Indigenous Comics

When you have stories written by people for whom things are real, you get much different stories.

Indigenous Comics
Indigenous Comics

Note: When we recorded this episode the panelist Myka used a different name. While the transcript has been updated to reflect their current name the audio recording reflects that history.

Patty Krawec

This is Ambe. And we're here for our conversation about comic books and graphic novels, or kind of whatever people want to call them. I was looking up for some good quotes on it. And I came across one where some somebody had said that the difference between graphic novels and comic books are the binding.

This is part of a yearlong project of mine where we're talking about Indigenous literature's and it started with a book I read that Daniel Heath Justice had written. And as I was kind of going through the months, and kind of creating the different categories that occurred to me, this is a valid category of literature. But it doesn't often get, it doesn't often get a lot of attention, Neil pointed out that Daniel was a contributor in one of the Moonshot volumes.

We've got Jay Odjick, who actually designed my avatar. If you see me on social media, and I look like a superhero Jay is why. That was a really interesting process that I had absolutely no idea. I was just like, make me look cool. And he's like, but I need to know this. And I need to know that. I was like, wow, that's, there's just so much information. I was like, I do, I jump into things all the time with no idea of what's actually required. So it was, it was an amazing process. And I really love her.

And so we've got Neil, who is probably my most frequent flyer with this, because he's just so cool and into everything. Lee Francis, who was actually one of the very first guests on my Medicine for the Resistance podcast that I co-host with Kerry Goring. And we were talking about Indigenous futurism. And that was just such a neat conversation. And someday, I hope to get to Indigenous ComiCon because that looks really cool. And then we've got Myka Foubert who, who is my cousin, but also a really cool person. And likes, likes, comic books, graphic novels, all that, all that artistic literature stuff.

So now what I'm gonna do, I'm just gonna kind of go around and ask each of you to give a better introduction than the one that I just gave a little bit about kind of how you connect with or do this, you know, this … kind of what it is about graphic novels and comic books. that got your attention and keeps you there. So we'll start with Jay

Jay Odjick

So yeah, kwe-kwe, Jay Odjick n’dishnikaahz. Hello, my name is Jay Odjick . I'm an Anishinaaabe artist, writer, TV producer jack of all trades, master of absolutely none. And I've been reading comics since I was old enough to be able to read.  Even though I'm from the kidney got Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community in Quebec, which was where my dad's from I was born in Rochester, New York. And because my dad, like a lot of guys from the rest, there wasn't a lot of work in the community. So a lot of guys left to work, construction, high steel jobs like that. So I was born in Rochester. And right off the street from where we lived was a comic book shop. And we didn't have a lot of money. But luckily for me, the comic shop had this kind of dubious practice of taking the comics that didn't sell and tearing off the covers and selling them for five cents. So as a kid without a lot of money, it was pretty great because you walk in with like 25 cents, walk out with a couple of comics, roll them up, stick them in your back pocket. Nowadays was a guy who makes comics for a living and I'm like, “How could you?” But at the time, it was absolutely awesome. So that's how I kind of got into it. And I fell in love with the idea I think of using pictures to tell stories. I really wanted to be able to tell stories, and that's what brought me to it and I fell in love with the medium in that way of doing it because it seemed like something we could do without needing, you know, a ton of camera and equipment, video equipment and things like that.

So I've been working in comics for longer than I care to mention on camera. I'm actually a lot older than I look I'd like to say, and I'm best known I would think for my original graphic novel called Kagagi, the Raven. That led into an animated series I was the executive producer and showrunner on called Kagagi The Raven, which aired in Canada, the United States and Australia. I drew two books with a Canadian author Robert Munch called Black Flies and Bear for Breakfast. And both of those I think are important because they were they were very commercially successful, but they featured all Native cast of characters and they were both set in First Nations communities. And it was a real trip for me to be able to go into any bookstore anywhere in Canada and find books with heroic looking Native children. And in addition to that we had Bear, which was these were published by Scholastic Canada. And we had Bear For Breakfast published in Anishinaabemowin. And I think that was a really important thing too, because up until then, they just published the books in English and French. And I said, Why don't we consider doing that an Indigenous language?

So that's something I'm going to try to push for and hope we can see more of is more books like that mainstream books published in Indigenous languages, I think Anishinaabemowin was just a start. And hopefully we can move into more in the future. And other than that, I've worked with Lee most recently, on his Kickstarter anthology project, edited by Beth Le Pensee called A Howl: Werewolf Anthology . And I've got a story in that that's really interesting. And we'll we'll talk about that more later. But yeah, that's me. And that's who I am.

Neil Ellis Orts

Ah, howdy. I'm Neil. I'm in Houston, Texas. I grew up reading comics. Archie was the gateway drug. The 1960s Batman TV series also a little bit. I am not Native, there's not a ounce of anything in my cells that is Native. So I'm the settler here who is just coming here to geek out about comics.

Myka Foubert

Hi!  I'm Myka. I grew up reading comic books, because they were easier for me to read, then those nasty paper books. As someone who is disabled, having something that was easier to read was great, because I read just as much as all the other kids did, if not more, I just read Calvin and Hobbes instead. Because that's, that's the comic book that was was my gateway drug. But that got me into superhero comics. Like that got me into Spider Man that got me into the X Men. I was a huge fan of the DC Comics for Bat Girl. I'm still a huge comic book and superhero nerd. But yeah, my interest in comics really stems from wanting to read as much as everybody else but not really having the ability to, and just the easiest form for me to consume literature was through graphic novels and stuff like that. And I still own graphic novels. I still read them as much as I can. Though, admittedly, being a university student, I have not really had the chance to read them, because I've been really busy with all the mandatory stuff that I have to read. But yeah, that's that's me.

Lee Francis IV

Hey, guw'aadzi! this is so exciting that we get to hang out again. So yeah, my name is Lea Francis, my family's from the Pueblo of Laguna on my dad's side. And the Pueblo of Missouri on my mom's side. So I was like to say that people get confused. They're like, there's a Pueblo of Missouri? And I was like, No, I'm just kidding. My mom's like, straight Anglo. Yeah, so my love of comics also stretches back to about as far back as I can read, my dad was a huge science fiction and fantasy fan. That's what our shelves were filled with. It got to the point where my dad literally had to look at the dates that things were published, because oftentimes, they would upgrade, you know, update the covers for like Science Fiction/Fantasy things. And if it was anytime before, he would like, he'd be like, it was anytime before like, 1986. He's like, I've read it. So that's how much like I come by my nerditry like it's genetic nerd, right, genetic, Indigenous nerd.

So, but most of the time, I spent my my, my worlds leading up until I started native realities in education. And I think that was really formative. I mean, I'll make the joke that the other joke I like to make, which is I got a PhD in education so that I could open a comic shop. You know, but essentially, I, when I started working in schools, because I loved comic books, what I would see on the shelves for my kids and I worked at home, so I worked at my home Rez Laguna/Acoma high school. That's where I, you know, almost a decade of my career there. When I’d look at the shelves, what you would see is essentially you'd see like a whole bunch of kids books, like, you know, and a lot of them would be non Native writers within you know, the kid’s, early kids literature, and this is probably you know, 20 years ago when I started teaching, so you'd have the stack of kids books and stuff like Paul Goble. Maybe there'd be a storyteller to like a local storyteller too.

But you know, not not really not a lot. And so and then and then on the same shelf, there would be just like this gap, because there was no YA. There certainly were, there was like maybe two comics that people could find out, and then would jump right into adult literature. And then you're reading Louise Erdrich. Right. And it was just like, Man, that's a huge thing to cover from reading a picture book, to jumping into Louise's work, right? And especially for me, because I didn't see any comics, and I think a lot of us have gotten into this as native creatives of like, you know, I didn't see anybody that looked like me. And even when there was a comic that came out or something, you know, at least in the mainstream, oftentimes, it would be, you know, my northern plains, brothers and sisters, right. So, head dress, horse riding, you know, just ripped. They're all jacked, they are, those guys are just yoked across the board, right? I mean, for real, you know, Plains, riding the horse, what I was, like, Yo, my people were short, and we, like grew corn. Uh, you know, I was like, I don't see my people all that much in this kind of stuff.

So I just started kicking around ideas, and I wasn't really doing anything. And it was 2014 I met Arigon Starr at a Native writers event, we just started laughing about, you know, like, we should have like a native comic code that we can stamp on books to give them like some authority. And, and a lot of it just took off from there. We started publishing out of my nonprofit at the time, because I was like, Well, you know, the comic people, let's arrange them and start getting stuff out the door. And I and then a lot of people hit us up on Facebook, they're like, this is great. You guys should publish more. And I was like, really should publish. So started publishing, and then just crazy way leads unto way.

You know, it started out like, you know, republishing and then 2016 I was like, we should all get together and have a Comic Con. Because there's not one for us. Like, usually we're, we're the what are we We're the we're the we're the token native at the Comic Con talking about Native stuff, right? It was like, I'd rather it be just a Comic Con for us. And we all get to hang out at party and play. And that's what I wanted to do. And then 2017 we opened Red Planet books and comics. Because I had so much stuff piled up from the Comic Con in my house, my wife was starting to get a little crazy. She's like, this is gotta get out of the hallway. So I was like, alright, we should open an office or something, right? And we opened a shop instead. And now we're the only native comic shop in the world where the largest distributor of native comics, we still publish. We're doing Howl with Jay and a whole bunch of other Native writers got a water protectors comic coming up. We just, I mean, I'll talk more. We just got the license from Tim Truman, we’re his,we’re his publisher for scout for his reproduction fn Scout. So if anybody knows that's probably the original native comic, like single superhero comic that came out in the mid 80s. So yeah, I mean, that's, that's kind of this. This all revolves around my life. I love comics, nerds, games, toys, collectibles. I do RPGs , I do comics. I mean, it's just it's writing and trying to get more of the stuff out there on the shelves for our kids. You know, any way that I can?


So Neil, you had mentioned a couple of Indigenous comic book characters whose names have fallen out of my brain because I didn't write them down. And what Lee was just saying just made me think of like, representation like how, how were we there back when we were younger? And I mean, I was just reading Archie comics when I was a kid. So there was like, no Indigenous content at all unless it was a Halloween issue.


Well, the two series that I I followed a little bit, well, one I followed completely, I kind of fell in and out of the earliest one I remember was called Turok, Son of Stone, which was a Indian and dinosaur story that Turok in his young Ward, Andar because they always had a young sidekick. Got lost in this last world with dinosaurs and cavemen and, and the whole story was them trying to find their way out. This was published originally by Dell comics, and then later by Gold Key. And so I mean, it wasn't really a Indigenous setting. It was Indigenous characters lost in a lost world kind of thing.

And I, as I was thinking about this, the similarity between this and the next one was called Arak , which was created by Roy Thomas, who did a lot of Marvel, he brought Conan into comics. He created this for DC Comics, and Arak was a Indigenous young boy his tribe is decimated by another tribe. It's made, he made up a tribe. And is set adrift at sea is picked up by Vikings and taken to Europe. So he's another kind of fish out of water story. Not an Indigenous setting, but Indigenous central character. So those are characters that I kind of grew up reading. Well, by the time Arak came out, I was well into high school, so. But as a young person, reading those books, and I was reading something really different. Of course, it's all by white creators, as far as I know, but I mean, respectfully, that and of course, previous to that there's, you know, all kinds of Western books. And you have the character Scalp Hunter, which was a white guy raised by Indians. I think there's more than one of those kinds of characters in the back in the in the canon. Of course, there was a time when Lone Ranger was a big, big franchise, Tonto had his own comic for a while, but I don't think I read any of those. But this thing, this is all very mainstream. sort of generic Hollywood, Indian.


Are those familiar to you, Jay? I think you and Lee, were both kind of nodding along at different places. Were those familiar to you?


Yeah, for sure. Sure, Turok more so than the others. I remember Arak from when I was just a little kid. But I remember Turok because there was some cross media stuff that was done, there was a video game, I believe, for the Nintendo 64 or something. It was a pretty popular game. So for, Scalp Hunter and things like that go I remember those. And the first one, that really first Indigenous character that was created by non Indigenous people that I remember really prominently was in a book called Alpha Flight by John Byrne, there was this character called Shaman. And it was, you know, the tropes we've come to know and expect as it comes to the native people. The mystical native guy, and I don't know about any of you know, the rest of our guests, but I don't actually have mystical powers. I'm sorry, I hate to disappoint for anybody who's tuning in who was expecting me to do some sort of magic, but not not in my repertoire.

So we saw that a lot. And as well, with Shaman, it was really funny. Because the thing I always say is, whenever you get a native character, in these from these corporate companies, their identity as a hero tends to be their Indigeneity. So we can't have a guy who's just like a crimefighter, like a daredevil or somebody like that he has to be, you know, like Red Wolf or something of that nature. So the way I the way I was explained, it is like, if there's a fire in Gotham, city and apartment building on fire, people aren't like, oh, no, the the buildings on fire, we're all gonna die. Wait, we're saved. That's white Batman. He's just Batman. Whereas when you look at like, African American characters, every one of them has the word Black in their title. So it's like Black Vulcan, Black Panther. You know, they all get that. And it's kind of been the same in a way for us where, you know, every character kind of has that thing hung on it. And you will never get to see just the native character who just a cool native character, it has to be about that. At the same time, the costume has to have all of the stereotypes and tropes of the past. So we don't see guys in modern superhero costumes, we see people still wearing leather and buckskin.

Now looking at like Lee, and everyone else here, we're not wearing leather and bucksin, and I'm wearing T shirts, some jeans and some shoes, like some Jordans I paid way too much for. So I always kind of wondered as a kid why these things were the way they were. I mean, we've seen it. It's something that's played out numerous times. And that was a part of the reason why I created Kagagi the way I did, because I wanted to create a character who moved away from the stereotypes who just look like a visually cool character that any kid could look at, oh, that looks interesting. I want to check that out, and almost suckering them into reading and if they weren't native, because it was a costume design that I felt could stand next to Batman or Wolverine and didn't scream like this is a stereotype where he's wearing clothing that that's been out dated for 100 years or something.

So I think that's one of the big things with modern Indigenous comics is we're starting to see from Indigenous creators moves away from those types of things, but yeah, and as far Scout goes. Scout was the first time I saw an actual native character who I thought was cool. And I remember, we used to go to the store that would take these like kind of mystery bags, or they take a bag and you couldn't see what was in it. And you get a stack of comics for like five bucks or something. And you just hoped there was something decent in it. And my brother and I picked up a couple of these and got home a normal book with this Scout. And we're like, oh, he's native like, and it was the first time I saw something, where it wasn't that stereotype where the character, you know, again, with all due respect to characters like Shaman, and the people who created them, a lot of those characters spoken at very, like, many moons ago, my people and I'd be like, Hey, Dad, can you you know, tell me something you did a long time ago. And he'd be like, Yeah, way back in the day. And I'm like, Yeah, that's it. We don't talk like that. So it really you know, there were there were a lot of times when I saw characters who really reflected who we are. In the modern era, I will say, I think that's the best way I can put it

patty krawec

Yeah, I call that cigar store Indian, when they when they talk when they when they talk like that. But we all know people who put on that rez voice when they get in front of white people. We all know those people. A long time ago, I wrote an article that got published by a Canadian magazine and they sent a photographer out to take my picture for the magazine and I wore this purple dress that I had worn all the powers that I had gone because I liked the skirt twirled and and so she says like, where are your traditional clothes? I was like, What are you talking about? And she says your you know, your traditional clothes, like she said, louder and slower as if that would help me understand it better. And I was just like, What are you .. I don't have .. so I let her remake me into to kind of cobbled together and you know, there's a picture of Ben. He's wearing like a feather. It's like a hairpiece, but he's wearing it like a medallion. It's just It's horrible. I mean, from the magazine’s standpoint, I'm sure it looks great. You wanted beads and buckskin and when I was complaining about this on a message board that I belong to this one guy, you know, Oglala Lakota and at the time I was just reconnecting right so he was like a rock star Indian for me. Yeah, exactly. Lee’s making like a stoic Indian face and he says yeah, well my traditional clothes are jeans and a white t shirt so it'd be so much better.

But Myka, you read some read some of Kagagi? Right You were saying that you weren't able to get all the way through it because of that whole university thing


Yeah University has been really the knocking me on my ass but yeah if I was working my way through it and I'm when I have downtime I I've been reading it on the bus trying to get there and I was blown away I was like this is awesome. I want more I could not like I had to keep putting it down because of like I need to make sure I'm on the right I'm getting off the bus at the right spot. I don't want to be stuck on the bus I have to go to class. But yeah, it I was I really liked it because it, It really played into the superhero stereotypes but not the this is like this is native stereotype it played into the this was a superhero trope, the transformation scene, I was so excited when he finally for the first time transformed into the raven and I was like this is awesome. This is great.

This is this really scratches that superhero itch because growing up reading superhero comics watching Iron Man watching Thor being a huge Marvel and DC fan. There's just tropes that you expect to see in superhero comic things. And one of them is like have a cool costume. Have you know a cool transformation moment, have a cool name, have some cool powers. And this checked off all of the boxes that I had going into it and I was pleased as punch reading it and I'm super excited to continue reading it. I'm excited to watch the animated series especially because like streams here and in Australia, my significant other is Australian. So I'm gonna force him to watch it with me because he doesn't get a choice anymore.

But I was super excited and especially because I read it because I knew that Jay was going to be on the on the panel and I was like, Oh, I'll read this, you know, to be able to like these are my thoughts and I was like this is awesome. And it made me so nervous that I was going to be here and had to have to talk about it in front of the guy who made it. So you put me on the spot here but but yeah, it it really like I was I mentioned or earlier me and me and Patty were talking about the an episode of The X Files in which they're on the rez. And one of the things that you see a lot in shows Around that time and in the X Files was definitely guilty for doing this, but people of color showing up and being the magical fixers, but they're magical people of color powers doing magical things. And I just something it struck me as something was off as I was just trying to enjoy the episode when there was just a few too many cinematically timed, like Eagle noises. And I was like, you know, I'm starting to think that yeah, I'm starting to think that there's something a little, you know, pizzazzy about this. And they're not exactly, you know, doing what they should. But, I mean, I would be if I could remake The X Files I had totally, that was, that'd be one of the episodes I want to redo. And I'd want to redo it right. Because there was just a couple couple issues with that, like they they made up a tribe. There was a whole there's a whole thing about Indigenous people and werewolves. Which I'm super excited to, to read Lee’s stuff about, because it's definitely an interesting trope. But why is it always Indigenous people that are werewolves? Like good, is, I'm sure they can be more than werewolves guys. But yeah, I'm super looking forward to that stuff. But I don't know what else to say.


I think it was that one. It's about the shapeshifters there in the Pacific West and it's the shapeshifter. It's the shapeshifter episode that I think Metis in Space actually watched and talked about if I'm if I'm remembering correctly. Yeah, that's a really great episode. And then there's the whole Blessing Way arc, where that involves the ancient aliens and Mulder takes his like, traveled through the other world or whatever. It's just, it's just so terrible. But yeah, the magical Indians who exist for no reason, but to save the white guy is just …


I just thought, I just like to say a quick thanks to Rya for that that, honestly, is incredibly touching. And don't be nervous. You did a great job. And I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Because honestly, that's that's why I wanted to do it was because I don't think we ever got to see those things. The time when I created Kagagi. I know there's a lot more comics now created by Indigenous people with really cool Indigenous characters. But you made my, you made my day. And that's the reason why, why I worked on it. And thank you very much. And I hope you enjoyed the animated series. So Chi-Miigwech Thank you.


Yeah, I'm super excited for it. Like I one of the things that's always been weird to me, because I grew up in an area where there were I had family, of course, that that are Indigenous while I am not. And I had friends who are Indigenous while I'm not. And it was really bizarre that I could see kind of pieces of myself. Of course, there was there's a whole issue about disability representation and stuff like that in just about everything. But it was really weird that I couldn't see the people that I grew up with. I couldn't see my cousins I couldn't see aunts and uncles I couldn't see, even just the people I went to school with, it was always super weird to me that like there just wasn't that there. But it with being able to see stuff like this. It was awesome. Being able to go like finally I can show this like back to my friends like back home. And it'd be like, guys, check this out. Like if you haven't already like you guys have to see this. It's excellent that Yeah.


Myka brought up werewolves. And so that kind of brings me to Lee and your project because there's wolves werewolves, and these other ones that I don't know who they are. So can you talk a little bit about who they are?


Yeah, so Wolves, Werewolves and Rougarou, which is sort of the transformational, right. So that's that at, you know, Métis pronunciation. And I think it's very interesting. And I love that you brought that up, Myka as well, because it's actually not something where we said they would be native. We just put out the call. And we're just like, hey, we just want to write a book about werewolves. And everybody took like, we had so many people that just you know, Beth LePensée, you know, just kind of made this call out, and everybody just jumped on it, because I just think there's, I don't know what the attachment is. And I don't know, I know, Hollywood likes to make it something. But there's also something that I think we have internally, you know, maybe it's our connections to, you know, our ancestors, right. So to our wolf ancestors and to our you know, our clan relations.

But it is something that's, you know, that that turned out to be just so fantastic of just the responses. And the range of stories, right, because what I think what Hollywood does is it does the same thing that Jay was talking about as it identifies the, the identity of of, you know, native existence also becomes this thing about, you know, this animalistic werewolfy existence right And so they all have to and they're all you know, it's all melodrama. It's all, you know, like everything, you know, it's just like we it's about the transformation and living in two worlds, you know, that kind of stuff. And the stories that we're getting are stories where it's just, it's just a thing. You know, Dale DeForest’s story is fantastic about just werewolf heavy, it's a werewolf heavy metal band. Right? That's it, you know, they just go on the road and tour as a heavy metal band. I have this one that it's basically a with a native werewolf family. That's like in the middle of this werewolf fight until they get Mom pissed off. And then mom is like, turns into the werewolf and is like stop it. All of you? You know, and then everybody chills out I was like, That, I think is in many ways is the beautiful parallel to what we were just talking about, right? It's the existence of indigeneity parallels, what how Hollywood and how pop media has hiked all of these things and found these interconnections for us. Whereas if you're just a werewolf, you're just trying to get by, you know, more often than not, you got to go to work. If you got like a werewolf society, you probably going to hang out with them, you know, more than likely, you're gonna sit there and just be like, all all the old werewolves are just all out there smoking cigarettes together, shooting the shit, you know, the whole thing, right? They're just going to be doing that all day long. Just like, you know, just just like we normally do.

I also do want to give a big shout out to Jay as well. Because Jay is and I think, you know, everybody needs to know this. There are three people, three native folks that were publishing, prior to like the 2010s. Right? It was Tim Truman, it was John Proudstar. And it was Jay. And Jay was one of those guys because Kagagi I think 2004 When you first created it, and then it got picked up in 2010. Right? So there wasn't anything else but these cats, right? Maybe you saw it like you had I think I want to say you had like, I want to say there was like superheroes and there were like cartoons. So there was like cartoon styles like Mutton Man was out there. There was some really small indie stuff of people like trimline we're finding some of that stuff that's pulled around. But like, these aspirations of creating superheroes, like Jay was one of those dudes right at the beginning, that Arigon Starr hit like right after that she had done Super Indian, the radio play, and then she just started her. So those four people, as native peoples who are those are the Giants, those who like man I love being on here with you, is these are the giants that I stand on their shoulders, right, like, so any room that I'm in, I was like, Yo, I always throw it out, because whatever I do has to do with any of this stuff, right?

And, and even when I see it right now, it's the last thing I'll say, for this moment is that like, when I see Marvel coming in, you know, columbussing native comics, you know, as if, as if they finally discovered that there's native comic book artists out there, right. Marvel's just like, look, look at our Indigenous voices. And I was like, Listen, I got a lot of friends who are drawing and doing art around that right now Jim Terry's in there, you know, ..  has been doing art for that. Like, these are friends like these, you know, these truly people I hang out with what it's like all sudden, you know, they make such a hype, like they finally deserve this kind of credit. When I have to point to folks like Jay and John, and Arigon, and Tim and I'm saying 40 years, we've been making comics, we've been superhero comics, not just like native stuff. 40 years, we've been doing this. Now. It didn't just happen in 2020. So I think that's one thing that I always got a shout out to all these folks, especially when we're making this and so glad Jay is making Howl with me too.


And then I'll say something about Thank you, Lee. That's really, really amazing. I'm really touched man. One of the things that I think I would like to mention, because I think it is really important is there were certain other anthologies that I had taken part in, specifically the Moonshot anthologies where I was given direction. I was on one of them. I was actually I'm not gonna say told but asked, Do you have a Windigo story? And I was like, Yes, I do. It's called Kagagi. I did it fucking 20 years ago, like it's been done. But they had asked me for that, and I didn't take part. That's the reason why it wasn't in. I believe the second one. There were a number of rules that were given to me on that. It was like, nothing political, which I thought was kind of crazy because I mean realistically, a lot of what a lot of us are doing is allegory for political and social issues that our people face. And it's an important issue for us. So without getting too further into it with Howl, there was literally no directives given beyond that it had to be Indigenous, and it had to be werewolf related.

And just to show you how far some of us have taken that, my story and it is not even really a comic, it's a 10 page werewolf Love Song, told in poetry with painted art. And I was so nervous that email Leeeand Beth and be like, so here's what I want to do. It's something I don't because I'm always nervous when it comes to me that anthologies that I'm doing something that somebody else is doing. So it was really about two things. It was about trying to do something, and make sure I wasn't stepping on anyone else's toes. And number two, it was playing with that idea of the werewolf as this, you know, again, the tropes of it, playing into prejudices towards our peoples, and so far as us being primitive and savage and these things. And I said, No, I'm gonna try and make the most beautiful love story and poem that I can and tell something beautiful with it. And I was able to find the exact right artist for it. Her name was Crystal Cox, she's absolutely phenomenal seriously. And I couldn't be more happy. And there was not a single thing I was asked to change on this by by editorial or publishing it, we were just allowed to do what we wanted. And that to me as a creator is, that's the magic. You know, that's the most important thing.

So I think you're gonna find a wealth of different werewolf stories. And it's not just going to be the same kind of tropes that we've seen Hollywood committed in the past. I can speaking from what I've seen, and then from what I did, for sure, I, I definitely tried to move away from that. So, you know, I think if you're interested, check it out. Because there's some pretty wild stuff. And it's definitely pushing the boundaries of what comics can be, I think, and visual storytelling as a whole.


Werewolf love stories. I am so curious now. I mean, you were talking about monsters and kind of the way because that's Jay had has also been on Medicine for the Resistance. And you know, we were talking we were talking about monsters, and you know, talking about werewolves. And we were talking particularly about the wendigo and that story. And we've always heard that as kind of this cautionary parallel with colonialism. And and I wrote about this in the newsletter for anybody who got it. But it really isn't, and it's starting to trouble me to see it that way. To see it as kind of this parallel with you know, we call politicians wendigoes you know, we call capitalists you know, we, you know, we call them when wendigo, and there's Wendigo Catering up in Sioux Lookout. So as far as saying its name repeatedly and calling it into being I think that ship has sailed.

But our conversation that we had with you, Jay about that about it, because in some versions in the legend that you had grown up with, the original creature isn't killed, the ones that he turns are, but you don't kill the original monster because then what? Then what happens to the hero and that was something that you explored in Kagagi. And then or you wanted to explore sorry, as the animated series went on. But what do you do then when you've killed all the monsters what’s the hero left with?

And then as I was reading the graphic novels, what I was reading was This Place . And there's there's a Windigo story in here. But it's true. It's the story of because this is a history book. So it's not fantasy. These are histories, Indigenous histories that are being retold in graphic format. And and then that led me to the book about the last one wendigo killer Jack Fiddler, who was actually arrested and executed by the RCMP in Canada in the early 1900s. Because we can't kill people that are threats to our communities. But the RCMP can kill us. Because that makes a lot of sense. And it occurred to me that for Indigenous people, these creatures are real. These creatures are real. They're, there's something that possessed us that threatened our communities. They weren't metaphors for anything. They were real. They were part of our world. And Europe, we didn't infect Europe with this windigo thing. They had their own monsters that they brought here. And so I'm really troubled now by that by that comparison with capitalism. But then the way I'm tying this into the whole werewolf thing is when you have stories written by people for whom these things are real. You get much different stories. You get much different stories with much different outcomes, much different goals, and I just think you get much better stories.


I don't have anything to back this up but because this is just from the top of my head logically what would make sense for the reason why we associate werewolves and natives is because it goes way back to that colonialism of savagery. What is more scary than a scary wolf creature that is going to savagely rip off rip out your your innards and throw them everywhere, right. I don't know what werewolves do. But it ties it ties back to that it is a trope that, you know, exists because people say, you know, not very nice things.


So I don't know anything about werewolves history? Is that an Indigenous creature? I mean, I, in all the movies that I ever took notice of it some white guy transforming. So where does that connection get made? I'm not aware of that connection is I guess, is what I'm saying. And I had sort of assumed it was a European legend.


I, unless I'm mistaken, I think a lot of it comes from France, right?




Yeah, that's my understanding is a lot of



And a lot of their stuff was based around wolves being used as, like this fear of, you know, it's the romanticism so it was a lot of Gothic, it really tied into the Gothic writing, as wolves being dangerous while they were doing the big wolf purges, you know, through their areas. I think, what is it? HBO, Wolf Walker's fantastic animated show? They do a flip of it, and it takes place all in occupied Ireland. Right. So and the werewolves are, you know, the wolf walkers are the Irish, essentially. Right? And the English are the ones that are basically murdering any wolf they can find. Because they, you know, to bring them under heels. Fantastic. Fantastic.

I mean, like, you know, with our relatives, right, I watched this and it was like, Dang, this is so similar, right? Like, you're just like, Wow, is this totally colonization? I think for us, I mean, as far as I can tell, and I haven't done a huge amount of story anthropology or story archaeology on this, but we don't have a lot of like we have, well, not in the way that it's done. In these types of stories we have  wolf relatives, we have wolf stories, we have people that do become wolves, but then don't then they just kind of pop in and out like it doesn't. It's not a thing. It's not this struggle with the internal nature of it. It's just a, it's just what happens. And that's the thing about if you look at any of our stories, it's like, that's a thing. It just happens. You know, it's it's a gig. So, like, That's it, and I think we found somebody looked it up. So you should jump in and run that out right now.


Okay. I just gave it a quick google and basically the earliest known surviving example of a mantle of transformation, and I am quoting here, is found in The Epic of Gilgamesh from around 2100 BCE. However, the werewolf as we know now know it first appeared in ancient Greece and Rome and ethnographic poetic and philosophical texts


When it comes to like the popular werewolf myths that we've seen especially like from Hollywood I think the original probably would have been like the old wolfman with Lon Chaney, Jr. or whatever. If I'm not mistaken, I think he he gets turned in France. And I think a lot of what we see as modern marvel fiction tends to come from France because their their term for the monster is Lugaroux, looming wolf in French. But if we look at it, I don't know why human like humanity, for the most part, especially in Europe has always been really taken with the idea of the wolf, even though there's a million different kinds of animals out there. When you mentioned Rome. It made me think of the idea of the founders of Rome were raised by wolves, Romulus and Remus. It's never bears for some crazy reason. I'd hate to see the human who was reared by skunks, for example, but we're always gonna get both so I don't know what it is. It has something to do I think with humanity's preoccupation with the wolf, maybe because it's a social animal. I'm not sure but it's a really, really strange thing. It always tends to be wolves. It's never raccoons or porcupines. It's always gonna be wolves, I don't know why.


So just to be completely weird. I wonder if Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series are responsible for this big Indigenous werewolf connection? Because she had her shapeshifters who were they thought they were werewolves, and it turned out they were just shapeshifters.

Jay, what are you working on now?


Right now. Holy cow. So I don't sleep a lot these days. I was really, the I was more excited about Aa Howl than anything just because it was such a departure for me because, again, I'd worked in television. And I'd worked in, in comics and children's books, you know, and it was something different to do something that was essentially long form poetry. The story is called Moonlight Somata. It's a play on Moonlight Sonata. Somata means bodies. So it's called the song of bodies in moonlight. And it's about two people who come together. And I don't want to give it away. But I think it came together really well. Other than that, I have a couple of children's book projects I'm looking at that I'd be writing myself. I was teaching a course on writing at the University of Ottawa, for comics, as well as screenwriting. And I had to step away because I just have too much stuff going on to be able to devote to that.

The big thing I suppose the two big ones would be, I've got a graphic novel at Scholastic called I Am Thunder, that's essentially about myself as a kid and how I came to comics and create comics. So it covers what we were talking about insofar as not seeing ourselves reflected in media. And why I decided to try and do what I did with Kagagi. Because I was pretty young when I got into it.

And one of the things that's important to note with Kagagi was, I did three self published black and white, pretty crappy comics that I was doing out of out of my basement. And then I brought it to this company called Arcana, which was at the time, maybe one of Canada's, if not the biggest publisher of comics, but you know, up there, because I wanted the book to be able to be carried through Diamond, even though that seems to be going away or the dinosaur right now. But yeah, I wanted the book to be available in any in any comic book shop. And that's something I'm very proud of that you could go into any comic book shop in North America and order a copy of Kagagi.

So, I am Thunder is about a kid much like me, it's really based on my life as a child and how I came to comics and the things that we go through as Native people coming into a world that I think a lot of people in corporations still believe is not our place. And I think it's important that we discuss those things.

And then more recently, I'm working with a production company here in Canada to create a feature film, it's it's, it's not animated. It's a live action feature that I'm describing as kind of a gritty crime drama. And it's really about how people, especially native people are put into certain boxes, and how much leeway we have to get out of them. And I thought that applies to what we're talking about here. And so far as what society expects Indigenous people to be, and the fight we've got to go through to escape those boxes, if we can, sometimes we can, I think sometimes we can't do. So for the first time. I've never really talked about it that way. But it's called Brawl. And we've got a Telefilm grant. So the film is being written right now. And it was it was we had some setbacks with it just because of COVID. And a pandemic, where I was writing this thing going, can we shoot crowds? Like I don't know, can we put a bunch of people in a warehouse? Can we shoot in a bar? So it was a really weird thing. And it's taken a little longer than I'm used to just because I've been able to adjust as things have opened up. And we've been able to do more things in that nature. At the same time. You know, you're worried about like insurance costs for this stuff, because it's a it's an entirely new world. So it was, it's a tremendous opportunity. I'm very blessed. But at the same time, there were a lot of challenges that came with creating a feature film and in the era of the COVID-19. So it's been a trip, but it is it's going to be set largely in the Indigenous community has a native main characters, a lot of native characters in it. And that's really what it's about. So between the kids book projects, the stuff that I did with A Howl, which was a real trip, but I really dove into it. And the graphic novel, that's a 200 page book. So it's a mammoth, gigantic book. And the film, I've been super busy and I feel bad, because whenever we talk about the work that other people are doing, other Indigenous creators are doing, I'm not overly familiar at this point, because I don't get a lot of time to read anything or watch anything. So I've just been pretty much a slave to the to the keyboard. I haven't really been present on social media all that much.


Actually, makes me think of something. And it's a question that I'll kind of pose to each of you and I'm gonna, I’ll start with Lee. And then just kind of go around and, you know, go around the circle. And think about those boxes. You said, Well, you talked about Indigenous people, you know, kind of being put into put into boxes. And then that made that makes me what what is it about comics? Do they offer a way of for us to get out of those boxes that maybe other media don't offer? And I want to think and and now I'm thinking particularly about representation, so not necessarily Indigenous representation, but we all you know, Neil and Myka, you both are part of groups too, that don't always have great representation in media. I'll start with Lee. How this particular medium allows us to break out of boxes in a way that other mediums maybe don’t.


Yeah, I think that's, I mean, that's a great way to frame it too, because I think it's, it allows the imagination to go beyond what we've been told we have to be when you can portray yourself, you know, like, the hardest part with filming, I mean, you know, Jay, just talking about it, right, like, you got the insurance and you've got a production company, and how many, and they gotta get money back. But when you when you're just writing and making comics, the sky is truly the limit, like, all you got to do is find either, and I don't draw very well, but maybe find a friend. Or maybe just go ahead and do what you're going to put out there in the world anyway, and eventually get better. Because you can, you can write whatever story you want to write in. And that's you're not, you don't have to conform to the way that pop media has insisted.

Now, I think there's still residuals in what we're all trying to struggle through, right, that pop culture media has done through a great propaganda job. But I don't think we have to conform to that. So when I want a write a story, you know, so my comics Six Killer, right, so it's, you know, I started out wanting to write a response to, you know, the Violence Against Women Act. And well, I'll even say the step before that is I started out to write Alice in Wonderland, Native Alice in Wonderland. And I originally was going to be working with Roy Boney Jr. And so we're going to set it in Cherokee country, because that was like, well, that's cool, because there's a lot of cool parallels we got rabbit, you got, you know, Sequoia is the Mad Hatter. Like, you can do some really cool stuff with this. And then VAWA comes out. And native women aren't included. And I was like, I was really I was upset, I was hurt, you know. And so I was just like, well, you know, what I can I can post about it, you know, and join in the chorus, which I did. But I was like, let me write this. And you know, what I wanted to write, I wanted to write Kill Bill, I wanted to write a woman that was seeking revenge for the murder of her sister and mowing down anyone that got in her way. Right? And that doesn't make the best adult drama. So there's more to it. There's more complications, of course. But that's what I wanted to do. I was like, You know what, the stop this kind of thing puts put the fear of God into people messin around there, you get, you're gonna have a boogeyman right there boogey woman, if you will, who's going to come who's going to come get yet, you know, for messing with Native women.

So I think the things that I've looked at is that the sky's the limit for what I can write and how we write it. I talk a lot about that. I think what comics allow us to do is to get out of dwelling and fetishizing tragedy. And I was talking about it today with some other folks is that will pop culture and American culture, which dominates everything, you know, has forced us to do is that it's it forces us to relive and fetishize in our tragedy. So what they portray is dead and dying Indians constantly, right? I think what comics allow us is that we get to be living, live, powerful, and powered, amazing characters and beings, not at any one's whims, on our own terms, how we want to tell the stories in whatever fashion, we're going to do it. So I think that's, that's why I love this media more than anything, because I also I'm not beholden to a production company, I just get to draw and write whatever I want. If it gets picked up and gets picked up, if not, I got a lot of good friends. Well, and I run a bookstore, so I'll just throw it on my own shelves, right. So, you know, that's how it can play out.


When you say it about drawing pictures that made me think of zines, and how popular you know, zines can be just yeah, I've got a story. I'm gonna draw it, I'm gonna tell it. And, um, you know, I'm gonna get it out there. So, Myka, we you talked about being an disability activist and the graphic novels, you know, the graphic format really helped you in that way. So, so, okay, well, that but also, you know, seeing yourself or putting yourself out there.


So, there is, you know, representation for me is really weird because there is when it comes to like mental health with like, specific mental health issues that I deal with myself. There is really no good representation for people with borderline which is something I myself struggle with. And that is the I don't see that in media. There isn't a good outlet for that. And the people that I do see on social media, talking about their mental health talking about stuff like that. They get so much hate and horrible things said to them about like you're faking it, stuff like that, that it's just I could would not put myself out there like that I could not be there to tell my story and how I feel about things. So that is, you know, that's, that's, I hope someone else is strong enough to do it.

But that's something that I myself would really struggle to do as far as something like autism or Asperger's go, because that's something that me and my siblings also deal and struggle with. I was talking to my father about this recently, and my father is this, you know, straight white guy who is neurotypical, and you know, he's he's just a normal guy. So representation for him is fine. But we had to talk about like, Sheldon Cooper versus Dr. Temperance Brennan, who was a better representation for someone who doesn't understand social practices and social norms. And Dr. Temperance Brennan was the winner here, because there's quite a few things wrong with the Big Bang Theory. Which is unfortunate, because it's, it's entertaining, and then you kind of look at it for a little bit longer to go, Wait a minute, this is not great. That's kind of really sexist, what they're doing. But that's past the point.

But yeah, maybe comic books and and stuff like that is the route that I need to take. Maybe I need to get into making comics or in writing stories and stuff like that. So that there is representation for people who struggle with disability, because I would have given you know, anything to see more things about kids who didn't understand what you know, was going on with their friends on the playground, like, I felt very alone as a kid and still kind of do as an adult. And just, if I could give, you know the power back to people who are disabled and have more representation for stuff like that, like we barely see stuff with people in wheelchairs, we barely see stuff for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. And like that is or we still are fighting tooth and nail to get like LGBTQ plus representation. Which is also something that I'm a part of, it's just, I maybe comics is the route that people need to be taking. Is is my thought maybe that's what that's the next step. Because clearly, television isn't working out great for us. Clearly, YouTube and social media isn't working out great for us. So maybe comics is the next best step.


When you were talking about mental health, and there's not great representation, I mean, all the villains, right, like villains are all the, that's where all the mental health sits, you know, the mental health disorders are is that those those are the villains, those are all, you know, those are almost always the bad guys. You know, so that's, it'll be nice to see a hero for you know, what's termed a mental health, you know, what's termed a mental health disorder is actually what winds up making things work, you know, maybe that's their superpower is that they can, you know, shut things off at certain times, or see the world in a slightly different way that allows them to, you know, to move things forward in a way that I can't because I don't, you know, I experienced the world and, you know, kind of the way everybody else does I don't have that other other other way of looking at it.

So Neil,


what comes to mind when you bring it up? Is that comics is one of the few mediums where you where there's, oh, there's long been an independent history, going back to the underground comics of the 60s and 70s to the sort of the independent explosion of the 80s with Black and white comics first and then small press. And you mentioned zines. Zines is another place that that sort of begins and so it's, I mean, you have DC, Marvel, Archie, some extent Dark Horse, and Image and a few others that are the big time, but in the world of media, big time comics is still pretty small. And I think that somehow makes it easier to be an even smaller fish in that pond somehow. And people start making their own comics and, and, and represent themselves I I'm spitballing here I don't know I'm saying but it seems like there's a lot that is. All you need is paper and pens. You know, it's not an expensive thing.

There's also a way to make comics. I don't know how much you want to get into theory. But there's, I think you can tell stories differently in comics. And I think sometimes people with less media representation have maybe more complicated stories and have layers that I think comics do really well. I think about it, Alison Bechdel’s  Fun Home, which is my gold standard for comics, she has so many layers going on, sometimes in a single panel, where she's the panelist, the picture is depicting something maybe in the present, there's one caption that is doing something in the past, and then the dialogue is doing something else, there's like three different narratives going on. And because it's comics, you can slow down and absorb it, whereas in a movie, that would all be gone in a second. I think comics allows complications, even though we think of it as a very simple, you know, bam, pow medium, there are subtleties available to comics creators, I don't think are necessarily available in other media. And there's an accepted pathway to do doing them independently. Whereas self publishing, as a novelist is still sort of I don't want to say sketchy, but it's not as respected. It's not as it's not as an accepted way to, to get yourself published. But in comics, make it yourself. And there are ways to get that, out, that I don't think there's, in the same way that other media has. Dispute me, I may be wrong,


No, I think as you were talking what made but that made me think is for people, you know, people who kind of live in kind of the mainstream world. And that's, you know, see their representation every every where they go, they develop a kind of shorthand, you know, so they don't have to tell like the whole story, because they can, you know, Darmok and Jalad at Talaga, and everybody knows what they mean. Whereas, for people who live on the fringe, like Indigenous stories, you know, like, we're stories like disability stories, you need to explain more, you need to explain more, you can't just kind of throw out a quick phrase, and everybody knows what you're talking about. So like, that's what me you made me think when you were talking was comic books, graphics, you know, telling stories in these ways. Those layers allow you to explain what could otherwise be, you know, what might otherwise be, you know, put off and in shorthand, it could, you know, you'd see the walls fall, you know, you'd see kind of the story that lays behind the phrase. And so that's kind of what I was thinking about, we have a comment from the chat, Dynamic Dan says: great name. Comics are truly a diverse medium, he made a comic, they made a comic and an unfinished one, for their final project in high school for art. And this podcast is just helped reinforced in their mind the independence and possibility available exclusively to things like comics,

Jay  You'll get the last word on this particular question.

Jay Odjick

Nice. I so I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of I think Lee and I are on the same page. And a lot of regards, but if I could just expand on on it a little bit. I think one of the big differences right now is like I think with Kagagi, it was an interesting thing, because it started out being completely just, I was the only person who had any say in it, I was self publishing. And then I took it to a publisher, and all of a sudden, there were no concessions needed to be made. And so far as how those things work, it's just the reality of a lot of publishing deals. And then we took it into animation and all of a sudden, we have to worry about a television network and advertisers and financers and that's just the nature of the corporate beast and the nature of entertainment industry as a whole I think.

And today the differences from when I started doing comics because again, I'm I'm getting old, but when I started out there were no such thing as YouTube tutorials you needed to be able to find the right equipment and things and it's very expensive to draw comics. Those Bristol boards that are 11 by 17 are like a buck a pull here in Canada and they're hard to find and inking pens are expensive and and today, you can just get an iPad or something and draw on that and create your own comics. And there's literally nothing between you the creation of your comics, the distribution and sale of your comics, you can promote them, you can do all those things that in when I was a kid, were just not possible because I remember coming across the first creator owned book I ever heard of, I think was Dave Stevens, the Rocketeer to date myself just a little bit. And then of course, we had the advent of the Image Comics when the Image founders all left Marvel and went and did their own thing. And more than anything else, I think with the Kagagi animated series, we're kind of ahead of our time.

And I wanted to touch on this because it's something again, as we had mentioned, with, with Marvel now discovering very columbusly, discovering Indigenous creators, more than anything else with regard to the animated series, I'm proud that, because we were on basic cable in Canada, so we were available and 11 million homes in Canada every every Sunday morning, which was fantastic. And I'm really glad if a lot of native kids got to see a superhero that they could call their who they thought was cool, but that means the world to me.

Secondarily, the thing I'm most proud of is that no matter what happens Disney, when Disney does get around to making an additional superhero show, they're not going to be able to say we did that they did it first. Just like everything else in North America, just like everything else in Turtle Island, we did it first. And nothing can ever take that away. And that's to me, something that all of us can share. It's not just about me are the people who worked on the show, none of that would be possible. If people didn't support Kagagi if people didn't buy the comic, there never would have been a show.

When you look at what happened with Black Flies, that book was scheduled to come out through Scholastic’s book for a program a full year later than it actually came out. The release date was moved by a year because of the demand of Indigenous people and non Indigenous people in Canada, writing to Chapters to Amazon, all the major book chains saying we want this book right now. And I told people at the time, everyone who wrote those letters, everyone who DM’d those companies, everybody here made that happen. And we literally moved mountains, we made one of the biggest publishers on our planet, shift a release date for a book by a calendar year that shows right now the market is out there, the demand is out there.

So for people like Myka, if I can help in any way, and you're thinking about getting into comics, give me a holler. Because there's honestly never been a better time and so far is not only the technical ability to make it happen, but the way for you to reach your audience the way for you to promote your book. And the way for you to get it out. There are people like Lee, who can help you to not only get the book made, but get it into the hands of people and get it out on a bookshelf. So that, to me is the biggest thing. Whereas if you wanted to get into producing a film or something, you need to own a production company. That's just the reality of how you apply for grants in this country.

So you can just go out and get yourself up, you know, whatever you want. And for people who are saying, okay, but I can't draw, the web comic are stick people legit. I mean, we've seen it. We've seen web comics that are literally just stick people that do millions of people, when it comes down to at the end of the day is simple. You can't I learn this as a kid. My hero was Todd McFarlane, and I sat around when I was 13 or 14 trying to draw exactly like Todd, what I came to realize at some point is you can't do it because you're not him. And you're never going to be those people who you look up to and you admire. The beauty of being us that you have a unique voice, that you have a unique perspective on the world that no one else has. And if you use that and you sing with your own voice, no one will ever be as good as you at that you will be the absolute best and you will be untouchable. Use your voice, sing your songs, tell your stories, do it your way, and you will find an audience because at the end of the day, that's all we're looking for.

The reason why what when you look at comic books, okay, graphic novel is just a term that was created because the term comic had been stigmatized. I was so glad when Myka spoke. And the first thing she said was Calvin and Hobbes, because that's a comic. It's a goddamn comic. Just like Kagagi a goddamn comic just like Watchmen is a goddamn comic. It's all comics, no matter what we choose to call it. We can call it graphic novels, we can call them trade paperbacks, we can call them comic books, fucking doesn't matter. It's pictures and words. That's what it is. That's comics. So no matter what we call them, they are what they are. All we have to remember is not to stigmatize certain things and think that one thing is worth more than any other. It's all the same. It's pictures, and it's stories. And that's what we're all looking for.

We're all looking for something new. If we look at what happened with comics, things changed around the mid 80s, late 80s When DC Comics started bringing in a bunch of English writers. You had the Alan Moore's you had the Grant Morrison's you had, you know, all these people come in with a different take on superheroes completely changed the industry, what I believe we're headed for now is the same thing is going to happen with Indigenous writers. Because we have fresh takes on things, we have fresh ideas, and we're coming. And for an industry that worked really long and hard to keep us out of it for decades, the doors are open, and we're coming. You can you can slow it down, you can delay it, but it's gonna happen. And that, to me is the most exciting thing. And I'll, I'll end on that note. We're about to see, I think, a real overhaul in this industry in so far as Indigeous creators and Indigenous presence.


I’m feeling inspired. Holy heck, that's. Thank you, Jay. I was Wow. But Lee could be and Jay gave me kind of, you know, a really great segue into it. Are we in a moment now? I feel like Indigenous people broadly speaking, and a whole lot of in a whole lot of places. I feel like we're in a moment. I feel like we are in, you know, a place of opportunity right now. What do you think?


Yeah, I think it's, and it's that I think you're right, it's the opportunity, and it's gonna take that it's gonna take keeping the thumb, it's, you know, it's that pressure point, right? You've gotten and not letting? I mean, I'll say not letting them get away with saying that, like, you can only get like one or two writers in this space, right? Because right now they're starting, what they do is they say, like, we're all about opening up diversity and all the rest, and then they start to narrow that down, right. And then it's only a few that get selected at that point. And only a couple that start to like, build the sort of weed they'll sort of winnow that out as their diversity stuff. But I've seen it, because we saw that happen with you know, that's, that's the Sherman Alexie era, right? Like they were the early 90s was this great boom of Native writers, writing poetry, writing, you know, like, novels, short fiction. And you saw that crest. And, you know, as we know, Sherman took up a lot of the air. But they also the industry was more than happy to accommodate. And they were very happy to accommodate around just a small select group of Native writers that they would champion. And those became part of the canon.

So the opportunity is there. And right now, it's kind of up to us, right? In this part me in the industry to do the best I can, as a publisher, as a bookseller. To keep pushing any chance I can, like with American Booksellers Association, or American Library Association, say like, this is going you can't stop. You have to carry these comics. I'm gonna make you carry these comics, you asked me for a book list, it's going to be these comics, it's going to be wherever I can find them. It's gonna be talking to whoever I can to get licenses to get things out back into print, you know, because a lot of times, they just let stuff go. They're like, Oh, it's fine. You know, whatever, right? I mean, you saw, that's one of the conversations, I met Tim Truman at Indigenous ComiCon and struck up a relationship. Scout went into print, they had a few through Diamond. And then they just kind of let it lapse in terms of the reprints. And I talked to him, I was like, so who has the rights because there's a generation of kids who have never read this, it it should always be in circulation. You know, that's, that's how we want to be able to see all this stuff, right, and to continue to push this stuff forward as much as we can. So I think I think we're at that moment, we're at that, that precipice and it's up to all of us to keep making more.

That's the other part. I say, I was like, don't give him a chance to just I got everyone's like, well, native creatives. I was like, I got tons of people I know. Right? And I'm finding more we just got this whole new chunk of people. For Howl, right? Like, I was shocked how many cool awesome artists doing of Native artists doing amazing things that I kind of knew of peripherally from like Instagram, or from something right. They’re \nNow drawing comics, right now they've got a portfolio. So Myka, same thing, we'll toss that I'll toss it out there like Jay, make that comic, right? We got two good writers in the house, that that will totally help out and find illustrators and do whatever you need to do. Because I think that's the part the opportunity is here. But now we have to keep pushing in every single nook and cranny not just comics, but autobiographical.

So you got Jim Terry's you got Jays coming out, right. So you got two autobiographical comic based anthology, graphic novels, right? Those are going to be you know, those are out on deck. You've got you know, like these niche ones you starting to see more horror coming out, right, we need we need horror genre. We need romance like it is a whole era area of writing that's just not being covered of romance and chick-lit. Right. And I don't mean to degrade it right?  I mean, there's a lot of people that like it, right, I was like, we need to take back our werewolves and we need to redo you know, these these spaces and do our grand romances graphic novel style or whatever, right?

So I think that's, that's where we are, this is, this is the moment and now it's got to be it's, I mean, now we just have to turbocharge it and get and not and not fall into the lull again, because that's what happened in the 90s. Moving into the early 2000s, is, there was just this kind of crest, and everybody really started to focus kind of on literature. So you got a lot of amazing poets that came out during that time and a lot of amazing, you know, novel writers, and all of these other little areas, kind of were not focused on by the institutions, by the publishers by the, you know, the small handful of, you know, colleges and whatnot. So now we're at that space. And you know what, everybody's gotta keep doing this. And especially in the field we're doing, I got shelves, I'm waiting to desperately just fill an entire bookshelf of native comics, people ask me that, like, Well, why do you carry all these things? So I was like, well, native nerds, we still like our ..  I still like spider man, I still want to see Spider Man, I still want to see you know, I'll see a little bit a little bit of Iron Man, you know, it's Batman, white Batman. That's what I'm calling it from now on. So I still want to see white Batman up in here. You No. But I also want to get to a day when somebody asks, and I have one shop that is literally just shelves of native comics and nothing else. That's where I want to be. So that's where I say I was like, that's it's not only a challenge, it's a it's a moment and opportunity and challenge.


I think a lot of novels that came out in the 90s were also particular kind of novels, right? Like they had a particular kind of resolution at the end, some kind of happy ending, like I think of Tommy Orange’s book that came out just a couple of years ago, that did not have a happy ending. And I'm sorry if I'm spoiling that, for people that are listening. The ending is kind of telegraphed well, through the book. And

that's important.

The lack of happy endings is important because we don't always get that happy ending. Sometimes the ending Yeah, and then we just, we just we deal with that. And that's okay. That's, you know, I was just talking with somebody else about another book where there's no happy ending, and that lack of a happy ending forces us to think about social realities, because we always want like even even in the book that I'm writing that the happy ending, like the last chapter, which is about solidarity, I'm telling the story about how hoof clan abandoned the Anishinabeg because they were acting stupid, and off into the woods and left us on our own. That's my happy ending. The Indigenous people should all kind of abandon everybody and go and do our own thing. The heck with y'all. Happy ending my publishers looking for those.


Just a quick end. And I'll just say, I don't think I mean, the thing is what we're looking, I think it's a difference between a a satisfying ending or content ending and a Disney ending, right? The Disney ending is it's all tied in a nice little bow. And we get the outro that like, and years later, Lee went on to, you know, marry his girlfriend and drive the fancy car that he always wanted to through the whole movie, or the book, right? But I always put it I was just like, Listen, you know what my happy ending is? We're still here. You didn't kill us all off? Yeah, that's a happy ending, right? Like, there's a lot of things that happen, and it doesn't. I'm gonna point out tragedy, but I'm still here. My family made it through by luck, by whatever. You did the best you could. That's a happy ending to me. I'm still moving on.


So yeah, well, I think that's true of all of our various representations. Right? We're still here. The you know, despite this, you know, kind of despite the best efforts of a mainstream society that wants to make us all the same. We're still here.

Neal, what do you think and we're just kind of winding up last thoughts. We got six minutes.


I like comics.

Does does does Tim Truman have Indigenous background? Does anybody know?


He does as a matter of fact, he does not directly claim it because that's not how he grew up. But he does have I've seen I've seen his receipts. He does have Cherokee Indigenous if I recall. So true, true, true clan, true grandma. So you know, and again, he doesn't it's not something he banks on or cashes in on so it's usually like, you know, it's not something he draws out too much. But you know, he doesn't live it so he doesn't he doesn't claim it, which I think is really kind of awesome too in a lot of these conversations that we have so it's not lived for him but he knows who his people are


all kinds of I mean, his final thoughts. I don't have final thoughts. I have continuing thoughts and y'all gave me a lot of stuff to look up now.


I'm honestly just my head is just full of ideas. I mean, I have I've comics I gotta finish reading now, I got I, in my spare time, whenever I'm bored I myself write a bit of a psychological thriller that I've been working on for a couple of years now. I don't know what I'm ever going to do with it, maybe maybe it'll just stay in my Google Docs forever and ever. But it's it's, I don't know, storytelling is is great. And I think it's something that everybody can do. And that's kind of my my final. My final take on it is storytelling is for everybody. And everybody should have equal platform to do it


All right. So thank you guys so much. This was a good conversation. Great conversation. You gave me loads to think about. Thank you so much. All right. Bye bye. Thanks, everybody. Bye, everybody.