As previously mentioned, there’s a new Kickstarter campaign I’m really excited about–MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection. The 200-page volume is dedicated to “showcasing the rich heritage and identity of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis storytelling” and was put together by Andy Stanleigh of AH Comics Inc. and edited by Canadian comics researcher Hope Nicholson. We’ve showcased Hope’s work before (most notably on the Brok Windsor and Nelvana of the Northern Lights campaigns) and were really excited to see she was working on this project too. I got a chance to chat with Andy earlier about MOONSHOT, how the project’s going so far, and some of the concerns that come with being a white publisher working with Indigenous creators and their traditional stories.
I see MOONSHOT was selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick on its first day–how does that feel?
That feels so great, not just for AH Comics, but for the writers and artists who are involved in MOONSHOT. It’s amazing to see how well received the entire collection–and everyone involved–has been. The book was also posted as a Featured Project in Comics on Kickstarter a few days after being selected as a Staff Pick, too!
What drove you to create MOONSHOT? How did this anthology get started, and, since it seems like a massive undertaking, how long has this project been in the making?
The idea for MOONSHOT was something brewing for a long time with me. One of my very first commercial illustration jobs (many many many moons ago) was to create Haida styled artwork for a souvenir company in Vancouver. The way I approached that job was to research and learn everything I could about Haida art, and especially the history. Since then I wanted to do more, and after the success of the Jewish Comix Anthology this past year I felt it was a good time to get started. But with the plethora of communities and cultures in North America, this wasn’t something I would even dream to approach myself. Bringing Hope Nicholson on board as Editor of MOONSHOT has been an incredibly educating experience, and this collection would not be the amazing work it is without her input, work and expertise.
As for how massive an undertaking it is, well, that’s just the type of thing that motivates us. There are a lot of moving parts and logistics to a project like this, but we aren’t doing it in a rushed way that would put the quality in jeopardy. We spent months planning the theme, researching content, and building the roster of creators.
What are your hopes for the anthology? What kind of impact do you want it to have on comics, or even literature in general?
The most interesting part I personally like about the collection is discovering the various methods of storytelling that the creators are using. There will be some straight-up comic book/graphic novel style stories presented, but also prose passages with illustrations, visual stories without dialogue, and more. My hope is that this collection shows that books in general–and the stories they contain–don’t have to be either text or comic book–one or the other, you know? There are so many layers and traditions in visual storytelling that are rarely seen in the mainstream. That is what I’m excited for people to see, and hope that that inspires aspiring writers and artists to take their storytelling to a whole other level.
Looking at MOONSHOT, and given your previous projects (Trauma, The Jewish Comix Anthology, etc.) it seems like AH has an interest in publishing comics and graphic novels that deal with minority groups or showcase diversity in some way. Can you comment on this at all?
AH Comics does try to produce comic books/graphic novels that go beyond just entertainment. Hobson’s Gate | Trauma, for example, is about a character suffering from PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. It’s both a thrilling film-noir detective story, but also a message. Anxiety and depression are something people ‘discuss’, not get engrossed in a graphic novel with. A portion of proceeds from every sale of Trauma are donated to mental health charities. The Jewish Comix Anthology shows a side of a people and culture that is rarely seen or celebrated outside of the culture itself. The Jewish culture in today’s minds is mired with the strife in the Middle East. But what is not in the forefront of people’s minds is that the religion dates back almost 6,000 years, and has spread to many nations all over the world, all with their own stories and versions of Hebrew legends. It’s the same when one talks about First Nations, Aboriginal, and various indigenous communities across North America–the first thing that comes to mind and in the news of late are the issues facing reservations, government neglect, and other problems they face from within and without. It’s unfortunate because today’s issues in politics and in the news overshadow the history of these various cultures and communities, and from that history you find some of the most inspired storytelling in the world.
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement started earlier this year and MOONSHOT is the exact kind of project that the movement has asked to see more of; has #WeNeedDiverseBooks affected or informed MOONSHOT’s development?
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement did not affect the development of MOONSHOT, no, though we have reached out to them to see if they’d like to get involved with the fundraising efforts. We would be more than happy to have them get behind the project.
One of the biggest concerns when working with Indigenous stories and culture is that of cultural appropriation. You’ve noted that any traditional stories are being printed with the permission of the elders in their respective communities—a wonderful and respectful way to deal with this issue. Were there any other concerns around appropriation with this project? If so, how did you handle them?
There were definitely concerns about appropriation, and both Hope Nicholson and I are big comic book fans who have seen a lot of the character stereotypes out there. Even with the best of intentions, non-indigenous writers and/or artists can unwittingly cross that line from tradition to stereotype/appropriation. The way we’ve dealt with this is being extremely selective with which writers and artists we bring on board. The collection will be comprised of over 90% indigenous creators, who have all had a say in who they work with on MOONSHOT. As well, the non-indigenous creators involved are all experts in the field who have a massive history of work in the community behind them, and are welcomed by the indigenous creators involved.
Andy thank you so much for your time, we really appreciate it and we’re looking forward to MOONSHOT‘s release. There are only 29 days left in the campaign and a ton of great rewards including beautiful art prints and canvases, so go back them!
//Images courtesy of Andy Stanleigh and Hope Nicholson.