August 18, 2006

Tania Willard, comics creator

Our Voice is Our Weapon:  An Interview with Native Comics Artist Tania WillardPainter, printmaker, illustrator, writer, and comics artist, Tania Willard is also the editor of Redwire Magazine, an Indigenous youth magazine and website out of Vancouver, and one of the only forums for independent aboriginal culture, art, and politics in Canada. Willard is also a member of the Secwepemc Nation, and a very vocal defender of Native rights. She is also doing a comic strip series on Native working class history called "Red Flags Red Skin" for Our Times, an independent labour magazine. The following is a result of an interview conducted via e-mail.

Recently you published an amazing all Native comics issue of Redwire Magazine. What was your inspiration for this issue?

"I have been interested in comics for a while, and in the imagery of Natives used in the media and popular culture. We had a copy of Everett Soop's book of single-panel comics. Soop was this really brilliant Indian political cartoonist in the '60s and '70s. Another influence and inspiration is Gord Hill's Zig Zag comics. He has been doing these amazing form-line design comic fusion illustrations and stories for a long time. I have seen a lot of the Indian characters in comic books and they are all so stereotypical--we wanted to frame our own Indian characters as more than a shaman, a pretty Indian princess, or vicious warrior. I also think comics are a great way to tell history. There is a comic book called The Illustrated History of the Chippewas of Nawash, and although I think it's not the greatest artistically, the idea is amazing. I guess I always thought that comics are a good way to retell traditional stories, for example The Little Girl and Grizzly Bear story I did for the Redwire comic issue. Our oral tradition for these stories is less and less with the passing of the older generations; so many Native people are seeking to portray these stories in new ways."

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