Cover for The West Was Lost. Click to read the comic
Native steampunk has been presented in many different ways and, like the comic Finder (which had been reviewed here a couple of weeks ago), The West Was Lost is another drawn tale that speaks in layers and plays with the concept of linear storytelling. The creators Beth Aileen Lameman (née Dillon) and her husband Myron Lameman are both Native (Beth has Irish/Anishinaabe/Métis heritage and Myron is from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation) and passionate about indigenous representation in their creative projects. Beth Aileen’s past work includes her comic Fala–which is described as a Native “Alice in Wonderland”–, the urban fantasy animated series Animism, and the games TimeTraveller–about a time-hopping Mohawk man from the 22nd century– and Techno Medicine Wheel. Myron is an independent filmmaker whose previous work includes his recent documentary made with support from National Geographic All Roads called Extraction, about the Beaver Lake Cree people’s fight against the Canadian federal government over tar sands expansion on their land. He has also done the short films Blue in the Face (also working with Beth Aileen), Indigenous Streets, and Shadow Dances and Fire Scars.
The comic itself is a one-shot 24-page piece, but the story it contains weaves in and out of time, consciousness and space. The summary of The West Was Lost is probably the most linear way to describe it:
The cold north wind brings with it chaos and harsh reality when decisions are made by Nezette, who leads members of the Sovereign to rid the west of the intruding Zhaagnaash people by putting flame to oil. Nezette must confront her worst enemy: the temptation of Windigo in herself.
Outlined routes towards discovering and conversantly addressing Carla Speed McNeil’s graphic series Finder.
Panel from Finder: Sin-Eater, Issue 9: Artist/writer: Carla Speed McNeil, Lightspeed Press, March 1998
One inspired comic maker, Carla Speed McNeil, who began self-publishing Finder through her own imprint of Lightspeed Press in 1996, has been ardently continuing to develop this ongoing graphic series since 2005 as a webcomic. The creative commitment McNeil has applied toward the progressive formation of Finder has been appreciably recognized receiving a Lulu Award in 1997 and numerous Ignatz Awards leading to several Eisner nominations since 2001 1 In transitioning her successive work to a digital domain, McNeil has continued to draw critical accolades while expanding readers’ awareness within this worldly field, and in 2009, Finder was duly awarded an esteemed Eisner for ‘Best Digital Comic’. Topically, McNeil has accepted a representative offer from one of the foremost comic book publishers in the United States, and her prolific graphic saga will soon be widely republished in chronicle volumes by Dark Horse Comics.
Steampunk can be very much a “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” sort of thing, as The Doctor would say. History can be re-written, new paths explored, inventions changed or inverted or perhaps, never discovered at all. While exploring these possibilities of incorporating the non-West into steampunk, it can be more complex than making everything rusted over, but set in Zimbabwe, or building a steam energy plant in Thailand. A creator should also consider the effect of the environment and cultural social norms when also addressing how steampunk technologies evolve and impact that world.
Virtuoso is one fine example of a work that considers these questions when building a steampunk world. Set in an African-inspired, matriarchal society, this comic has already gotten loads of attention because of its wonderful Art Nouveau style; what is fascinating to me is how Virtuoso is very steampunk but also firmly rooted in a world independent of the West.
Jon Munger and Krista Brennan, the creative duo behind this comic, took some time to discuss the intricacies behind Virtuoso, plus much more.
I’ll be at ICON in Long Island this weekend and so I’ll be leaving a few tidbits for you to munch on while I’m out (by the way, my con schedule is easily traceable).