Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki came out last year but I just learned about it. Actually, I stumbled across it on Amazon and fell in love with the cover image.

Book description from the publisher:

All cultures have tales of the trickster—a crafty creature or being who uses cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief. He disrupts the order of things, often humiliating others and sometimes himself. In Native American traditions, the trickster takes many forms, from coyote or rabbit to raccoon or raven. The first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, Trickster brings together Native American folklore and the world of comics.

In Trickster more than twenty Native American tales are cleverly adapted into comic form. Each story is written by a different Native American storyteller who worked closely with a selected illustrator, a combination that gives each tale a unique and powerful voice and look. Ranging from serious and dramatic to funny and sometimes downright fiendish, these tales bring tricksters back into popular culture in a very vivid form. From an ego-driven social misstep in “Coyote and the Pebbles” to the hijinks of “How Wildcat Caught a Turkey” and the hilarity of “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” Trickster provides entertainment for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Along with compiling and editing the book, artist Matt Dembicki illustrated one of the featured trickster tales. Dembicki is the founder of D.C. Conspiracy, a comic creators’ collaborative in Washington, DC, and has won acclaim for his nature graphic novel, Mr. Big. He currently works as an editor for a higher-education association.

From a review at Graphic Novel Reporter:

While there are special classes in school that teach mythology and folklore, it isn’t always easy to find a class on Native American stories. Unfortunately, these stories are often pushed aside just as Native American culture and history can so often get left out of textbooks. Trickster: Native American Tales—A Graphic Collection is a unique remedy for this. In the form of a comic book, it tells 21 Native tales about tricksters. The tales range in style and emotion: Some are straightforward, some are humorous, some are frightening. All of them are interesting.

While the collection is edited by Matt Dembicki, who also illustrated one of the stories, Trickster offers a wide variety of talent. Dembicki explains in his afterword: “For this book, I wanted the stories to be authentic, meaning they would be written by Native American storytellers.” He was able to find many talented people to help him make this collection a reality. One aspect that’s really interesting is how different the stories are from one another. Even if elements and storylines can be similar, each artist and writer has a unique way of portraying the story. The style of art especially varies: Some stories are dark and realistic; some are comical and outrageous; some look as if they came from the Sunday morning funnies section; some look like the art from children’s books; some look like cartoons one might see on television.

The binding thread for all the stories is that each one deals with a trickster. Sometimes the tricksters are animals like Coyote or Rabbit. Other times they’re humans. Sometimes the tricksters are really low-down; at other times, their actions are understandable. Usually their brains help them win the day, even if their methods wouldn’t always be considered acceptable.

The images all came from a defunct blog promoting the book which had a different cover at some point.


  1. Oh, wow, this looks amazing, I think i will have to try and find it now! It is totally up my alley, I love trickster tales and Native American folklore!


  2. is it a graphic novel