Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Paper Street Comics
Last Airbender Movie Manga
Recent Books of Interest
Trickster by Matt Dembicki (ed.) and other contributors (Fulcrum)
Dembicki has put together a great introduction to Native American trickster tales here, in accessible "graphic novel"
versions (novellas?) for those who have yet to catch up with the adventures of Coyote -- the continent's first
media star -- outside of a Looney Tunes cartoon. But the stories don't just stick to the well-known Coyote,
including other trickster luminaries -- tricksters being those characters who can move between worlds,
boundaries, rules, and sometimes genders, and transform things -- like Raccoon, Raven, Rabbit, and
more. The "tellers" here are Native American storytellers -- each paired with a stylistically different
artist (from "serious" painted work to exaggerated cartooning) -- which means that the story structures,
often defying Western expectations of "linearity" (and cause and effect), are preserved. Not that a
real trickster is especially worried about, you know, structure.
Careful #1 by Victor Carungi and Gentry Smith (writers) and Adam Markiewicz (art) (Paper Street)
Plucky indie comics maven Carungi here returns with an "urban myth"-style teen horror tale, where a
previous horror committed at a high school becomes the stuff of supernatural incarnation, starting
as a kind of joke, Candyman-style, and becoming -- well, much more serious. You've seen this set up
before in a lot of R-rated horror films -- cruel jocks (with secrets), coping nerds, and Revenge
that Gets Out Of Hand. One issue into this four-issue series, this seems to be at least as
fun-cum-shocking as the best of that drive-in genre's fare (remember drive-ins? No?), and
gives some promise it could take some new twists of its own. Stay tuned -- and be careful
what you say out loud.
Various "Last Airbender" tie-ins (Del Rey)
So on the eve of going to press, a package arrived at NG's Western Headquarters with three
different tie-ins to M. Night Shyamalan's film adaptation of the Nickelodeon's anime(ish)
cartoon hit, The Last Airbender. (Originally called Avatar: The Last Airbender, but for
some reason, they're de-emphasizing the first part). The film is the first of purported
trilogy, and what's interesting for film buffs among these tie-ins (there's also a
"prequel") is to compare the reprinted TokyoPop book that was the "original" adaptation
for the TV series, to the one-volume film adaptation. As merrily cheesy as the TV version
is -- replete with exaggerated manga mouths, popping eyes, etc. -- the book sets up more
in the way of stakes and suspense than the film adaptation appears to: in other words, by
compressing the story into three summer multiplex acts, as movie versions are wont to do,
the story may not be, well, quite as rich as the series itself. We'll see. Nonetheless,
either will perhaps be reasonable road reading for your in-house Airbender fan during
your summer travels.
Trickster Tales with Matt Dembicki
Comics creator Matt Dembicki is the editor/creative force behind Trickster, a graphic
novel anthology collecting tales of North America's first adventure heroes -- trickster figures
like Coyote, Raven, and other "animal humans," who both transformed the world around them,
and were often transformed by it -- in spite of themselves. (see sidebar review)
Copyright © 2010 Mark London Williams
The book pairs up Native American storytellers with comics artists, and provides a great
batch of reading that is, well, both thrilling and yes, transformative. As you'd demand
from any encounter with a trickster!
In the course of my comics review writing, I asked Dembicki some (virtual) questions
about the anthology, which has been gaining lots of media notice -- perhaps because
a project like this is so vastly overdue.
What was the original impetus for the collection?
I was reading a prose anthology of Native American trickster stories when I decided
to sketch some of the animals depicted in the various stories. Then it occurred to me
that these tales could make great stories in a sequential art format. But if I was
going to undertake such a project, I wanted to include Native American storytellers
to have them write stories based on their tribes' trickster tales. That was the
only way to make it authentic.
How did you decide which trickster tales to include? (Did you want to keep
from becoming "all-Coyote," say?)
My goal was to have geographic representation among the storytellers. And since
each region has its own trickster animal or being, it guaranteed a variety of
animals. So, for example, many of the Southwestern tribes have coyotes, while those
in the Northwest have ravens, Northeast raccoons and Southeast rabbits. Some tribes
had a few trickster animals, so I encouraged storytellers to consider stories that
were particularly unique or ones that featured lesser-known tricksters.
How did you match "teller" to artist? (Especially given the range of
visual styles in the book?)
After reading a storyteller's submission, I would give him or her a short list
of about four artists who I felt would do a good job rendering the story. I
included a range of styles, from cartoony to more realistic. The storyteller then
selected which artist he or she wanted to illustrate the story.
Had each teller worked in comics before? If not, how did you work the breakdowns and layout?
None of the storytellers had experience working in the comics format. For most
of the stories, the selected artist took the prose story and did some character
sketches and pages thumbnails and got the OK from the writer. Many of the artists
also did research on their own to ensure things like the setting, clothing and
shelter were as authentic as possible.
Any thought of trickster tales from other cultures? Pan? Elijah? Anansi? (etc...!)
I don't think so. This project took four years to complete, which is quite a
bit of time. But I may work on another Native American-focused project, something
historically based. In the meantime, I'm finishing up a graphic novel about a great
white shark's journey across the Pacific!
(An earlier version of this interview appeared at Guys Lit Wire)
Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series,
gets trickster-y when he teaches writing classes, and Twittery @mlondonwmz