|Welcome to Indigenous Peeps in the Industry or 'IPI' - my blog series that celebrates Indigenous artists, writers, and other creatives working in the comic book and/or video game industry. In this edition, I talk to super-author, Richard Van Camp.|
I first met Richard in 2008 at the Eiteljorg Museum, as we were both panelist on Native Americans in Comics panel (thanks for initially getting us all together, Pete Brown!).
You can visit Richard on Facebook, Twitter or at his website: www.richardvancamp.com.
Michael Sheyahshe (MS): Background info: what is your tribal affiliation and where are you from?
Richard Van Camp (RVC): I'm a member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. I am the author of two children’s books with the Cree artist George Littlechild: "A Man Called Raven" and "What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?" I've published a novel, The Lesser Blessed, which is now a feature film with First Generation Films; my collections of short fiction include Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go and Other Stories, and Godless but Loyal to Heaven. I've authored three baby books: Welcome Song for Baby; A Lullaby for Newborns; Nighty Night; A Bedtime Song for Babies and Little You (now translated into Cree, Dene and South Slavey!), and I have two comic books out with the Healthy Aboriginal Network: Kiss Me Deadly and Path of the Warrior.
My graphic novel, Three Feathers, Whistle, is about mental health and asking for forgiveness. The latest cinematic adaptation of my work is "Mohawk Midnight Runners", which is a short movie by Zoe Hopkins based on my short story, "Dogrib Midnight Runners" from The Moon of Letting Go.
is about restorative justice; my new novel,
MS: Did you have a lot of cultural interaction growing up? (Family gatherings, dances, ceremonies, etc.?)
RVC: Yes! Lots of storytelling and family gatherings. Best friends in the world and Fort Smith was an incredible town to be born into. It was a great time to grow up in the 80's, as well.
MS: When did you first get into comics?
RVC: My appendix blew up inside of me when I was in grade 2. As luck would have it, my neighbors brought me all of their comics to keep me company. Mike Grell’s "The Warlord" (issue 13) saved me because I made a deal with myself that when I got out of there, I’d get every single issue. I did. I have the entire series and followed it for years. I’m grateful to Epic Magazine, Savage Tales and Heavy Metal magazine--The Savage Sword of Conan, too!--because they lit imagination on fire.
MS: What is your favorite comic book of all time…something that turns FRI-SUN into a 'lost weekend'?
RVC: The Walking Dead. I've been following it for years and it’s only getting better. Rachel Rising is incredible, too. I love the graphic novels. I also laugh out loud any time I reread “Injury” comic
MS: What is your specialty in the "biz" (comics/gaming industry)?
RVC: I write comics and graphic novels. I have two comics out with the Healthy Aboriginal Network: Kiss Me Deadly, on sexual health, and Path of the Warrior, on gang violence prevention. I also have a graphic novel out on restorative justice with Portage and Main: Three Feathers, and I have a graphic novel out on mental health titled "The Blue Raven." I have a new graphic novel coming out next year titled "A Blanket of Butterflies" on how storytelling and cultural protocol can be a peacemaking tool to stop escalating violence.
MS: Did you get special training and/or education for this?
RVC: I started editing for The Healthy Aboriginal Network and learned the tools of the trade from there.
MS: Do any of your comic books feature Native American or Indigenous characters in them?
RVC: All of them feature Dene people and northerners. I’m proud of that.
MS: Do you have an opinion about Indigenous characters in comics, video games, and/or pop culture?
RVC: I'm always happy to see my cousins in anything pop culturish :)
MS: Do you know of any other Natives in the biz?
RVC: I'm blessed to work with Cree artist Steve Sanderson and Chris Auchter who is Haida on our comics.
MS: Any words of wisdom for others (Native or non) looking to do what you do?
RVC: Read as many comics and graphic novels as you can and work with a great team: editors, layout artist, publishers and artists who love the genre and are wanting to create works of forever.
MS: Thanks, Richard...you rock! :)