Iqaluit woman's comic book explores the monsters within us

·2 min read
A panel from Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett's upcoming comic book, Stopping By Woods. (Submitted by Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett - image credit)
A panel from Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett's upcoming comic book, Stopping By Woods. (Submitted by Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett - image credit)

There's something profound about exploring the good side of "bad" characters — their perspectives, their motivations — that compels Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett to draw.

The Iqaluit artist and teacher is getting ready for the publication of Stopping By Woods, a 12-page comic book about best friends who go on a hiking trip together. One is "a little bit weird," she said, and the other is an outgoing, flamboyant kid.

Far from town, things go wrong and the outgoing boy has an accident. To save him, his friend decides to reveal a secret that could have life-altering effects.

The story was inspired by Chislett's love of monsters and how they are portrayed in media — a portrayal she identified with growing up as a girl, a queer person and an Indigenous person in Canada.

People tend to hide parts of themselves that are different, she said, so they won't be shunned.

"A lot of times, monsters within media are things that people just don't understand," she said.

"I think when we learn to embrace differences in media and monsters in media, and stuff like that, we can start to embrace differences in real life. That's not to say that different people are monsters, but a lot of people have the same reaction to them as if they were."

That perspective has always inspired her to tell stories that reflect a different side of the "bad guy," she said, but she didn't know how to portray them until she fell into comic book illustration.

Submitted by Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett
Submitted by Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett

Her art drew the attention of Hecate Press, a small comics press in Dawson City, Yukon, which invited her to work with them as a northern artist.

Her first published comic was part of an award-winning anthology last year, The Northern Gaze.

Stopping By Woods will be her first solo work.

The name takes its inspiration from a famous Robert Frost poem: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The vibe, she said, was perfect for her story — stopping for a moment to enjoy the snow falling and the quiet of the woods, before having to move on because you have things to do.

"I really wanted to reference that," she said.

Her comic book was shown at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival last month and will be available later this summer.

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