July 27, 2007

Review of STRONG MAN

Back in March I reported on STRONG MAN, a comic published by Association of Alaska School Boards' Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement (Alaska ICE). Now I'm finally getting around to reviewing it.

Written by Ishmael Hope, the comic tells the dual stories of Dukt'ootl, a legendary lad who goes through a series of trials to become a Tlingit tribe's "Strong Man," and "Duke" (also Dukt'ootl), a modern boy who struggles to pass tests, stay on the basketball team, and avoid bullies. The stories closely parallel each other; each victory or defeat for Dukt'ootl has a counterpart for Duke.

Unfortunately, this robs the comic of suspense. The events in Duke's life seem preordained by the Strong Man legend. He's more of an allegorical figure than a flesh-and-blood human.

The art by Dimi Macheras, who also drew the Chickaloon comics, generally works well. The cartoonish, manga-inspired style is bold and dynamic and only occasionally lapses into awkwardness. As Macheras's talent grows, it may be something to behold.

Hope and Macheras have done the right thing in STRONG MAN: adapted a traditional tale to the modern world with permission from tribal clans and elders. But the result will appeal only to children, if anyone, not to adults. Hard-core fans of Native comics will want to add STRONG MAN to their collection, but casual fans can pass.

Warning:  The comic supposedly costs $5.00 if you buy it online. But if you click the "purchase" button, you won't get a chance to review the transaction. Instead, the Association of Alaska School Boards will send you the comic and bill you for it.

The problem with that is a steep shipping charge, $6.55, that you weren't informed of. Paying $11.55 for an average comic is way too much, especially since the actual postage for mailing a comic is less than a dollar. I suggest you contact the AASB before buying STRONG MAN; learn the final price including shipping and try to negotiate a better deal.


Ishmael Hope said...

Rob, I guess that's fair, but the thing was, it was created for young people. And I've seen it resonate with especially middle and high school Alaskan Native boys, as intended. That's not to say it should rob it of surprise or complexity. Native literature has gotten enough kiddie lit treatment and condescension, and I don't believe I added in that area.

Ishmael Hope said...

Another thing. I don't know if you've ever wanted so badly to get on the high school basketball team, but I and most of my friends did, so Duke feels pretty flesh and blood to us. You're totally entitled to your opinion, and thanks for the review! The comic, as far as I'm concerned "works", and doesn't need to work everywhere with everybody.