Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Pittsburgh-based Lewis is among the contributors to this pretty cool, possibly unique new Fulcrum Books publication that takes a graphic-novel approach to Native American tales.
Editor Matt Dembicki, a Fairfax, Va.-based artist, paired native writers from tribes around the U.S. with artists like Lewis (a Shadyside resident).
The book ($22.95) is a handsome, full-color, 232-page paperback on glossy stock. The 21 tales cover everything from why there are stars in the sky ("Coyote and the Pebbles") to a song about an ursine grouch ("The Bear Who Stole the Chinook").
While some of the stories impart lessons about nature, or getting along with others, one of the real pleasures is their cheekiness. As in other classic fables and folk tales, the human characters and animal characters have a lot in common, and they're seldom terribly noble. Like us, they're often impatient, greedy, lazy and ungrateful. The trickster is the critter who uses others' traits against them -- sometimes so the victims get what they deserve, but often just because he can (or because a good meal is involved). Many of the stories resolve in a fairly open-ended, shaggy-dog kind of way.
The artwork, meanwhile, has something for everyone, from gorgeous realism and the stripped-down, stylized angularity you might expect from a "graphic novel" to stuff that wouldn't look out of place in Ren & Stimpy or even Pokemon.
Lewis contribution is to "Rabbit's Choctaw Tail Tale," about why rabbits (some of whom are apparently very talkative) don't have long tails like they used to. A fox is involved, along with the suggestion that rabbit's long tail would make the perfect fishing line.
The storyteller is Tim Tingle, an Oklahoma Choctaw and a touring story-teller and writer who speaks and performs at tribal gatherings, universities and more.
Lewis's style falls on the classic-cartoon side of things -- you can really see such avowed influences as MAD Magazine and Tex Avery.
Lewis, a freelance cartoonist, illustrator and designer, specializes in editorial, children's books, greeting cards and more, with clients like McGraw-Hill, Science Magazine, Johns Hopkins University and the New York Press. He has solo work out too, including the graphic novel The Claws Come Out (IDW Publishing).