March 05, 2007

Background on STRONG MAN

We get e-mail:Dear Rob,

In my capacity as Public Information Coordinator for the Association of Alaska School Boards' Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement (Alaska ICE), I facilitate a variety of projects that support and encourage youth success in school and life. A primary area of our organization's focus is on Alaska's many Native cultures.

About two years ago I was researching Native American themed comic books with a project in mind, and discovered your substantial and impressive body of work in this area. I ordered a variety of comics from you, including the Peace Party series, and signed up to receive your Indian Comics Irregular newsletter.

I planned to write and inform you of our most recent project, the Strong Man comic book, but I just received your latest newsletter that includes a blurb from the Anchorage Daily News story about it. Word apparently travels fast!

I became aware of the Anime-inspired work of Chickaloon illustrator Dimi Macheras in 2005 while working on another print project. I had been friends with writer/storyteller/actor Ishmael Hope for several years. Both had independently expressed dreams of putting together a comic book based on traditional legends. I showed Ish the Native American themed comics I had ordered from you, and he got very inspired. I then introduced him to Dimi. The two of them really hit it off and began collaborating on the comic book. Nearly two years in the making from concept to printed book, it is now available.

As the director of this project, I want to thank you for the high standards you have set. Your meticulous approach to portraying Native American culture in all forms of media guided the Strong Man creation process. In order to insure historic and cultural accuracy, the creators worked directly with the Tlingit clan whose version of the Strong Man story inspired this telling. Clan leaders gave permission to use the ancient story, and clarified every detail of it's plot. As a sad footnote, a primary collaborator, elder and clan matriarch Elizabeth Katasse, passed away just prior to the book's publication. Strong Man is dedicated to her memory.

Strong Man's creators are two very talented young Native Alaska men, who, in my opinion, are an up-and-coming comic creation team. Alaska ICE published the book and is helping to promote and distribute it. We're very interested in assisting them in getting their work recognized. They have already begun collaborating on their next comic, which may eventually turn into a series of Alaska Native legends. These traditional stories are rich with imagery, adventure, and cultural values-perfect subjects for graphic novels!

I've been contacted by Peter Brown of the Eiteljorg Museum regarding the inclusion of the Strong Man comic book in the museum's upcoming Native American Portrayals in Comics program. I noticed on the museum's poster and website that your work will be included, and that you'll also be a panel discussion participant. Due to scheduling conflicts, unfortunately none of us involved with the book will be able to attend the event. But being newcomers to the field, we're honored to have the book considered for inclusion.

I'm mailing you a couple copies of the Strong Man comic book. We are very interested to receive any feedback you may have about the book. I'm also enclosing two other recent Alaska ICE projects I've helped to facilitate, for your review:

  • The "Traditional Values of Alaska" poster depicts the traditional values of Native people from Alaska's various geographic regions, including Alutiiq, Athabascan, Cup'ik, Inupiaq, Southeast (Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian), Unangan and Yup'ik cultures. It is being distributed free of charge as an educational resource to schools and organizations statewide.

  • "Another Culture / Another World" book by Father Michael Oleksa explores the great diversity of Alaska's cultural mosaic through the re-examination of historical events, amusing anecdotes and his analysis of representative Alaska Native legends. Father Michael Oleksa invites us to join in his 30-year journey through Alaska to illustrate the importance of cross-cultural education and his belief in the intrinsic value of every culture.

  • Both items are available on the Alaska ICE website at

    I'm also including some "official" background information about the book and its creators at the end of this email.

    Thanks again for your (unknowing) guidance! Have a great time at the Native American Portrayals in Comics event.

    We'll be there in spirit!


    Steve Nelson
    Public Information Coordinator
    Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement (Alaska ICE)

    Association of Alaska School Boards
    Advocates for Alaska's Youth
    Comment:  This is a perfect example of the right way to do Native-themed comic books.

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