December 01, 2008

Native steampunk Web comic

The West Was LostThe shine of colonization turns to rust.

THE WEST WAS LOST, a web comic written by wife and husband team Beth A. Dillon (Anishinaabe, Metis, Irish) and Myron A. Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree Nation) brings a new genre to comic books--Native Steampunk.

The cold north wind brings with it chaos and harsh reality when decisions are made by Nezette, who leads members of the Sovereign to rid the west of the intruding Zhaagnaash people by putting flame to oil. Nezette must confront her worst enemy: the temptation of Windigo in herself.

The West Was Lost is edited by Andrew Foley with art by Frank Grau Jr., a collaboration sponsored by social media group Zeros 2 Heroes (http://www.zeros2heroes.com/) and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (http://www.aptn.ca/) after Beth's script and concept work won a community-based contest in June 2008.
Comment:  Follow the link to read the comic online.

Rob's review:  On the positive side, the story focuses on a group of Native characters, including a strong female leader. Apparently the Indians have inherited the Earth and will be our heroes and guides in this series. They use cultural terms and references frequently, so the storytelling has an authentic sheen to it. There are no blatant stereotypes; the Indians are dressed simply in standard Western clothes.

On the negative side, I could barely follow the story. In fact, I couldn't tell if it was one complete story, a teaser for a longer story, or a semi-random selection of pages. The story is almost wordless and it suffers for it. The comic could've used perhaps 5-10 times more exposition.

I guess the discontinuities I sensed were from flashbacks or flash-forwards. Unexpected wordless transitions aren't a great idea in the first few pages of a new series. When readers don't know the characters and have no idea what's going on, they can get lost easily.

The plot, more or less

What I gleaned from THE WEST WAS LOST is this: The story is set in some alternative world in the past or future where oil is rare and trains run on water. A group of Indians has left their home somewhere in the northeast and traveled somewhere west. They may or may not be citizens of the Sovereign, which may or may not be a Native nation and may or may not be the only organized power left.

As the story opens, these Indians are visiting or living in a small Western town. They're attacked by zombie-like white people. These pseudo-zombies may or may not be the only non-Indians remaining. They may or may not be windigos--i.e., people possessed by evil spirits. The town goes up in flames, people flee, and our heroine sees a zombie-like image of herself. Has a windigo possessed her also?

If it sounds as though I'm unsure what's going on, I am. This is like an unfinished, storyboard version of the comic. Now that the art is complete, fill in the missing words, people, so we can understand what's going on.

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

6 comments:

Melvin Martin said...

"On a Personal Note" -

"As the story opens, these Indians are visiting or living in a small Western town. They're attacked by zombie-like white people. These pseudo-zombies may or may not be the only non-Indians remaining. They may or may not be windigos--i.e., people possessed by evil spirits."

Hmmm...,

This description sounds like the twelve years I spent in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Beth Aileen said...

The West Was Lost is a coded story of time slippage. In oral storytelling, there are layers--more and more of the story is revealed the more it's heard.

Fala, another comic of mine which is coming out this Friday, is much more step by step.

This doesn't speak to my writing ability so much as the style of this comic that represents Anishinabemowin language structure where a word is not only a single word but also a description.

Ultimately, are you curious? Do you want to know more? Listen again, and keep listening, until how to listen becomes clearer.

Myron Lameman said...

Wow, way to support the work of REAL indigenous media creators, sorry this one wasn't up to the very high standards that "Peace Party" has set in how Indigenous comics should be made (Is it even indigenous? Where are the natives involved? Names?).

You're a real pioneer, Mr. Schmidt, or should I say Colonial.

Ekosi.

Rob said...

No, I wasn't curious enough to want to read more, Beth. But I'd be curious about another story starring Fala.

I don't support anything uncritically, Myron. Besides, I'm sure you get enough uncritical support from your Zeros2Heroes fans.

FYI, I'm the writer of my comics, and I'm not Native. But the comics are Native-themed even if they aren't Native-created.

I tried to use Native artists when I started, but I couldn't find any with the right mix of talent and commitment. But I got a lot of advice from my Native friends and advisors.

Now that more Native writers and artists are available on the Net, I plan to employ them in future publications. I'm talking to some of them now.

Finally, I never claimed to be a pioneer like the Natives who did TRIBAL FORCE. Therefore, your feeble attempt at sarcasm doesn't bother me.

jdogg said...

Myron you're not going anywhere criticizing this guy. He's got a seriously misguided idea of being the "authority" on Native narrative. He has a serious case of self importance. I won't even go into the numerous problems that are inherit with white people creating what they deem to be "Native" narratives.

I'll say this much, he's got serious nerve.

Keep doing what you're doing and good luck, it sounds like a fascinating project.

Rob said...

I've read a few hundred Native-themed comics and about 10,000 comics overall. How about you, JDogg? What's your experience in the field of Native comics and sequential storytelling?

I'm enough of an authority on Native comics to get invited to speak about them at Native-oriented events and organizations. But I don't think I've ever claimed to be the authority. I have as much authority as my experience has given me--no more and no less.