7 indigenous comics creators you should know about

Northern-Crow-by-Stephen-Gladue.jpgMoonshot cover art by Stephen Gladue (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $75,000, copies of the graphic novel Moonshot have been sent out to anxious readers across North America.

Moonshot is a collection of indigenous comics with 33 contributors, the majority of whom are First Nations, Inuit or Métis.

"I was really excited to showcase these artists and these writers that I've heard about and that I've seen online who really haven't had a chance to reach a wider audience," said Toronto-based editor Hope Nicholson to q guest host Candy Palmater.

"I've been such a fan of theirs and I wanted everyone else to be too."

In that spirit, we gave Nicholson the difficult task of selecting a few of her favourite indigenous creators featured in Moonshot, which is available on Amazon.ca and the Moonshot website.
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1. Jeffrey Veregge (artist)

Preserver-by-Jeffrey-Veregge.jpg"Preserver" by Jeffrey Veregge (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

"I first found Jeffrey through an article that showed his interpretations of classic superheroes through Haida-inspired art. To say his pin-up work is striking is an understatement. 

His work on covers for the GI Joe and Transformers series by IDW really helped increase his profile last year, and it is absolutely well-deserved success. Jeffrey contributed several important illustrations to Moonshotshowcasing in each, that a single piece can tell an entire story. His interpretation of the meaning of storytelling showcases the weaver who builds stories into her creations. Storytelling exists in so many forms, be it written, verbal or, in this case, a physical creation. I was so excited to see him join Moonshot and show his take on the power of storytelling."

2. Stephen Gladue (artist)

Untitled-by-Stephen-Gladue.jpg"Untitled" by Stephen Gladue (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

"I found Stephen Gladue through a recommendation from another contributor, Elizabeth LaPensée. When I looked through his portfolio, I was struck by his graffiti-inspired work, which had a lot of energy. 

There was also a tremendous amount of variety in his style, from cartoonish and exaggerated to 

energetic surrealism. He has previously worked in the animation and games industry in Vancouver. I saw 

a talent that really was developing at a breakneck pace, and the cover that he developed for Moonshot 

really showcases this... I

 can't wait to see what he works on in the f


3. Todd Houseman (writer)

HOUSEMAN-SHANNON.jpgFrom "Ayanisach," written by Todd Houseman with art by Ben Shannon (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

"I was introduced to Todd through his uncle Ben Shannon, who is a talented Toronto-based artist. This is Todd's first published story, but he's known in the Edmonton arts community as an aboriginal culture interpreter in the parks system and an improv actor. This was a case of some blind faith on my part, but I was very much looking forward to working on a comic with Ben as an artist, and I trusted his recommendation. 

I was also curious about the type of story someone younger than the rest of the contributors would bring to the collection. I am so very glad I did, as 'Ayanisach' was easily my favourite piece to work on as an editor. A metaphorical tale of the dangers of colonialism and the ways to survive and thrive after, 'Ayanisach' is a simple story with an incredible depth of meaning."

4 & 5. Arigon Starr (writer) & David Cutler (artist)

STARR-CUTLER.jpgFrom "Ue-Pucase" in Moonshot written by Arigon Starr with art by David Cutler (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

"Arigon was recommended to me from a few different people, and I pushed for her inclusion in the book, since she had a great deal of respect among her peers and I really liked the sense of humour I had seen from her web comic Super Indian. Since her animated style that she used to create her comic wasn't the look we were going for in this anthology, we paired her up with artist David Cutler. David has been a friend of mine for several years and active in the Toronto comics community, I've seen his work just get better and better over time and was excited to have him work with us. 

Arigon's story 'Ue-Pucase' best exemplifies the theme of Moonshot and what we were aiming for. This is a story based on a traditional tale but told in a futuristic sci-fi setting where it isn't unusual or noteworthy to be native. Watching David and Arigon discuss visual representation of the characters to make sure that there was no 'Pan-Indian' identity so commonly seen in comics, and reading the pure fun of the comic (a can of spam is the central 'villain'), made me incredibly happy. You never know what you'll get with new collaborators, but they turned out a perfect story."

6. Michael Sheyahshe (writer)

SHAYAHSHE-FREEMAN.jpgFrom "Strike and Bolt," written by Michael Shayahshe with art by George Freeman (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

"Michael's work on identifying and analyzing the tropes of native identity that have been created and propagated by the comic industry is very impressive. I found myself reading his essays available online on the common problems of native representation in comic books and other media. His ideas are simple but revolutionary in that they are so rarely practised: native identity should be accurate; stereotypes, pan-Indian merging of culture, appropriation by colonizers, is a detriment to how we view native culture. 

In his comic 'Strike & Bolt,' which has art by Winnipeg artist George Freeman, we see a sci-fi tale of two boys fighting to save their mother in a world inhabited by the Caddo people as well as cannibalistic monsters. It's an action-adventure tale that brings a new viewpoint to a Caddo story."

7. Elizabeth LaPensée (writer)

LAPENSEE-collage.jpgLeft: From "The Observing" in Moonshot, written by Elizabeth LaPensée with art by Gregory Chomichuk; Right: From "Copper Art" in Moonshot, written by Elizabeth LaPensée with art by Claude St. Aubin (Alternate History Comics Inc.).

"Elizabeth LaPensée is a game designer and writer based out of Portland who I have been following on social media for some time. Her vast knowledge and sharp analytical skills was a huge help throughout the creation of the Moonshot process, and she was a great resource even outside of the beautiful stories she wrote for the collection. She brought to light many ideas that were unknown to me, such as the importance of talking directly to elders in the community about the original stories. 

Elizabeth's stories are both traditional tales based in the past, but not in the 'western' culture we usually see represented in comic books. 'Copper Heart,' with art by Albertan artist Claude St. Aubin & Toronto artist (and Moonshot publisher) Andy Stanleigh, takes place in the early 1900s in a copper mine and showcases the supernatural people known as Memegwesi in Chippewa culture. These people, somewhat similar to trolls in Norse culture or faeries in the Welsh, are neither moral or immoral, but come to the aid of those who pay them respect. 

Elizabeth's other story, 'The Observing,' is one that is closely tied in to the themes of extraterrestrial contact that first spurred the formation of the Moonshot anthology, and reflects the concepts of contact that have existed in some North American communities long, long before settlers arrived. This story is wordless, but needs no dialogue or narration, as the visuals by Winnipeg artist Gregory Chomichuk stand well on their own. Elizabeth's creativity and thoughtfulness were essential to making this project succeed."

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