Although I spend the majority of my time reading, I rarely leisure read (The Outsider by Stephen King sits on my bedside table and every night I think about how lovely it would be to read it, it’s almost ritual at this point). In an effort to make sure my love of reading doesn’t get lost, I’ve started reading comics and graphic novels more and novels less. I’ve lately been on an Indigenous comic reading kick, so I’ve assembled a list of ones that I’ve enjoyed, recommended, and have bought for others and they really enjoyed, too. I hope this list inspires you to read one, or all of them!
Deerwoman: An Anthology
This is one of my favorite comics collection, ever. This collection started as a vignette, called “Deerwoman,” and people responded so well that they expanded the project and created this Anthology. This anthology collects different Indigenous women’s stories and depictions of their life through comics made about their experiences in contemporary Northern America and Canada. Combining all these different stories and experiences creates a beautifully diverse collection of images and story telling techniques, but also shows what it means to be a womxn and Indigenous in North America and Canada, encompassing the celebration of womxn and culture but also the hardship Indigenous womxn face. One story, “MAMA,” by Jackie Fawn was inspired by Julz Rich’s life of saving and supporting Indigenous women from drugs and violence. The bold illustration and colors help Fawn portray Julz Rich as the badass she is, while also alluding to the hardship she and her people have faced, as red is the color to signify Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. I don’t want to give too much more away, but as a bonus fact: this story is called “MAMA” as a reference to Rich’s project called M.A.M.A., which stands for Mothers against Meth Alliance, consider learning about and supporting her cause!
Moonshot 1 & 2: The Indigenous Comic Collection
Moonshot is the perfect way to introduce young adults to contemporary Indigenous artists and themes. Where Deerwoman is a more serious graphic novel and focused on showing and honoring the life of Indigenous womxn, Moonshot 1&2 is less of a graphic novel and more like a sci-fi comic (if that makes sense). Moonshot 1&2 are collections of comics written and illustrated by Indigenous peoples and retell stories and lessons, blending old with new to show that Indigenous people are still here. Using sci-fi, fantasy, and realistic methods, Moonshot 1&2’s authors and illustrators provide amazing, complete stories that are perfectly suitable to be read by young adults in or out of a classroom. These comics can easily find their way onto a syllabus, classroom library, or make a great present for someone who enjoys comics and graphic novels. And, Moonshot 3 has been announced and will focus on Indigenous futurisms! It seems like it will be out this summer so read the first two so you can eagerly await the next one with me!
I debated putting Sixkiller on this list because it’s a bit of a tease. Unlike the other comics on this list, this comic is a singleton and so far the only one released, although Lee Francis and Weshoyot Alvitre (the writer and illustrator, respectively) have confirmed that they are expecting the story to run for 6-8 issues (Smash Pages). HOWEVER, it’s so good, friends. Described by Lee Francis as “Alice in Wonderland meets Kill Bill” it’s a Western that wants to start a conversation about mental health, missing and murdered Indigenous women, generational trauma, and more (Smash Pages). It’s different than Deerwoman though in how it initiates the conversation about these issues though. Where Deerwoman puts more of an emphasis on showing the reader that these problems exist, Sixkiller has these issues brewing in the background of the plot, just underneath Alvitre’s stellar and incredibly detailed artwork. Sixkiller is a dark comic in design and atmosphere, but you could give this to your teenagers or even put in your classroom!
Native Realities: Anthology One
This comic anthology is pieced from various comics that the Native Realities Press has published. When I initially bought this, I thought it was like Moonshot, but was presently surprised because the comics in this book are not one-shots, like in Moonshot. Instead, these are single narratives that if you like you can buy comics of the longer series, like a comic book sampler. The comics in this particular one feel more geared towards young adults, and they are more celebratory of Indigenous presence and history. One of the comics I really liked from this collection was the one about the Code Talkers from Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers. I didn’t know much about code talkers until this comic, and it was incredibly informative for being a single comic.
(Not) Just (An) Other: Sovereign Traces vol. 1
This comic collection feels similar to Moonshot, as it collects singular Indigenous stories that aren’t related to larger plots. Unlike Moonshot the comics seem to have an overarching theme of laughter and trickery in their narratives, which makes it a great tool for teaching Indigenous literature in the classroom because you could create a great lesson plan around this theme. My favorite comic was “Mermaids” by Richard Van Camp, and was beautifully drawn by Scott B Henderson and colored by Donovan Yaciuk; it was a truly unique story from start to finish!
If this list inspires you, please consider buying these comics from Indigenous comic printers, such as Native Realities! Buying from small print and comics shops is the best way to support original comics!
Smash Pages Q&A: Lee Francis IV on ‘Sixkiller.’ Smash Pages, accessed April 2019. http://smashpages.net/2018/08/07/smash-pages-qa-lee-francis-iv-on-sixkiller/