Today, Iron Circus Comics launches its 30th Kickstarter with Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: North America. The fifth anthology in this series that retells fairy tales and folklore from around the world, The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories steps into the world of Indigenous stories as told by independent Indigenous creators in a 100-page collection.
Joining series editors Kate Ashwin and Kel McDonald is artist and animator Alina Pete, who also curated the contributors for the anthology. Creator of the webcomic Weregeek, Pete is a proud member of the Little Pine First Nation, a Cree Indian reservation in central Saskatchewan. Drawing on their artistic skills and their heritage, Pete also provides the cover for this anthology, and has taken a few moments to answer some questions for WWAC!
First and foremost, the cover of this book is stunning! Tell us about the inspirations that helped shape this image.
Kinanāskōmitin! I knew that this cover should be a picture of Sky Woman dancing on the back of Turtle Island, which is another name for North America. The turtle and the dancer are both inspired by Woodland Cree art, which I love, and the soft, organic shapes draw heavily from Jerry Whitehead’s work. The northern lights were heavily influenced by Ted Harrison’s work, who, though non-Indigenous, captured the dancing quality of the northern lights perfectly.
What was your process in curating contributors for this project?
We knew that this anthology was a great place to feature emerging Indigenous artists and writers, and were committed to having an all-Indigenous lineup. But, because Indigenous identity can be complicated due to things like the ’60s Scoop and the loss of Native status in the past, we asked our contributors to self-identify their backgrounds and nations.
Another complication is that traditionally, the stories belong to the nation they’re from, not to any individual storyteller. Part of our writers’ responsibility was to make sure they’d done the proper protocol for their nations to ask for permission to retell these stories in this anthology. This group of writers has done a great job of making sure they were doing things “the right way,” and our artists have delivered absolutely stellar artwork!
Contributors to this anthology come from all over North America and are telling many different stories. Did you find many similarities in the stories you learned growing up? Did you learn new things through the stories that are shared in this anthology?
The stories I learned growing up were mostly nehiyaw (Cree) legends, some told to me by my extended family, and others I sought out at the library. I was always fascinated by other nations’ stories, though! Editing this anthology was great because I discovered several legends I was unfamiliar with, like “The Woman in the Woods” and “Chokfi.”
Why is it important to you to be able to share these stories?
Growing up, I would often go with my mother when she travelled to different schools and day camps to work as a storyteller. She impressed on me the basics of storytelling — how to capture an audience’s attention, and how important it was to tell the story the same way each time. Watching her work was always amazing — even the most unruly teens would sit quietly and listen when she spoke. For some of these kids, it was the first and only encounter they’d have with Indigenous culture, and I think it was really powerful for them to have these experiences.
With this anthology, we can share these stories with a much broader audience, and in a fun, accessible way — comics are great for capturing the attention of visual learners!
What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this anthology?
I want readers to experience the diversity and beauty of Indigenous cultures. There are so many different kinds of stories in this anthology — from the humor of “Chokfi,” to the historical drama of “White Horse Plains,” to the creeping horror of “Into the Darkness” — Indigenous stories really have it all!
Check back tomorrow to learn more about Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: North America and its Kickstarter as we chat with editors Kate Ashwin and Kel McDonald.