- Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 1 ed. by Hope Nicholson
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s iconic 1970s song “Moonshot” frames the same vision that inspires Hope Nicholson’s edited anthology, Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection. The mixture of science fiction imagery and ecology, of earthbound futures and space-bound history, permeate this sublime collection of folktales. The story behind the song is that Sainte-Marie wrote it after “a conversation with Christian scholars who didn’t realize that indigenous people had already been in contact with the Creator before Europeans conquered them” (buffysainte-marie.com). From the foreword, Nicholson writes that she chose the title because the song “details the concepts of extraterrestrial and religious contact present in . . . native communities across North America long before colonization.” As a collection, the visual impact of comic art reaffirms the visceral impact of these traditionally oral stories, allowing the Indigenous authors and artists to guide these cultural artifacts through new audiences and generations.
The anthology begins with an excerpt from a series starring the Marvel superhero Daredevil, a blind lawyer who fights crime in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Written and illustrated by David Mack, “Vision Quest: Echo” gives a strong sense of what is visually and textually possible in what has been a homogenizing medium through much of comics’ early history. Told through the words of Echo, a Native and Latin superhero, the striking visuals resemble a collage, incorporating Indian sign language, children’s drawings, detailed surveillance sketches, and watercolors. Balancing the visual imagery and the text, when Echo says in the beginning, “My life is a foreign film with no subtitles, you are forced to learn the language,” the words and art on the page become more fragmentary. From there Echo’s writing engages the physical space of the page, flowing in the margins and dictating at odd angles, forcing the reader to turn and twist their vision as the textual interaction becomes tangible and we are forced to “learn her language.”
Curiosity functions as motivation in many folktales, and here we are given different takes on this folklore archetype. In “Coyote and the Pebbles,” writer Dayton Edmonds and artist Micah Farritor present the coyote as a trickster, conflagrating the constellations with his carelessness just as the creatures of the night get permission to fill the dark sky with their portraits, setting the stars in place with shiny pebbles. Whereas all the animals shift between human [End Page 136] and animal form, each is represented in distinctly diverse ethnic visages, affirming the varied aesthetics of Indigenous people in the global community. David Robertson and Haiwei Hou’s story “Ochek” follows a young fisher who, after a squirrel tells him a secret in return for letting the rodent live, persuades his father that there is warmth “in the place where the skyland meets the earth.” In “Ue-Pucase: Water Master,” writer Arigon Starr and artist David Cutler retell a Muscogee Creek story about two men who are warned not to eat found eggs on the riverbank, and soon one of them becomes a snake after disregarding the warning. Cutler’s artistic style choices evince the comic style of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which lends to the science fiction theme of the piece and reinforces its timeless quality. The traditional story is reset in the distant future, and the two hunters are cast as space salvagers roaming distant planets in search of space junk to scavenge; the eggs become an ancient can of Spam, and the warning is remembered as a story told by their grandmother.
Supernatural elements are also a strong part of these selections, for example, in the case of Elizabeth LaPensée and Gregory Chomichuck’s “The Observing,” which tells of an encounter with Star People. Incorporating a visual style described in the introduction as “indigenous steampunk,” the striking art evokes sand painting and shadow imagery with a fluid water motif that creates a precise, dreamlike quality to this “true account of a traditional story that has not been seen before” (73...