Friday, 19 December 2014

Funding Friday, "Moonshot" - Comics & Crowdfunding News

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Vol. 1
Edited by Hope Nicholson

Hope is rapidly becoming the most cited person on this blog, which I suppose goes to show just how busy she's been this past year-and-a-bit. Having brought both Brok Windsor and Nelvana of the Northern Lights back to our bookshelves, Hope is building a reputation for being the go-to person for comics Canadiana and it makes perfect sense to me that she was the one Andy Stanleigh approached to edit Moonshot, Alternate History Comics' next cultural comics codex. Just this past year AH released another kickstarted anthology, The Jewish Comics Anthology, edited by Jewish librarian Steven Bergson, and hinting at what may become this publisher's modus operandi: collecting well-curated and respectfully presented collections of cultural stories as a literary window onto worlds which we as modern readers may not entirely understand.
Cover for Moonshot; original painting by Cree artist Stephen Gladue
For me, this respectful approach is one of the shining highlights of the Moonshot project. K.D. Callaghan's interview with Andy for directly addresses the issue that immediately struck me as the biggest problem a project such as this faces: cultural appropriation. Andy met the question head-on.
One of the biggest concerns when working with Indigenous stories and culture is that of cultural appropriation. You’ve noted that any traditional stories are being printed with the permission of the elders in their respective communities—a wonderful and respectful way to deal with this issue. Were there any other concerns around appropriation with this project? If so, how did you handle them?

There were definitely concerns about appropriation, and both Hope Nicholson and I are big comic book fans who have seen a lot of the character stereotypes out there. Even with the best of intentions, non-indigenous writers and/or artists can unwittingly cross that line from tradition to stereotype/appropriation. The way we’ve dealt with this is being extremely selective with which writers and artists we bring on board. The collection will be comprised of over 90% indigenous creators, who have all had a say in who they work with on MOONSHOT.  As well, the non-indigenous creators involved are all experts in the field who have a massive history of work in the community behind them, and are welcomed by the indigenous creators involved.
Now, that answer made me pretty damn happy, so when I got around to reading Hope's mission statement for Moonshot (as posted by Sequential), it was the icing on the cake.
  1. Accuracy – No mish-mash of cultures or appropriation. (ie. If a traditional story is being relayed from a Metis culture, don’t have characters with Cherokee outfits).
  2. Permission – a writer brought up that some stories are not meant to be told outside of the community. When in doubt in regards to the appropriate public telling of traditional stories, I’ve asked the writer to consult with an elder if possible. Google is a great place to start with research, but must be used judiciously.
  3. No addiction or self-harm in the stories. Not because these issues aren’t important or relevant, but when you turn on the news and that’s the only representation you see, it becomes a biased view of what everyday culture is. I know there is a greater variety of stories that can be told.
  4. Creators – Together, the publisher and I researched and found a great variety of artists and writers that identify as indigenous. Having stories told by members of the community, and to encourage young aspiring artists/writers is very important. It’s also important to me to prove that there is no excuse for a non-indigenous writer/artist to not create a complex indigenous character, and there are a few non-indigenous creators involved in this collection.
  5. Romanticizing – Too often a writer will see old-fashioned stereotypes and go so far in the other direction that they end up doing the exact thing they wanted to avoid. Any reference to a brave, dying culture rings to me as an untruth and stories that portray this type of depiction are not included.
I think the second item on the list is crucial. I'm far from being an expert on First Nations culture and one of the least comfortable people when it comes to engaging in the seemingly tenuous relationship between the North American indigenous peoples and all us other folk who came from somewhere else. But the sentiment I am most familiar with, and which coincides with what Hope mentions in her blurb, is that these stories are not ours to tell. I can't even begin to elaborate on what all that issue entails, and I won't try, but I'll say that it seems to me the Moonshot project is going about this matter in all the right ways.

"Water Spirit" - Haiwei Hou
As mentioned in that fourth item on Hope's list, the project sports an impressive team of artists and writers.
Claude St-Aubin (R.E.B.E.L.S., Green Lantern, Captain Canuck)
Jeffery Veregge (G.I. Joe, Judge Dredd)
Stephen Gladue (MOONSHOT cover artist)
Haiwei Hou (Two Brothers)
Nicholas Burns (Arctic Comics, Curse of Chucky, Super Shamou)
Scott B. Henderson (Man to Man, Tales from Big Spirit)
Jon Proudstar (Tribal Force)
George Freeman (Captain Canuck, Aquaman, Batman)
Mark Shainblum (Northguard, Corum: The Bull and The Spear)
Elizabeth LaPensee (Survivance, The Nature of Snakes, Fala)
Buffy Sainte-Marie (Fire & Fleet & Candlelight, Coincidence & Likely Stories)
Richard Van Camp (Path of the Warrior, Kiss Me Deadly)
Ryan Huna Smith (Tribal Force)
David Robertson (The Evolution of Alice, Stone)
Steve Sanderson (Darkness Calls, Journey of the Healer)
Michael Sheyahshe (Native Americans in Comic Books, Dark Owl)
David Cutler (The Northern Guard)
...and more!
Stamps by Jeffery Veregge

The campaign is offering a slick-looking selection of backer awards, including a set of limited-run Canadian postage stamps, some artsy bookmarks (something which AH did for the Jewish anthology too, and are well worth the money), and an assortment of prints and digital options. No original art offerings have been posted yet, but there are some canvas prints for those so inclined. Great looking rewards. Oh, and you can get the book too. In case you were wondering.

Suffice it to say I'm hardly the only blogger out here chronicling cool comics crowdfunding campaigns (though I may be the only one obsessed with alliteration), and certainly not the only one following this project. There's a whole host of worthwhile interviews, ponderings, and reviews out around the web that you should take a gander at. And while you're out there exploring, read this thing on First Nations creation narratives that Rebecca Solnit just wrote for The New Yorker. It's pretty rad.

Paper Droids
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The Beat
Digital Drum
They Stand on Guard
Pastrami Nation

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