Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Paperback – Nov 23 2015
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MOONSHOT The Indigenous Comics Collection brings together dozens of creators from North America to contribute comic book stories showcasing the rich heritage and identity of indigenous storytelling. From traditional stories to exciting new visions of the future, this collection presents some of the finest comic book and graphic novel work on the continent. MOONSHOT is an incredible collection that will amaze, intrigue and entertain! MOONSHOT includes work by 28 writers and artists, including: 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), Jon Proudstar (Tribal Force), George Freeman (Captain Canuck, Aquaman, Batman), 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), Fred Pashe (SpiritWolf), David Robertson (The Evolution of Alice, Stone), Michael Sheyahshe (Native Americans in Comic Books, Dark Owl), David Cutler (The Northern Guard), Menton J. Matthews III (Monocyte, Memory Collectors, Three Feathers), Jay Odjick (Kagagi: The Raven), Ian Ross (Heart of a Distant Tribe, Bereav'd of Light, An Illustrated History of the Anishinabe), Lovern Kindzierski (X-Men, Wolverine, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Spiderman), Arigon Starr (Super Indian, Indigenous Narratives Collective) and more!
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Hope Nicholson, the editor, explains in the foreword, “There is no single, homogenous native identity and MOONSHOT is an extensive exploration of the vast variety of indigenous storytelling in North America.” In this volume there are many different voices sharing stories that represent their heritage. In his introduction, Michael Sheyahshe (Caddo) explains that there are many stereotypes about Natives in mainstream comics. “The MOONSHOT collection, and perhaps others like it, provide a wonderful venue for indigenous storytellers to shrug off these misrepresentations and amplify our collective voice: here we are.”
With collections, the stories are often hit and miss, but here, each piece was a solid contribution. The words and artwork combined to make a feast for the eyes, heart and mind. I really appreciate the mix of stories. They included tales from the past explaining how things came to be, contemporary stories, steampunk and futuristic science fiction too.
I applaud the design of the book. Every page is used to communicate and tell stories even if there isn’t a single word there. Opposite the table of contents there is an illustration featuring caribou. Opposite the foreword, there is a picture done in blues titled “Water Spirit.” You may see both illustrations on the publisher’s website. Before the first official story, there is a two page spread by Jeffrey Veregge showing a basket weaver. There is a story within decorations on the basket, but animals are also flowing out of the basket into the sky. A brief explanation is included, “Weaving images into the material is a way to capture and preserve their stories and culture.”
The first comic is the story of Maya Lopez, also known as Echo. It’s an excerpt from the Daredevil Vision Quest series. Maya is deaf and she shares how she developed ways to communicate. The comic itself uses many ways to deliver the story. There is text, but there are also representations of sign language and unique ways of manipulating the text and images. There are many layers in the graphics and it reinforces the idea that there are countless ways to communicate our stories. The rest of the collection proceeds to demonstrate this thought.
The stories have entertainment value, but may also share things like history and truth. Coyote and the Pebbles is one example. It shares how something came to be (history) in a slightly amusing way (entertainment), but also delivered a truth: people often find it easy to see the selfishness of others, but overlook it in themselves.
In this collection readers will find tales of love, terror, transgressions, forgiveness, loss, and more. There are thirteen stories surrounded by vibrant images that also speak volumes. The title of the book came from the song Moonshot by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) and the lyrics are featured after the final story. On her website, Sainte-Marie notes Moonshot was “Written after a conversation with Christian scholars who didn’t realize that indigenous people had already been in contact with the Creator before Europeans conquered them.” The song shatters stereotypes and embodies the purpose of this collection. A sketchbook section adds a deeper look into some of the illustrations. Brief biographies of contributors are also provided.
Recomendation: Buy it now particularly if you enjoy comics and graphic novels. Even if you don’t typically read that format, I highly recommend this volume to anyone who loves a good story.
The stories range from visiting the origins of folklore, to seeing these stories' modern impact, to brilliantly imagined futuristic sci-fi stories blended with folklore. It continued to surprise me throughout, and the artwork is absolutely stunning. Between every few stories there's a 1-2 page spread featuring an unrelated work of art that often took my breath away.
Obviously it's hard to judge an anthology of stories written by different people. There are some that really stood out, and there were some that were just ok. A number could've used more pages to really develop. There were probably more anthropomorfic animal characters than I normally would've liked to read about, but that's sort of to be expected if some of the stories explore tales related to local wildlife. And there's one story that I just didn't understand at all. All of that being said, the good stories and the incredible artwork were both fascinating enough to make up for them.
A few of my favorites:
Vision Quest: Echo - In a beautiful collage of a limited number of images, a young deaf girl explains the importance of storytelling to her family and culture. She learns how storytelling is possible through images. I probably cried the first time I read this one.
The Qallupiluk: Forgiven - This one isn't technically a comic. It's a short story with an accompanying illustration every other page. It is SO CREEPY. The Qallupiluk is a creature from Inuit legend that comes from the deep Arctic ocean. It's kind of shapeless, with spines and fins, that can morph into other forms. In this story a young Inuit girl makes the mistake of approaching the creature in the water.
Ue-Pucase: Water Master - A futuristic story about two space travelers visiting another planet, this is based on Muscogee Creek story"The Young Man Who Turned Into a Snake." I loved the blend of space travel, modern dialogue, and what turns out to be startlingly real folklore.
Ayanisach - This one may be my very favorite, but it's hard to decide. An old woman teaches her grandson how to tell the story of their people. It starts with what sounds like folklore, then reaches into modern day and explains how an apocalypse of sorts went down. Extraterrestrials were involved and their people had to fight back. The protagonist goes on to tell the story to his young friends in the city, because the retelling of stories is what will teach others in the future.
There's been a long, long history of Indigenous peoples having their culture appropriated in mainstream media. Especially when it comes to comics, indigenous characters are often turned flat and one-dimensional; caricatures that are either foolish or barbaric. Their stories/traditions are blown out of proportion to comic levels and/or completely misunderstood. There is rarely any amount of respect involved when appropriating these stories and ideas. With this collection of comics, indigenous peoples are taking space that they deserve to create and tell their own stories. And they are damn good.