Kickstarter Campaign Promotes New Comic Series Inspired By Indigenous Nations Folktales

Cover by Alina Pete

Spike Trotman’s Iron Circus Comics launched a new Kickstarter campaign on August 23 for ‘The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories’ – an all-new anthology of comics inspired by original North American folktales.

From the thrilling tale of Chokfi the trickster rabbit, to the stirring story of the White Horse Plains, the book features more than 100 pages of entertaining and educational stories by artists and writers from Indigenous people across the continent.

Stories include:

  • “As It Was Told to Me”, a creation tale that shows that the world needs good and bad to exist, written and illustrated by Elijah Forbes.
  • “Chokfi,” the story of the trickster rabbit, who is jealous of Otter’s fur coat and tries to steal it, by writer Jordaan Arledge.
  • “White Horse Plains”, a cautionary tale about greed that comes from the Métis settlement St. Francois Xavier, as told by Rhael McGregor
  • “Rougarou” about a werewolf-like creature that haunts the Métis communities, by writer Maija Ambrose Plamondon and artist Milo Applejohn
  • “Agonjin In the Water” about a girl whose tribe is suffering from a drought and finds a Mishipeshu while searching for water, by artist Alice RL.
  • “Woman in the Woods” about a curious girl who sees a mysterious figure in the woods at night, by artist and storyteller Mercedes Acosta.
  • “Into Darkness” about a creature so dangerous and scary that no one dares utter its name, by illustrator Izzy Roberts.

The anthology is edited and organized by Alina Pete, Kate Ashwin, and Kel McDonald, and the contributors list is curated by Alina Pete, who is Nehiyaw (Cree) and who provides a beautiful cover. ‘The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories’ is the fifth volume of the acclaimed ‘Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales’ series. It’s the first volume of the series to be published by Iron Circus Comics, headed up by Spike Trotman who’s Illinois-based company was founded in 2007 and has since grown to become the region’s largest comics publisher. A Kickstarter early adopter, she pioneered the widely-adopted bonus model that’s since completely reshaped the pay system of the small press, jump-starting the current renaissance of alt-comics anthologies. 

Crowd-funding platforms have become a powerfully disruptive way of distributing projects and growing audiences beyond traditional gatekeepers in almost any industry, especially creatively. With the ‘Woman and the Woods’ anthology, not only do new audiences get to be immersed in Native folk tales that they may not find elsewhere in mainstream publishing, they also get to see and read the work of Indigenous artists and other creators of color.

Art by Mekala Nava

Here are is a rundown of the creatives chosen by Alina Pete:

Mercedes Acosta is a Cuban Taíno artist and storyteller who, as a child, was always warned to stay away from trees at night. She loves eerie and joyful things. Mercedes lives in the tropics of southern Florida with her Papí.

Milo Applejohn is an autistic illustrator of Métis and settler ancestry who resides in the unceded traditional territories of the səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

Jordaan Arledge is a trans, Chickasaw comic writer and founder of Arledge Comics. Jordaan’s credits span from the award-winning ALEX PRIEST series to all-ages titles like FUTURE GIRL. When they’re not reading or creating comic books, Jordaan can be found at your local comic book convention talking about indie press and queer representation in comics.

Elijah Forbes (he/him) is a transgender Odawa illustrator who primarily works in the fields of graphic novels and children’s literature. He has facilitated the creation of illustration projects such as the 2020 “Trans Awareness Week” through Twitter, as well as projects benefiting transgender rights groups, such as Sunshine House in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He seeks to create work that uplifts people of transgender and Indigenous backgrounds.

Rhael McGregor is a Non-Binary/Two-Spirit Métis comic artist and animator from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They work primarily in writing LGBTQ2S+ imaginings of fantasy/sci-fi stories in hopes of making the world a little brighter.

Mekala Nava is a reconnecting Chicana designer/illustrator with a passion for storytelling. She likes to incorporate folktales, myths, legends, and history into her work and hopes to move into the realm of graphic novels. She likes to focus on the “human-ness” of storytelling and how it has inspired and connected people throughout our history.

Art by Rhael McGregor

Maija Ambrose Plamondon is a Métis writer currently living on treaty 6 territory. They spend their time writing music, comics, and being bad at rhythm games. Their current comics projects are two webcomics; one called ‘Mystery Solving Lesbians’ which is about two lesbians solving mysteries, and the other called ‘Coming of Age’.

Alice RL is a professional Illustrator and Art Teacher based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The non-binary, Ojibawe artist draws inspiration from their experiences and cultural teachings and melds it with a signature palette of bright, playful hues to create stunning juxtapositions of human brutality and emotion with hope and whimsy. Alice’s range of projects include game and comic book art, digital and traditional illustration, and graphic design.

Izzy Roberts is a Michigan-based illustrator and a member of the Navajo Nation and Kinyaa’áanii clan. They spend much of their time writing and illustrating comics or attending conventions around the Midwest. Armed with a love of seductive horror and a commitment to creating more Native representation in visual mediums, Izzy is a highly dedicated artist with a passion for storytelling.

As the campaign launched, we had the opportunity to speak with Alina Pete and Kel Mcdonald about the new series. Kel has been working in comics for over a decade—most of that time has been spent on their webcomic ‘Sorcery 101’. More recently, they have organized the ‘Cautionary Fables and Fairytales’ anthology series while contributing to other anthologies like ‘Dark Horse Presents’, ‘Smut Peddler’, and ‘Sleep of Reason’. They have also worked on ‘Buffy: The High School Years’. Alina is a Cree artist and writer from Little Pine First Nation in western Saskatchewan. They are best known for their Aurora award-winning webcomic, Weregeek (weregeek.com), and for their Shuster-nominated anthology, ‘Life Finds a Way’.

Art by Milo Applejohn

How did you initially get involved with “The Woman and the Woods” comic? 

Alina Pete: I was asked to come on board as a cultural consultant, as well as a co-editor, to make sure that we were “doing things the right way”.  All Indigenous stories belong to the nations who tell them, not to any individual storyteller, so part of the work we asked our writers to do was to practice proper protocol, and ask for permission from their own nations to tell the stories in this anthology. 

As the cover artist, where did you draw inspiration from? 

AP: I drew inspiration for this cover from the legend of Turtle Island, which is another name for North America. In this legend, Sky Woman falls to the world, which was originally entirely covered in water, and lands on Turtle’s back. This cover shows Sky Woman dancing for joy, and the patterns of plants on Turtle’s shell shows that his shell will soon become the land.  

What are you most excited about with the release of this comic?

AP: What I am NOT excited about with this anthology? The art is gorgeous, our writers have done an amazing job of telling these legends in a fun, modern way, and I can’t wait for people to read it. 

As someone who is Nehiyaw (Cree) background, why was this project important to you personally? 

AP: One word – representation! It will make me so happy to know that kids who’ve never seen themselves depicted in comics before can read this anthology and see themselves on every page. Comics is such a great, accessible medium, and I’m also excited to see people who wouldn’t encounter Indigenous legends in other formats pick up this book and learn the wealth of stories that we tell.

How did you begin curating the list of contributors, and where did you find them? 

AP: Some of the contributors I know personally and have worked with before, but the majority of them I found by looking at other Indigenous-led projects, such as Moonshot or This Place: 150 Years Retold. I also put out a call on “Native twitter” to let folks know I was looking for artists and writers for a project, and I found some great new artists that way. I think my final list had 60+ names on it, so if anyone tells you they can’t find Indigenous creators for a project, they weren’t looking hard enough!

Art by Elijah Forbes

Can you tell us how the idea for the anthology series first came about? 

Kel McDonald: I have always liked myths, legends, and folklore. Back in 2010, adapted the folktale Bisclavret (which is my story in the CFFT Europe volume) as a mini comic. A lot of other comic artists I talked to had a folktale they especially liked that wasn’t well known. I reached out to a few friends (including Kate) and started putting together some rough ideas for the series. 

As you launch the Kickstarter campaign, what do you hope new backers and followers will learn about “Woman in the Woods”?

KM: I hope that it gets them to use this as a starting point to learn more about all the different tales we don’t usually hear about from different indigenous nations.

Why was it important to work with Native artists and contributors on this series? 

KM: These stories belong to the indigenous nations they come from. The point of the series as a whole is to encourage kids to learn about and respect these stories. Not having Native artists and contributors would go against the intention of the series. 

Can you share more about the partnership with Iron Comics? 

KM: I’ve been friends with Spike Trotman at Iron Circus for close to 15 years. As Iron Circus looking to increase it’s line up now that it had distribution with Ingram, we were about to run out of the first print run of ‘Cautionary Fables and Fairytales’s’ Africa and Asia volumes. So part of it was timing. At the same time that the print runs were about to run out, selling the book online was doing okay but selling at conventions were going great. The target demo is children and children don’t search the internet for indie books. But they were always excited when they stumbled upon them at conventions. So for it to continue to grow, we needed to make it easier for kids to stumble upon the books in person. Partnering with Iron Circus just made sense on both sides. 

What were some of your personal favorite fables included in the comic? 

KM: I personally really like Rougarou because I love the two child protagonists reaching out to a “monster” with compassion and care. 


Be sure to back the Kickstarter campaign while it is still running and get an early look at ‘The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories’ by clicking HERE.

Previous volumes in the series.

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