December 19, 2007

Review of ON THE TURN

ON THE TURN is the second major comic book from the Healthy Aboriginal Network. It tells the story of Brianna, a girl in an urban Native family. Needing money for an iPod, she takes up gambling at school with predictable results. Eventually she lies to and steals from her family before admitting she needs help.

The good

The story by Jay Odjick (THE RAVEN) and Patrick Tenascon is reasonably well constructed and involving. It makes a reasonable case against compulsive gambling. One hopes readers will see how easily children can get sucked in over their heads.

The questionable

Except for a talking circle used as a response to problem gambling, there's nothing Native about this story. It could be about anyone. I don't know if that's good or bad.

The bad

The art by Odjick is supposed to be realistic, but it looks vaguely Cubist to me. You know, eyes, noses, and chins at weird angles? Kids may find it edgy, but I'd say it's merely crude.

The ugly

I believe that kids who think they're good at poker might be taken by kids who are better at it. But I find it hard to believe a novice like Brianna would think she could win against experienced players. When you know nothing about a game, you don't bet all your money against the big boys. You start off slow and learn the game gradually.


ON THE TURN isn't as good as the group's first effort, DARKNESS CALLS. But I've seen their third comic and it looks like another winner. Kudos to the Healthy Aboriginal Network for continuing to tackle social issues in comic books.


Anonymous said...

Kwey, Rob, this is Jay Odjick.

I wanted to say thanks for your kind words regarding the "On The Turn" comic book, as well as address some of the less than kind words you have for the book.

Thanks for saying that you thought the story was reasonably well constructed, and I mean that sincerely. Patrick (who was a screenwriter on Moccasin Flats) and myself were asked if we could come up with a story involving problem gambling. We never chose that specific issue, but upon request, did pitch four different stories regarding the issue (The first three were dismissed).
Our first was set on a Native community, but we were informed that the funding agency would rather have seen the story take place in an urban location; this limited our ability to include Native related activities / content. As it is, I think we accomplished a fairly realistic look at Native kids Ive known off reserve (living in cities), nevertheless.

Without going too in depth about the project, we were facing tight deadlines and pretty vague "suggestions" regarding the story and elements therein from a funding agency we neither dealt with ourselves (only through HAN), nor could actually identify (I still, to this day, have no idea who they were.)

As it relates to the art: The book itself had to be shown to a series of focus groups as a DVD - I had two weeks to draw the entire book in "storyboards" for the DVD, then approximately another two to actually pencil it, or about a month overall. Given that the finished pencils HAD to be done in that amount of time (Im sure youre familiar with the standard comic page per day pencilling timeframe) and that the comic was 30+ pages in length, I think the book turned out as good as I couldve expected. I DID inform HAN that without proper time, the book wouldnt have looked as good as possible.
Now, Im not trying to make any excuses - but the fact of the matter is that we finished that entire book, script to finished colored pages, in around three or four months, max. HANs first comic was done, according to them, in over 9 months. You do what you can, or what deadlines will allow. All your criticism is fair; I merely want to take the time to say that I believe, had we more time, or as much as I'd said I'd need, the book could have and would have looked better.

The one thing I really take exception to in your review is "The art by Odjick is supposed to be realistic, but it looks vaguely Cubist to me". Supposed to be whom? I'm just curious as to where you got this notion.
The art team involved decided that because this book was going to be done quickly, and was aimed at urban youth, we should go for an art style that we thought urban Native youth might be familiar with as opposed to a realistic comic book art style - something with a hint of the urban / graffiti edge, and a slight touch of anime or manga influence. Now, Ive never claimed to be the best anime or manga styled artist, but thats what I was going for - in no way whatsoever, "realistic", as you claim here.

My usual art style is pretty different from the stuff seen in On The Turn, and anyone interested can check out more of my crude artwork at, until I launch my new website this year, or check out Kagagi, coming from Arcana Studio later this year.

Thanks for the review, though Rob. I hope this sheds a little light on the inner workings of that type of project though I'm sure you're aware of just how "editorial" and various groups can have a hand in creating or telling a story as well as the artists involved.

You said that "one hopes readers will see how easily children can get sucked in over their heads" and according to the feedback received through the DVD focus group testing process, there was at least one teenaged girl who said the story made her want to avoid gambling.
At the end of the day what more can you hope for?
Speaking for myself, I'd hope the story, regardless of crude art, or lack of Native (speaking of which, we werent allowed to actually use the word Native, as we were told it was offensive to some youth, so maybe you should watch that here, too) content made a few kids think twice about gambling, but we got through to at least one.
That's something.

Rob said...

Thanks for writing, Jay.

I suppose it's not your fault if you had too much "guidance" and not enough time. If the final product doesn't meet the creators' expectations, it's ultimately the publisher's responsibility.

Of course, we consumers can't judge a comic by these behind-the-scenes criteria. We have to go by what's in front of us.

I say the art was "supposed to be realistic" because it looked that way to me. There was indeed a hint of an "urban/graffiti edge," but it came and went from panel to panel. It was inconsistent, in other words.

If the art had consistently had this "edge," I might not have commented on it. But half the time it looked realistic and half the time edgy. To me, it appeared to be an uneven attempt to do realistic art with an edge.

Anyway, feel free to keep me informed of your Native comic-book projects. And I've never heard anyone say the word "Native" was offensive. Until I see evidence of this in the dozens of articles and e-mails I read every day, I'll stick with it.