December 26, 2007


ALONG THE CANADIAN is an odd duck of a comic book. Even the name is odd: "Along the Canadian" what?

Along the Canadian River--the largest tributary of the Arkansas River--apparently. When you can't figure out the title even after reading the comic, that's a bad sign.

The art is another odd thing about the series. It's sort of a cross between wide-eyed manga and old-style woodcuts. It looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

Anyway, here's the scoop on this series:

Xeric Grant Winner Publishes 'Along the Canadian'1873: Outlaws tracked to hideout along the Canadian River.

Writer/Artist Joel Rivers, after receiving the prestigious Xeric Grant for comics self-publishing in Fall 2003, invites you to go out West via the subconscious.

Recasting the Western as Comic Book, Along the Canadian is a tale of bad men, vengeful ghosts and a scruffy Sheriff caught in the middle.

Part of a 6 issue mini-series, Issue #1 is a western-style ghost story combining researched historical facts with purely fictional characters. The protagonist, Sheriff “Red” Johnston, is a stubborn, honorable man who believes that the Law can enact justice in a land filled with violence and greed. His three deputies seem standard western posse-men, but have the long shadows and bloody footprints of the real men that “won” the West. The Natives, far from being easily bribed with glass beads, are survivors that have consciously avoided civilization.

Johnston’s Nemesis, the horse thief “Neargasaw” Fred--a white man adopted by the Creek Tribe--is the only person who has the answers the Sheriff needs. Their verbal and physical duel, waged as men of opposite moralities, is not “good” verses “evil” but more like “respectable” verses “unsavory.”
The plot

I've read only #5 of the six-issue series, so I can't say for sure what it's about. But here's the plot:

A sheriff arrives at a mission school in Talequah, Oklahoma. He's looking for a son he fathered with a Native woman but never knew. A nun points out the boy, but the sheriff decides his son is better off without him.

The sheriff departs and the son follows him into the woods. There they're captured by a gang of crooks led by an Indian named Gutter. (Gutter appears to be an Injun Joe-style thug, unfortunately.) The gang quarrels over their captives and the boy learns the sheriff is his father.

A posse of marshals bursts in and begins shooting. The sheriff sends his son to safety on a horse. The boy rides all the way to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he tells the townspeople what happened. A couple of them recognize the sheriff's horse and vow to help him.

And...that's it. Presumably the story concludes in the next issue.

Comics online

Fans of the series are in luck, because it's now available online. According to a press release:

Xeric-Winning mini-series now on WOWIO.COMWriter/Artist Joel Rivers, brings his Xeric-wining western 6-issues series, Along the Canadian, to the digital book website, WOWIO, based, appropriately, in Texas.

Along the Canadian is a tale of bad men, outlaws and lawmen both, vengeful ghosts, immortal hillbillies and a scruffy sheriff and his friends caught in the middle. The setting is the famed Canadian River in Oklahoma Territory, where Belle Starr roamed, famous for outlaws and bloody feuds.
Alas, I wasn't inspired enough to read the rest of the series, even though it's free. But if you're curious, you can find ALONG THE CANADIAN here.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
There's nothing odd about that title -- it perfectly would befit a late-19th-Century dime novel and so is more than appropriate for a direct descendant thereof...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

But this comic isn't a dime novel. If the title is to work in the modern era, it should fit modern sensibilities.

That includes the fact that most people haven't heard of the Canadian River. And that most people would guess "Along the Canadian" refers to "border," not "river."

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the review. I can only say these were my first books, 3 long years ago, and I plan to learn all I can from putting it "out there". One thing is clear, each issue tends not to fare well as a "stand alone."

Thanks for taking time to write a review. Let me know if you are against me adding this to my "reviews" page.

And, yes, most people think it's about Canada. Live and learn, I suppose.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
The Canadian River (both branches!) runs right through Oklahoma and so writerfella much is familiar with such a riparian entity. He has fished in both tributaries, has swum in both, and knows that the 'Tonh-Kya-Heenh' (Water Men) live in both. How are the rivers there in Culver City, CA?
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Sure, you can use my comments, Joel.

Even if people knew what "Along the Canadian" meant, I'd still say it's a dubious title. This series supposedly has outlaws, Indians, and ghosts, yet it sounds like a nature documentary.

"Peace Party" suffers from the same shortcoming, so I'm not trying to act superior. It was an experimental choice that arguably failed. When the graphic novel comes out, I'll probably relegate "Peace Party" to the subtitle. E.g.,


FYI, Ballona Creek passes through Culver City. You can read about it here:

Anonymous said...