August 25, 2008

Andrea Grant's MINX

Adventures of a Comics GoddessAndrea Grant is a female phenomenon in the mostly-male industry of comic books and graphic novels. The twentysomething Canadian got her start as a model and poet. Her written work has been compared to that of Leonard Cohen and her life has been the subject of three documentaries. But her greatest achievement (the one that makes her squeal with pride when talking about it) is the success of her original comic book, "Andrea Grant's Minx," which hit stands in 2006. The story focuses on a warrior vixen who has both the maternal and feral power of wolves. Andrea draws on her Native-American roots and visions she has in dreams to create the colorful, complicated world in which Minx is the ultimate badass babe. Here she talks about the struggles of being a woman in a male-dominated industry, her unabashed use of sexuality to succeed, and why Minx should be everyone's hero…

I dream often of wolves and purple skies and entire conversations in my head become dialogue. Words tumble around my brain so frequently that I leave a pen and paper beside my bed so that I can write with my eyes closed as I drift into Dreamtime, the world I've created for my characters. I will never sleep normal hours again because I need to keep walking that delicate line between dreams and reality to come up with new inspiration.

I began to spend all those sleepless nights creating an arts magazine called Copious which garnered a huge underground cult following and made me famous in Canada. Minx originally ran as a comic strip in the back of Copious and the response from readers was positive. In fact, the concept was so popular I began to attend events as Minx dressed in a custom latex suit just to gauge her popularity. I bought a digital camera and started taking photographs of my friends and me in character, making collages, recording audio, and filming video so that the realm of Dreamtime would have a multimedia aspect. By this point, television shows were doing documentary features on Copious and Minx. The comic book medium intrinsically made sense.

Dreamtime Diaries

The world of Minx is real to me, albeit more of a hyper-reality. Minx is a representation of my own vivid dream world and interior landscape. Influences include mythology, fairytales, the duality of human nature, and the contradictions of modern womanhood. Just like in real life, the relationships are complicated with various alliances, conflicts, and love affairs. One of my favorite stories is “Everything's Coming Up Halloween” which is basically a retelling of white men killing the Native Indians. Minx goes on a little stabbing rampage, avenging her bloodline, and we get into the archetype of Mother Earth suffering. This is where we gain a little more insight into her character, because Minx is usually very controlled and cool-headed even during a fight scene. My stories are either poetic and surreal or gritty, like film noir. The characters lead the way; I have only scratched the surface of what I intend to do.
Andrea GrantCD: Even though Minx has elements of the fantastic the characters are based on real people in your life, and MINX bears a striking physical resemblance to yourself. What made you want to incorporate your friends and loved ones into the comic stories?

AG: I’ve always been obsessed with the lines between fantasy, reality, and dreams. Native Americans believe that when we dream our soul is actually traveling to another dimension. It’s been scientifically proven that our nervous systems can’t tell the difference between an imagined experience and a real experience. MINX was cathartic, created right after I emerged from a very dark period in my life. I was young and had just left an emotionally abusive husband. I was in the process of mentally deprogramming my brainwashing—I had been brought up in a fundamentalist Christian community. I went through an intense spiritual death and rebirth, and I was starting over with nothing, clawing my way out of a cave. I began to connect to Native beliefs through my father, who had experienced the classic ‘Shamanistic breakdown’ which resulted in his refuting Christianity to become a medicine man. MINX began as an alter ego that I felt safe working with creatively as I sought to find my voice as an artist. Minx is an archetype of the empowered, modern woman that challenges tradition while embracing sexuality and femininity.

CD: You have a fascination with Native American mythology--did you work that into the comics?

AG: Minx the character is part Native, as am I. Therefore Native American mythology plays a large role in MINX—not only in terms of archetype, but also to drive the plot. Ley lines often act as a sort of impetus for the schema— simply put, the bad guys need to gain access to the ley lines, and Minx and the good guys hold the key. The Native community is largely under-represented in comics. I was raised ‘white’ so I didn’t grow up on the reservation, but I traveled to pow-wows with my father and witnessed a despair that saddened me—in contrast to the flashes of pride that occurred during ceremonial dances and drumming rituals. It’s a beautiful culture that has been massacred and taken advantage of for decades, and the people are still recovering from that sorrow. There is a huge problem with drug and alcohol addiction, and a high diabetes rate because Indians are not built to consume the same foods as Caucasians. There is a high suicide rate among the youth and an alarming pregnancy rate. I think it’s because a lot of these kids cannot see their way out of the misery that can come from growing up in an insular community that holds the pain of genocide in their memory. It is my hope that by creating a comic that re-interprets some of the traditional stories, Native people will feel inspired and represented. One of my favorite writers is Sherman Alexie (most famous for Smoke Signals, the film adaptation of his book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven). But there need to be more writers coming out of the Native communities and breaking the silence of our mythology.

CD: MINX has some werewolf like traits, why do you think so few werewolf tales have female protagonists?

AG: Most fantastical creatures are traditionally typecast by genre. Werewolves, vampires, mummies, and zombies were initially portrayed as men, while witches were the female version. To some extent, this makes sense since men are stereotypically portrayed as more violent and aggressive (hence the monster-like qualities) while a woman-gone-wrong was considered to be more conniving and manipulative than simply aggressive. Clearly, we do not respond to or understand gender the same way today that storytellers did in the past. Minx has werewolf qualities without being a sadist; she represents if not only the strength and resilience of a werewolf, but also alienation from being on the fringes of society, from being different.
Comment:  See also Michael Sheyahshe's interview with Andrea Grant and The Story of Minx on the Copious Amounts website.

If Indians aren't turning into wolves, they're running with wolves. Examples include Red Wolf, Wolf Lake, Kyla in Smallville, WILDE KNIGHT, and the Twilight books. Is there any question that people consider it "natural" to link Indians with an animal that represents savagery? When is someone going to write a story in which an Indian turns into a bunny, frog, or fly?

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

1 comment:

The Pin-Up Poet said...

Thanks for posting this - I just stumbled across it.

- Andrea Grant