complex process, even for the person who is fundamentally ostracised and cast socially as different.

The Wolf at the End of the World is a text of loss and hunger, the pining for that which is missing, absent, taken away, or desired, and Smith embodies this in the figure of the Windigo, a being from Indigenous cosmologies that is the embodiment of hunger with a heart of ice, an insatiable appetite. It is the perfect symbol of modernity, with all of our greed, our loneliness, our desire for something we have lost or not yet obtained… it reminds us of our absences. The Windigo, despite being the villain in this novel, becomes a form of teacher, espousing a pedagogy about the dangers of desire, the dangers of creating a heart of ice and always wanting and losing ourselves to greed as a way of trying to fill the spot in ourselves that has become empty (or icy) because of our feeling of loss. The Windigo is a great expression of the modern condition.

In contrast to the Windigo are the Heroka, figures who are shape-shifters, able to speak to and connect on a spiritual level to animals, and a boy, Zach, who is sorting through his difference – as a blind person, as someone who is half Cree and who does not know about his father. His mother, who is Cree, has been running from her heritage, trying to ignore her past, and she fears her son’s difference, and also the secrets that she has kept from him about his father’s heritage and the potential differences that are inherent in it. But, Zach’s differences are his strengths, things that have shaped him and he is put into the position of accepting his differences and becoming even further different from the socially-defined norms or of passing as “normal” and missing something of himself.

Ancient gods reenact mythic roles, renewing and changing the world around them to play out what it means to be human and what it means to be spirit and animal. Trickster spirits play with human lives, challenging them to change, learn, and grow, and to question everything they have been taught and the world that has shaped them. The reader is carried along on this mythic tale, taught the potential of stories to challenge us and make us more aware.

To find out more about Douglas Smith and The Wolf at the End of the World, visit his website at http://www.smithwriter.com/the_wolf_at_the_end_of_the_world . This novel will be coming out soon and you can link through the website above to pre-order a copy.