This week, a new comics anthology by Spike Trotman’s Iron Circus Comics is hitting Kickstarter. The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories is the fifth volume of the acclaimed Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales series, and the 30th overall project by Iron Circus, which has raised over $2 million via Kickstarter.
This new anthology is edited and organized by Alina Pete, Kate Ashwin, and Kel McDonald, and the contributor’s list is curated by Pete, who is Nehiyaw/Cree. (And if that weren’t enough, Pete also created the cover.) Each story is inspired by original North American folktales, from the tale of Chokfi the trickster rabbit to the stirring story of the White Horse Plains.
To peer behind the curtain, I spoke to Pete via email. We delved into finding the best creators to tell short-form stories, the nature of an anthology as a kind of playlist, the power of these stoes, and so much more.
Hi Alina, David Brooke here from AIPT. I wanted to start by asking why you think short-form comics stories are so popular right now? From your webcomic, weregeek.com, to DC Comics seemingly producing a new anthology each month, to this new Kickstarter, it seems like it’s more popular than ever!
Alina Pete: I think that short-form comics are great because the story is so condensed. You can sit down, read 4-10 pages or so, and then be left asking questions about the world and the setting, and wanting more. It’s what makes them so tricky to write – you really have to pack all of the character development, world-building, and a beginning, middle and end into just a few pages, so it really makes you, as a writer, have to think really hard about the essentials of the story and cut everything that doesn’t serve the story you’re trying to tell.
As the curator of The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories, what goes into finding the right storytellers?
AP: Well, in addition to all the usual things you need for an anthology – people who can tell a complete, engaging story in a limited number of pages – we had to take into account the traditional protocol surrounding Indigenous legends. 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 Elders and/or nations to tell these stories in this anthology.
Can you talk a little bit about the creators involved in the project?
AP: We have got such a great group of strong Indigenous voices in this project! Jordaan Arledge is the founder and editor-in-chief of Arledge Comics, and they produce really great queer and Indigenous-focused comic series. We’ve also got Elijah Forbes, a transgender Odawa creator, who has worked really tirelessly to raise awareness about trans rights and to uplift trans and Indigenous youth… I could go on and on about every creator in this book. Everyone is from very different nations, and from different parts of North America, but they all share a common passion for raising the visibility of Indigenous people in comics!
When getting the order of stories right, is it similar to crafting a playlist?
AP: Yeah, very much so! You want to hook people with the first story, then create a “playlist” of comics that ranges from funny to scary to poignant. I think that is really featured in this anthology; from the humor of “Chokfi” to the historical drama of “White Horse Plains”, to the creeping horror of “Into the Darkness”, we’ve got such an amazing variety of stories!
There are various types of stories in this anthology, I was curious were there “gaps” so to speak to fill as far as covering different aspects of storytelling or key elements of North American folktales?
AP: There’s a couple. I really wanted to push to make sure that we were representing northern voices in this anthology, since they so often get overlooked. Unfortunately, due to all the circumstances surrounding covid, the artists we had spoken to from the Yukon and Nunavut were unable to contribute to the anthology. I’d also hoped to find someone who could retell the creation story of Sky Woman and Turtle Island, which the cover is based on, but the protocol surrounding creation myths meant that this wasn’t possible in this anthology.
Are there any stretch goals you’re most excited about?
AP: I believe we’ll be offering a print of an absolutely beautiful page from Elijah Forbes’ “As It Was Told To Me”, and I’m already making space on my walls for it!
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