Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection (2016)

“There is no single homogenous native identity and MOONSHOT is an extensive exploration of the vast variety of indigenous storytelling in North America,” explains Hope Nicholson.

hope-nicholson-moonshotThat’s editor Hope Nicholson: she and Andy Stanleigh work hard at AH Comics (Alternative History Comics) to make room on the page for voices which are more often silenced than heard.

MOONSHOT includes creators who identify as Métis, Inuit, Dene, Anishnaabe, Cree, M’ikmaq, Caddo, Haida, Sioux and Suquamish, to name a few.

The introduction is by Michael Sheyahshe, the author of Native Americans in Comics: A Critical Study, who observes that indigenous people must still struggle to dismantle longtime misunderstandings.

“We are not an extinct species,” he states; “we do not only exist in those sepia-colored memories of the Wild West. Here we are, in the here and now.”

This volume is not one which presents a “random, one-dimensional comic book Indian, that relies more on tired stereotypes”; instead, it “celebrates and showcases indigenous people, from a culturally-informed perspective”.

The collection opens with David Mack’s “Vision Quest: Echo”, an excerpt from the Daredevil Vision Quest series, inspired by his Cherokee uncle’s storytelling.

david-mack-comicThe series is “told in Indian Sign Language, creating a beautifully dense masterpiece that can be read in many different ways”.

Another stiking piece is “The Qallupiluk: Forgiven”, which is the weightiest piece in terms of text, but also one of the most dramatic pieces artistically.

qitsualiktinsely-and-menton3-comicIt features full page artwork by menton3 and a more traditionally linear story by Sean and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsely which accompanies them.

“Tlicho Nàowo” is a story about the ‘Night the Spirits Return’, which coincides with October 31st in the Dene First Nations community in the Northwest Territories.

van-camp-and-burns-comicIt considers a “ritual that expresses love and respect to family members who have passed on, as well as to implore the spirits of the Caribou people for a safe and plentiful hunt for the community” (written by Richard Van Camp – with Mahsi cho to Rosa Mantla – and illustrated by Nicholas Burns).

“The Observing”  is written by Elizabeth LaPensée and illustrated by Gregory Chomichuk, adapted from an historical tale shared by Haida elder and storyteller Woodrow Morrison Jr. which is told across the Pacific Northwest.

lapensee-and-chomichuk-comicIt employs “Indigenous Steampunk to introduce the Star People and their technology”, recognizing that water is “in, around, and through all”.

(This story in particular raises a question addressed by Andy Stanleigh in the Afterword, the need for contributors to have gathered permission from elders in the relevant communities to share elements of these traditional stories, not merely entertainment but history.)

The cover is perfectly eye-catching, a work titled “Northern Crow”, painted by Métis artist Stephen Gladue and inspired by the Plains Cree traditioanl dancers he observed in northern Alberta some time ago.

It considers Crow as “a pathfinder with the power to speak, bringing messages of widsom and acts as a spiritual storyteller” and encourages the viewer to peer beneath initial impressions, as part of a series of works which consider traditional dancers in motion. “The series as a whole represents the cycle of chaos, reflection and peace.”

Beyond the framework of foreword and afterword and introduction, there is a sketchbook and a list of biographies in the back of the volume, which affords readers the opportunity to explore further with the creators of works which particularly struck a chord.

Readers must accept that this is an anthology; some pieces feel satisfying as independent pieces, and others feel like mere glimpses into stories that leave us wanting more. Hopefully the work of AHComics will afford these writers and artists the opportunity to gain a broader audience and not only readers but contracts for full-length works.

Have you read this collection? Did you have a favourtite piece? Or, did you simply enjoy the variety?

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