Today Iron Circus Comics launches a Kickstarter campaign for The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories, the latest entry in the Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales series of anthologies. Edited by Kel McDonald and Kate Ashwin, the series, which has seen four volumes released, has been entirely funded through Kickstarter pledges since its first successful campaign in 2012. The latest entry, the first to be funded and published by Spike Trotman‘s Iron Circus Comics, focuses on North American folk tales as told by a wide array of Indigenous writers and artists.
Joining regular series editors Ashwin and McDonald is co-editor Alina Pete, who curated the contributors list for the anthology and also provided its cover art. With the Kickstarter campaign launching today, The Beat chatted with Pete about how they came to work on the project, bringing the creators and stories together, and conceptualizing the cover. You can find that, as well as previews of a few of the stories in the collection and a full look at Pete’s stunning wraparound cover, below.
Joe Grunenwald: Alina, how did you connect with Kate and Kel to work on this book? What attracted you to the project?
Alina Pete: Kel and I know each other from tabling at comic book conventions, and I was one of the contributors to “Can I Pet Your Werewolf?”, another anthology that Kel created. Kel asked me to join the Cautionary Fables team for the North American edition in order to be a cultural consultant as well as a co-editor. Basically, I’m here to lend my knowledge about the protocol surrounding traditional Indigenous stories to make sure that we’re doing everything “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.
Grunenwald: Which came first as you were putting the book together: the creators or the folk tales? What did you look for when recruiting creators?
Pete: The creators came first. We put together a list of over 50 Indigenous creators, and we asked them to pitch us which legend from their nation they’d like to tell, and how they would like to tell it. For example, “Into The Darkness” is based on traditional legends about a shapeshifting creature, but told as a horror story in a modern-day setting. We wanted to make sure that we showed off just how diverse Indigenous storytelling can be – we’ve got everything from the humor of “Chokfi”, to the historical drama of “White Horse Plains”, to the creation story in “As It Was Told To Me”.
Grunenwald: Do you have a particular favorite North American folk tale, either that’s in the anthology or not? Or any that you wanted to include that there just wasn’t room for?
Pete: I’d really wanted to have the story of Sky Woman in the anthology, since it’s a story that represents the creation of North America. In this legend, Sky Woman falls to the world, which is covered in water, and lands on the back of Turtle. She asks the animals to try and find land, and they dive beneath the waters. Only Muskrat is able to dive deep enough to find soil, and Sky Woman spreads this on Turtle’s back to create the land. However, we weren’t able to find anyone who could tell this story for us. But, thankfully, I was still able to represent it on our cover!
Grunenwald: How did you approach conceptualizing and creating the cover for the anthology?
Pete: As I mentioned, the cover features Turtle, who represents all of North America. This cover shows Sky Woman dancing for joy against the northern lights, and the patterns of plants on Turtle’s shell shows that his shell will soon become the land. The constellations in the sky are Chokfi, from the story “Chokfi”, and the White Horse, featured in “White Horse Plains”. I think this cover really represents what this anthology is about, and I hope it really grabs people’s attention and gets them to read the great stories we’ve featured within!
The Kickstarter campaign for The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories is live now. For more information, check out the announcement below.
(August 23, 2021) Spike Trotman’s Iron Circus Comics is launching a Kickstarter campaign 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.
- “As It Was Told to Me”, a creation tale that shows that the world needs good and bad to exist, which is written and illustrated by Elijah Forbes, a transgender Odawa illustrator who has facilitated the creation of illustration projects such as the 2020 “Trans Awareness Week.”
- “Chokfi,” the story of the trickster rabbit, who is jealous of Otter’s fur coat and tries to steal it, by writer Jordaan Arledge, a trans Chickasaw comic writer and the founder of Arledge Comics, and artist Mekala Nava.
- “White Horse Plains”, a cautionary tale about greed that comes from the Métis settlement St. Francois Xavier, as told by Rhael McGregor, a Non-Binary/Two-Spirit Métis comic artist and animator from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- “Rougarou” by Mystery Solving Lesbians writer Maija Ambrose Plamondon and Métis-based artist Milo Applejohn, about a werewolf-like creature that haunts the Métis communities.
- “Agonjin In the Water” by the non-binary, Ojibawe artist Alice RL, about a girl whose tribe is suffering from a drought and finds a Mishipeshu while searching for water.
- “Woman in the Woods” by the Cuban Taíno artist and storyteller Mercedes Acosta about a curious girl who sees a mysterious figure in the woods at night.
- “Into Darkness” by Izzy Roberts, a Michigan-based illustrator and a member of the Navajo Nation and Kinyaa’áanii clan, about a creature so dangerous and scary that no one dares utter its name.
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; the series has previously been crowdfunded by Kel McDonald and Kate Ashwin.
“The acclaimed Cautionary Fables and Fairytales series has been chronicling folktales from around the world for nearly a decade, hopping from Europe to Africa, to Asia, and the Oceania region,” said guest editor and cover artist Alina Pete. “Kids and adults alike have enjoyed these beautifully retold stories. Some have been spooky, and others have been silly, but they are all memorable.”
“We’re thrilled that we’re partnering with Iron Circus Comics for the latest Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales anthology,” said Kel McDonald. “It’s really helping the series grow.”
“We’re always excited to have the opportunity to showcase the work of incredible independent artists with Cautionary Fables, and this volume is really something special!” said Kate Ashwin. “Everyone has worked hard to bring together a book that will delight both returning readers to the series and new readers alike, and we can’t wait to share it with all.”
For updates follow, Iron Circus Books on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To support the campaign, head to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ironspike/cautionary-fables-and-fairy-tales-north-america?ref=27nxjm.