Statement on Illustrations of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

(Clockwise from upper left): Elaine Frieda Alook, Danita Faith Bigeagle, Maggie Lea Burke, Amanda Bartlett, Abigail Patrice Andrews, Roberta Marie Ferguson, Angel Carlick, Sharon Abraham.

(Clockwise from upper left): Elaine Frieda Alook, Danita Faith Bigeagle, Maggie Lea Burke, Amanda Bartlett, Abigail Patrice Andrews, Roberta Marie Ferguson, Angel Carlick, Sharon Abraham.

On Monday, January 5, I began a memorial art project of sorts. Concerned about the Canadian federal government’s seeming disinterest in the disproportionate number of indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in recent decades – and, especially, by a comment from our Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the issue “wasn’t really high on [their] radar” – I started to tweet an illustration of a missing or murdered indigenous woman daily to the Prime Minster’s account. To “adjust his radar,” I said. After the first day, I added a second component to the project, tweeting information about an indigenous-led advocacy group or individual doing work on this issue, hoping not to detract from the efforts of people who have been advocating for these women and their families for years. I was hoping to raise awareness of the issue – both within the federal government and within the Canadian public at large – and, I hoped, to honour each of these women, albeit in a somewhat unorthodox way. This project would take over three years.

The illustration I posted on Monday, January 12, of Sharon Abraham, will be my last illustration in this initiative. After extensive conversation with a group formed of families of some of the missing and murdered women, I believe I cannot continue the project in a way that respects these women’s autonomy or a way that helps rather than harms the families of these thousands of women. I apologize for hurting the families of these women and for making them relive painful memories.

As a man of no indigenous background, I realized the project tread a very thin line, and I tried to be very cautious to avoid things like self-aggrandizement, appropriation of image, and overshadowing the real work of advocacy groups. I started the project on impulse (never a good idea), realizing I was a dilettante in indigenous culture and issues, and so, I tried to be as open and non-defensive about the project as I could. I spoke to representatives of NWAC (the Native Women’s Association of Canada) and WWOS (Walking With Our Sisters) early on to see if they were supportive of the project and how I could help direct attention to their organizations. I tried to divert many of the journalists who reached out to me to these groups. The last thing I wanted to be was a Macklemore, showing up with concern to an issue late, having no personal connection to (and not much knowledge of) the issue, and receiving much undue credit for a symbolic gesture.

However, over the weekend, some of the families of the missing and murdered indigenous women got in touch with me about a number of concerns they had about the initiative. Some relatives had been in touch earlier and were supportive of the project. But other family members saw the project as extremely problematic. They outlined a number of concerns, primary among them being the issue of permission. (The women’s families had not consented to have their loved ones’ images used in this manner.) They were also concerned that the attention the project was receiving was drawing attention away from the indigenous-led efforts, and the very illustrations themselves – which were thought to be too cartoony – were seen as inappropriate. Additionally, as I realized earlier, there is great dissent within the indigenous community as to whether a public government inquiry or an independent inquiry would be more beneficial. As these concerns came from family members, I took them very seriously. I told the group I’d work on a plan that would (I hoped) address those concerns. I presented the plan on Sunday.

The five-point plan is too long (and probably irrelevant) to include here, but it involved voluntary participation from the women’s family members through an open call (that is, people would have to request their missing relative to be drawn – I wouldn’t seek out family members and harangue them) and an offer to donate the illustrations to an indigenous advocacy group, rather than tweeting from my personal account. A few other alterations, such as refusing to speak to media about the project, were also included.

This plan did not adequately address the family members’ concerns. They felt the illustrations themselves were very problematic, because cartoon drawings denoted, to them, fun and jokes. “There is nothing funny or cute or joking about my mother being killed by the police. My journey for justice for the past thirteen years has never been fun,” said one family member. If this comic-booky look was my style of illustration, perhaps I wasn’t the most suitable artist for this memorial project.

More than anything, I don’t want to antagonize the families of the victims.  Whatever the initiative has accomplished – and I admit, it may have accomplished nothing at all – if the family members feel it hinders rather than helps advocacy efforts on this issue, there’s no reason for me to continue. I need to respect the autonomy of these women (or in this case, their autonomy as represented by their next of kin) and stop the project.

Again, I apologize for the harm I’ve done to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and to any indigenous-led advocacy groups that I’ve harmed through this media distraction. Thank you for your interest in the project and your concern about the thousands of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada. Thank you for calling me out and bringing your concerns to my attention. I apologize, also, if this statement reads as defensive. I’m trying my best to not be. Instead, I’m hoping you can see this lengthy statement as a process of me learning what I did wrong, so I don’t make the same mistakes in the future.

If you were supportive of the illustration project, please consider donating to the indigenous-led organization, It Starts With Us (http://www.itstartswithus-mmiw.com/donate), as I’ve done, and will do so again. If everyone who retweeted one of my illustrations donated even a few dollars, it would make a huge difference to their advocacy initiatives. Please also consider getting involved in one of the Women’s Memorial Marches on February 14.  And if you’re more into Twitter, Gregory Scofield (@gregoryscofield) and Lauren Crazybull (@LCrazybull) are both doing very important projects regarding #MMIW that you may want to follow.

Please don’t be upset this initiative is ending. There are many other ways you and I and we all can help bring attention to this extremely crucial issue and be allies. And if any indigenous-led advocacy groups could ever use some cartoon illustration for a project or two, I invite them to get in touch. I will happily volunteer my skills.

Thanks for understanding.

P.S. And if you totally want to unfollow me on Twitter, go for it. I understand most of you were there to follow the illustration initiative, and not to watch me live-tweet of The Equalizer.

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The Best of 2014

As it did in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, the year came and went and I didn’t consume nearly as much popular culture as I would have liked. (Though some would say – despite my regrets – I consumed far, far too much.) Though no one will care at all and my taste is, by most measures, truly heinous, here are lists of things – namely comic books, movies, songs, and (new!) unfulfilled projects – I greatly enjoyed in the year 2014. A few days’ late, because I’m late for everything! Enjoy! The lists are in no particular order, unless stated otherwise.

 

Best Comic Books
(Read and released in 2014)

gotham-academy_612x9291) Gotham Academy – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, & Karl Kerschl

I think everyone is fully aware I have an affinity for teen detectives, so this new series set in the Batman universe and featuring prep-school sleuths Olive and Maps, was like catnip. Luckily, it’s also extremely good, with well-written protagonists who eschew character cliches, beautiful manga-influenced artwork, and some unexpected DC Comics cameos. It’s also a billion times more fun and colourful than any other book in the Batman line.

2) Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley (with Jason Fischer)

O’Malley’s follow-up to the landmark Scott Pilgrim series had a lot of expectations to live up to, and while – let’s face it – it doesn’t surpass Scott Pilgrim‘s heights, it is a perfect follow-up. The characters are more mature, dealing with adult things like regrets and failure, and the book features some of O’Malley’s trademark visual humour. It’s a dazzling standalone piece, like Sliding Doors rewritten as a whimsical comic book.

3) Lumberjanes – Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson

I have never been a teenage girl, nor – save an ill-fated three days at a pirate-themed day camp – did I spend any time camping in my youth, but I love Lumberjanes! Action-packed and quirk-heavy, the scouting adventures of Mal, Molly, Jo, April, and Ripley (I assume their names are all homages to other literary and movie heroines) are really a delight. The good news is it started as a miniseries, but the people wanted more, so there will be Lumberjanes adventures well into 2015!

4) Daredevil – Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Daredevil has been on my annual list of favourite comics for three years’ running now, and with good reason. I’m not sure there’s a more consistent superhero series. Mark Waid has made me love a character and supporting cast that never cared much for before, and Chris Samnee has become my favourite current comic illustrator. (Is there any story he can’t draw well?) Since they restarted the series in 2014 and Daredevil relocated to San Francisco, their collaboration powers have only become stronger.

5) Silver Surfer – Dan Slott & Mike Allred

One of my favourite all-time comic illustrators, Mike Allred (Madman, taking on one Marvel’s most far-out characters? What could go wrong? Well, nearly everything goes right in the new Silver Surfer series, with Norrin Radd free from Galactus and venturing on an Easy-Rider-esque journey across the universe with his human friend Dawn Greenwood. It’s fun, it’s weird, and reminiscent of the heyday of Kirby and Ditko in the best possible way.

6) Andre the Giant: Life and Legend – Box Brown

As far as comic-book memoirs go, one of my favourites from 2014 was Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Moving from Andre’s youth in rural France to his life as a professional wrestling superstar and some-time actor, the comic uses historical records and celebrity anecdotes to build a loving tribute to the short life of (literally) one of the largest figures in popular culture. And though it’s a heartfelt story, it doesn’t shy away from Andre’s many faults and demons.

ComicJasonLoo7) The Pitiful Human-Lizard – Jason Loo

Full disclosure: Jason Loo is a friend. But that doesn’t mean his sad-sack Toronto-based superhero, the Pitiful Human-Lizard, isn’t the best Canadian superhero comic I’ve read in, well, forever. Imagine Spider-Man if he were less successful fighting crime and had even more confidence issues. And if he fought villains that bore an uncanny resemblance to Toronto’s former mayor in locations like Sneaky Dee’s or the AGO. Half the fun is sightseeing Toronto, but the other half is reading a great superhero comic about a sad, lonely man who just wants to be liked.

8) Through the Woods – Emily Carroll

I don’t read a lot of web comics (I know; I’m sorry), so I wasn’t aware of Emily Carroll’s work before Through the Woods collected some of her best horror stories. The book is truly spooky in a way that’s difficult to achieve in comics. Especially with such a bold (but perfect) colour palette. People rave (and rightly so) about ‘His Face All Red,’ but I was equally creeped out by the book’s opener, ‘Our Neighbour’s House.’

9) Saga – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Like Daredevil, Saga consistently ends up on the year-end list. Mainly because Saga continues to be wildly inventive and entertaining, and manages to emotionally connect readers with characters even only after a few panels. Fiona Staples continues to amaze on the artwork duties. Many of 2014′s issues dealt with the Robot Royal Family, adding depth and intrigue to a group that had been something of two-dimensional villains in prior issues.

hiphop4-teaser10) Hip-Hop Family Tree Vol. 1 & 2 – Ed Piskor

I had the privilege of interviewing Ed Piskor over poutine this year, during which I told him how much I enjoyed Hip-Hop Family Tree. The book should be taught in any and all courses on music history, as it’s an entertaining, exhaustive, and anecdote-filled look at one of America’s youngest art forms. And, as with his previous book, Wizzywig, it looks at how a subculture grew out of taking technology and bending it to new purposes.

(Honourable Mentions: the Tamaki cousins’ This One Summer, Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey’s Moon Knight, Michael Cho’s Shoplifter.)

 

Best Movies
(Watched and released in 2014)

1) Snowpiercer – Joon-ho Bong (dir)

I went into Snowpiercer with really high hopes, it being the first English-language movie by the director of one of my favourite movies of all time, The Host. And while it was no Host, it was still a pleasantly bizarre, manic, and innovative tale of futuristic class warfare with a truly bonkers cast (Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song) that works. The movie is worth it for the set pieces – the pause in battle as they cross a treacherous bridge, the scene in the classroom, the shoot-out through the bulletproof glass windows – in the unbelievably long train alone.

Lou Bloom, getting ahead in the news biz.

Lou Bloom, getting ahead in the news biz.

2) Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy (dir)

2014 was a big year for the lonely white man in film. (Though what year isn’t?) Jake Gyllenhaal, looking not unlike my younger brother, portrays Lou Bloom, a supremely ambitious and unappealing sociopath breaking into the world of crime news footage, all-too willing to cross a few lines to get the perfect shot. (Actually, it’s about ethics in crime journalism.) Nightcrawler works perfectly as a parable for American capitalism, and its depiction of seedy late-night Los Angeles is second only to Drive and the movies of Michael Mann. And don’t even talk to me about how tense that scene in the Chinese restaurant was! (I only wish the music had been a little better.)

3) Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer (dir)

If you like movies about lonely men, then do I have a movie for you! Under the Skin, one of the closest things Western Europe will ever come to making a Soviet science fiction film, follows an alien in Scarlett Johansson’s form as it picks up solitary men in Scotland and leads them to their doom. As the movie cryptically and slowly progresses (it does move slowly), it becomes less a horror movie and more a reflection on solitude and belonging. I’m yet undecided on whether the movie fully engages in male gaziness, or subverts male gaziness, but either way it’s a hypnotic movie with a heartbreaking ending.

4) The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans (dir)

The Raid was one of the most intense and brutal martial arts movies ever made. With its sequel, the filmmakers take unlikely hero, dedicated Muslim and low-level police officer, Rama, undercover for more punishing and stomach-churning fight choreography. Breaking out from the claustrophobic tenement of The Raid, The Raid 2 travels to prison yards, restaurant kitchens, and (in one spectacular scene) the Jakarta highway. The Raid 2, recommended for fans of depraved violence only, is a martial arts movie you sort-of enjoy and sort-of survive. At the very least, you leave with a strong aversion to baseball bats and claw hammers.

They really hate sports.

They really hate sports.

5) We Are the Best! – Lukas Moodysson (dir)

We Are the Best! is the best! I defy you to watch this movie and not end up with a stupid smile plastered on your face. Two thirteen-year-old girls, Bobo and Klara, form a punk band in 1982 Sweden, mainly to spite some older boys. They start working on a song about how much they hate sports, but realize they’ll need to befriend the devoutly Christian girl, Hedvig, and make use of her guitar skills. We Are the Best! captures everything that’s great about adolescence – the friendship, the silliness, the fights – and, in a nice change, features flawed adults who are all just trying to do their best for the kids involved. You will believe in the purifying power of Swedish punk music.

6) The Guest – Adam Wingard (dir)

Is The Guest an action movie? A horror movie? An ’80s teen comedy? All of the above? Whatever this movie is, it’s ridiculously entertaining. Dan Stevens (cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey) shows up at the Peterson household claiming to be a soldier who served with their deceased son in Iraq. His true identity you guessing as the movie switches genres handily from comedy to horror to action and back again. Not to be missed are Dan Stevens’ thousand-yard-stare, a great breakout performance by Maika Monroe, and a really killer synth soundtrack.

7) Whiplash – Damien Chazelle (dir)

More lonely white men at the movies! As with Nightcrawler, we have another ambitious protagonist, Andrew (Miles Teller), ready to torch the world and personal relationships to achieve success. In this case, in the world of jazz drumming. But in Whiplash, he faces a nemesis – or tough-love mentor – in band leader Fletcher (J. K. Simmons). What’s better about Whiplash? J. K. Simmons’ hilariously offensive cruelty (second only to R. Lee Ermey’s in Full Metal Jacket) or Miles Teller’s impressive trapezius muscles? Whiplash is a tight little movie that’s just over-the-top enough to make it great. The cherry on the sundae is that these students are killing themselves to be great at jazz, something so few people care about. It’s like killing yourself to be great at lawn bowling, and that’s what makes this movie so wonderful.

Somebody looks ready for a dance-off.

Somebody looks ready for a dance-off.

8) Step Up: All In – Trish Sie (dir)

A new Step Up movie was released in 2014, so obviously it made my Top Ten list. The Step Up movies generally get better as their plots get thinner, and while Step Up: All In, the fifth installment, isn’t the best of the series, it’s a real crowd-pleaser, featuring a super-crew of all your favourites from the previous Step Ups (Moose! Vladd, the robot guy! Jenny Kido! The Santiago twins! The best female lead, Briana Evigan!) and more dance battles than you can handle (including one sublime sequence set to ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’). This time around, our dancers have to grow up and get jobs! (Too real!) Here’s a question: did you see any movies this year during which the woman sitting directly in front of you made her hand into a gun, threw it into the air, and shouted ‘Brrrappp brrrapp?!’ No? Well, I did during Step Up: All In. So what makes you think any movie you saw was better than that?

9) The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson (dir)

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most Wes Andersony of any Wes Anderson movie, and I’m a sucker for his schtick. It’s set-decorated within an inch of its life, and Ralph Fiennes is perfect as a concierge attempting to impart ‘a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity.’ Indeed, Gustave H. and the lobby boy, Zero, fight back against gestapo-like villains armed only with nostalgia and twee charm, and it actually works. For me, the movie hit the right note between madcap zaniness and melancholy. Plus, Adrien Brody makes a perfect villain.

10) The Theory of Everything – James Marsh (dir)

The Theory of Everything, the film version of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde Hawking’s life together, certainly had the best clothing of any movie I saw in 2014, and it definitely had some of the better performances. Eddie Redmayne is supernaturally good, becoming indistinguishable from Stephen Hawking. He does a stellar job both in showing the man’s physical decline and his considerable charm. He has great support from Felicity Jones and the Colin Firth / Orlando Bloom hybrid Charlie Cox, who also deliver on the acting front.

(Honourable Mentions: Force Majeure, Cavalry, 22 Jump Street, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Topher Grace wielding a tire iron before a burning cornfield in Interstellar.)

 

Best Songs on Taylor Swift’s 1989

taylorswift-1989polaroid-011) ‘Out of the Woods

Possibly my favourite song on the entire album. The plaintive shout, ‘I remember!’ will haunt my thoughts forever. Also, I don’t care what anyone else says. This is the best song CHVRCHES never recorded.

2) ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay

It’s great because it’s completely true. All you did have to do was stay. You had me in the palm of your hand. Killer, killer chorus, and equally great bridge.

3) ‘I Know Places

Plans are currently in the works for me to make a T-shirt that reads, ‘They are the hunters, we are the foxes.’

4) ‘Blank Space

Has there been a better, more venomous jam written this year? This is T-Swift’s satiric ‘Maneater.’

5) ‘Shake It Off

Don’t deny it: ‘Shake It Off’ is 2014′s ‘Hey Ya,’ right down to the hand claps and spoken interlude to the audience. Guaranteed dance-floor filler. And when Taylor Swift harmonizes with herself at the end of the second verse, it approaches audio nirvana.

tswiftshake_zps82e128fa6) ‘Bad Blood

You know I love my schoolyard chants, and ‘Bad Blood’ is just one big, loud schoolyard chant set to music. ‘So if you’re coming my way … just don’t.’

7) ‘Clean

One of the few slower songs on 1989, but a great, catchy song about recovery from an addiction, whether that addiction it be man- or substance-based.

8) ‘Welcome to New York

If you only listen to one pop song that uses the word ‘forevermore’ this year, make it ‘Welcome to New York.’

9) ‘Wildest Dreams

Much of 1989 is about the importance of remembering people in your life. Of not being forgotten by ex-lovers, no matter how things turned out. The chorus of this song is kind of heartbreaking. She just wants to be remembered at her best, guys.

10) ‘Style

‘Style’ isn’t nearly as good as many pop-music pundits would have you believe. They just like that the song references James Dean and makes all that Outsiders / poodle skirt imagery that fills much of 1989 blatantly obvious. Still, iI can’t deny it’s a decent song.

 

Best Other Songs
(Listened to and mostly released in 2014)

1) ‘Do It Again‘ – Röyksopp & Robyn

If Robyn has a new album out, I’m putting at least one of her songs on my ‘best of’ list. I didn’t love every song in her collaborative album with Röyksopp, but ‘Do It Again’ is stellar dance music. Just listening to it makes me really regret missing her concert at Echo Beach this summer.

Drizzy himself.

Drizzy himself.

2) ‘Worst Behavior‘ – Drake

I wasn’t sold on Drake until I heard ‘Worst Behavior’ (which technically was released in 2013), But after hearing it, I was 100% sold. How could a song that’s mostly Aubrey manically shouting ‘remember?!’ completely hook me? I’m not sure. It’s just so insistent! Also, the whole sub-section – ‘Bar mitzvah money like my last name Mordechai / F*** you, b****, I’m more than high. / My mama probably hear that and be mortified. / This ain’t the son you raised, used to take the Acura / 5 a.m. then go shoot Degrassi up on Morningside.’ – I love everything about it. But to represent his ’6′ roots, he really should have spelled it ‘Worst Behaviour.’

3) ‘Partition‘ – Beyoncé

A super-sexy Beyonce song with a grimy beat. What’s not to like? (I like ‘Drunk in Love,’ too, but I’m afraid it’s not nearly grungy enough.)

4) ‘Jealous (I Ain’t With It)‘ – Chromeo

The best song recorded from an alternate universe in which the 1980s never ended. Is there such a thing as a baseline that is too funky? Chromeo is willing to take that risk, it seems.

Chromeo, with Delorean

Chromeo, with Delorean

5) ‘Too Many Cooks‘ Theme Song

That this song isn’t on, like, every single music ‘best of 2014′ list is a travesty. The song even covers itself over the course of its eleven-minute duration. A pitch-perfect theme to a non-existent sitcom. Hear it once, sing it forever.

6) ‘Blockbuster Night, Part 1‘ – Run the Jewels

Almost every track on Run the Jewels 2 is solid, so it’s hard to pick a standout. But I chose ‘Blockbuster Night, Part 1′ for its driving, menacing rhythm, its Jake the Snake reference, and the line, ‘Top of the morning, my fist to your face is f***ing Folgers.’

7) ‘Malfunction‘ – Rancid

The new Rancid album wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a good time. Mostly – like a lot of latter-day albums from older punk bands – it reminded you of older, better songs they’ve recorded. But ‘Malfunction’ adds a little something new to the mix. Namely, more cowbell. (I don’t think there’s any cowbell on the recording, but there might as well be.) The song is like Tim, Lars, Matt, and Branden doing their best Happy Mondays impersonation, which sounds better than you’d think.

Cher Lloyd and Demi Lovato

Cher Lloyd and Demi Lovato

8) ‘Really Don’t Care‘ – Demi Lovato feat. Cher Lloyd

I’ve never been a big fan of Demi Lovato, but ‘Really Don’t Care’ is just such good bubblegum pop, and features one of my favourite singers, Cher ‘I Want U Back‘ Lloyd, on all of four lines. Mostly I love it because I was able to do a duet of this song with some customers at the bookstore, with me in the Cher Lloyd role. So I’ll always have fond memories of it.

9) ‘The Man‘ – Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc has a pretty tremendous voice and this is a pretty epic orchestral song. Also, it’s a pop song about taking responsibility, I think? That’s weird, right? But kind of great. (The video is really nice, too, referencing many of the black musicians and civil rights struggles of the ’60s and ’70s.)

10) ‘I Wanna’ Get Better‘ – Bleachers

How does a total electronic rave-up about mental health sound to you? Because it sounds pretty astounding to me.

(Honourable mentions: Fifth Harmony’s ‘Sledgehammer,’ Rita Ora’s ‘I Will Never Let You Down,’ Rich Aucoin’s X-Files homage (I imagine) ‘Want To Believe.’)

 

Best Unfulfilled Projects
(That I planned, yet failed to accomplish in 2014)

I am just putting the final touches on my revisions to the third book in the Dead Kid Detective Agency series, Loyalist to a Fault (out in Fall 2015), but I really thought I’d have time for more personal projects in 2015. Below are the top five such projects that haunt me with their lack of completion.

1) Heritage Moment T-Shirts (w/ Emma Woolley)

For months, brilliant writer and public intellectual Emma Woolley and I have talked about making a line of T-shirts based on the Canadian Heritage Moments, the short television vignettes from which many Canadians learned about their national history, and which are forever remembered by a series of one-liners: ‘Doctor, I smell burnt toast!’, ‘Is THIS normal?!’, ‘I need those peach baskets back!.’ As with most collaborations on this list, it’s been held up by yours truly. We’ve decided on the moments and everything. I just need to get around to drawing the shirt designs.

seaquestset2) Seaquest: DSV Podcast (w/ Anne Thériault)

This idea began as just a vague conversation between brilliant writer and public intellectual Anne Thériault and myself, when we discovered a mutual childhood love of the television series Seaquest: DSV. I still think we should make a podcast happen. The people want to hear Theriault and my thoughts on Darwin, the talking dolphin!

3) Graphic novel and /or screenplay about all-girls’ high school chess club

As I’ve said for several months, I have a pretty sweet idea for a graphic novel or screenplay about an all-girls’ high school chess club. The only problem is I know nothing about girls or chess. Still, I’m committed to making this happen at some point in 2015.

4) Musical based on The Fast and the Furious (w/ Emma Healey)

This project was not really a thing. I think it was just a joke between myself and brilliant writer and sometime public intellectual Emma Healey – I know a lot of brilliant writers, and many of them seem to be named Emma – about making a musical based on The Fast and the Furious film franchise. I think it’s a sure-fire win, if we ever decide to pursue it.

5) The Outsiders slash fiction

Really, I just need to finish revisions on the third Dead Kid Detective Agency book and re-read The Outsiders and the stage will be set for my greaser-heavy erotic fan fiction, tentatively titled, Stay Hard, Pony Boy.

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December 6, 1989: in Illustrations

Dec-6-Mural

On December 6, 1989, a gunman walked into Montreal’s École Polytechnique, interrupted classes, asked the men to leave and began to shoot the women in classes. Fourteen women were killed; dozens more were injured. The gunman believed that ‘feminists’ had ‘ruined his life. Since 1989, that date has marked a day of remembrance and a National Day of Commemoration and Action on Violence Against Women.

Though it would be simplistic and probably wrong to suggest that violence and threats against women, whether physical or sexual, has increased this past year, it has been a year marked by some particularly high-profile instances of violence against women, whether it be Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, the legions behind Gamergate, the unnamed gang who tormented and sexually abused Rehateh Parsons, or the hundreds of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada. (Perhaps we as a society are becoming more incensed by these events, which is mildly encouraging.) Personally, it’s also a year in which I discovered an author I’d worked with in the past was also an abuser. So, late on December 5, I had an idea. This is what I posted on Twitter the morning of December 6:

25 years ago, 14 women were killed for being women. I thought I should honour them somehow. All I know how to do is (kind of) draw. (1/2)

So I stayed up all night & drew them. And figured it would also help me remember all 14 of their names. #Dec6 (2/2)

Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering student. #Dec6

Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering student. #Dec6

Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering student. #Dec6

Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering student. #Dec6

Maud Haviernick, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Maud Haviernick, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Maryse Laganière, budget clerk in the finance department. #Dec6

Maryse Laganière, budget clerk in the finance department. #Dec6

Maryse Leclair, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Maryse Leclair, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Michèle Richard, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Michèle Richard, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering student. #Dec6

Annie Turcotte, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Annie Turcotte, materials engineering student. #Dec6

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student. #Dec6

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student. #Dec6

I’d apologize for clogging your feed, but it’s important that we (men, esp.) remember them & try to stop it from happening over & over.

I didn’t know what I was doing. To be honest, I hesitated posting the illustrations. I thought they were kind of trite, and the illustrations weren’t that good, and that my illustration style was too comic-booky. Worse, I thought the concept itself was kind of odd, or maybe weirdly (and inadvertently) self-aggrandizing. But I posted it anyway, and the response was great. So many people who I really respect and admire seemed to think it was a really fitting tribute and remembrance. I was more than a bit taken aback: I don’t think I’ve ever drawn anything that has meant as much to people. As I said to the Huffington Post, I’ve noticed that the simple act of drawing someone can really have an impact. It confirms that person’s existence. And that’s what I wanted to do.

Still, while I’m really heartened by people sharing and posting it, even seeing it on Medium and the CBC’s blog, I feel a bit sheepish about it all. There are so many other people doing way more to prevent violence against women and working to end misogyny. I just drew fourteen pictures. But if it helps people remember and makes men think about how they act and how their fellow men act, and do everything they can to end the culture of gendered violence, then I’ll be really happy.

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I’m joining Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program!

Soon I'll be one of these photos!

Soon I’ll be one of these photos!

It’s been made official. I’m joining the faculty of Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program in 2015. Overseen by new executive director Alison MacleanHumber’s Creative Book Publishing Program is an intensive summer-long course in all aspects of book publishing, including editorial, marketing, literary agenting/rights management, technology, and more. I’ll be teaching the Marketing Overview course, which outlines the basics and history of book marketing, how it intersects with editorial and sales, and the various marketing and publicity tactics publishers currently use (and may start using) to get their books in the hands of readers.

I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous) to start teaching, but I’m really pleased to be part of the Humber College team. I will likely be calling on some of you to come in and speak to the class, so I thank you in advance. And if you know anyone keen to apply for the Humber Creative Book Publishing Program, please take this new information and encourage or warn them, accordingly.

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