layla: Woman looking down into a valley (RC-Jemer TPB2)
Layla ([personal profile] layla) wrote2012-04-06 05:33 pm

Raven's Children - Issue #1: Cover

And so we begin! Well, technically what you get today is the Issue #1 cover.




[Next page]



This isn't the very first cover, which was black and white, but I can't find the original cover at all. I can't even remember what was on it. (Chains? Possibly?) All I remember now is that I gave a copy of that issue to Neil Gaiman at a book signing in 2001 and may never get over the humiliation. *g* Anyway, I first printed the issue at magazine size on 11x17 paper (which folds down to 8.5x11 when you fold it in half), but once I'd actually seen some minicomics and realized they were much more economical and easy to make if they were smaller, I reprinted it with the above inkjet-printed color cover on 8.5x11 paper (folds down to digest size - 5.5x8.5").

The woman on the cover is Jemer. She's not from the Raven Tribe; she's from the people called the Wagaibe who live to the east. Actually, you know what would be super useful here? A MAP.



This map (without the annotations in red) appeared in both the trade paperbacks. I would like to point out, regarding the title, that I had never heard of A Song of Ice and Fire, and thought I was being all original and stuff. ("Ice and Fire" was going to be the name of one of the story arcs, too. Another one was "Blood and Iron", which has also been done. Dammit, everyone is getting there first.)

So Jemer and her brother Jained are from the Wagaibe, who are the Raven Tribe's nearest neighbors and occasional enemies (as the Raven Tribe and their brethren raid them). As I mentioned in a previous installment, Raven's Children is basically two pre-existing settings, the original Raven Tribe world and Fivemoon, smooshed together. The Wagaibe are partly nomadic, in the process of becoming settled pastoralists. The general look of their clothing, etc. is sort of generically European with some Mongolian influence. (I was actually going off Mongolian and Tibetan clothing designs, but in the process of simplifying them to be drawn more easily, they ended up coming out with more of a European gestalt.) The Wagaibe decorate their clothing with simple, bold geometric patterns.

The Northwest-Coast-style formline designs decorating Jemer's shirt (and the logo) are an afterthought. They're on the cover for one reason only: as a shorthand way of evoking Arctic/north to the reader.


...


This is something that I keep circling around as I go through my early Raven's Children pages.

Like I said in a comment I wrote earlier today on the cultural-appropriation entry, I don't think there is an across-the-board right or wrong way to handle real-world elements in fictional cultures. I do, however, feel that on several occasions, I missed the mark in a major way in Raven's Children, and this is one of them.

Using this type of design as a decorative motif is, I think, a textbook example of cultural appropriation as discussed earlier: taking something out of its usual cultural setting, and plunking it down somewhere that it simply doesn't fit. The disrespect is not the act of taking and reusing, per se -- at least I don't see it as such (though this can be argued). It's what you do with it then: how you use it, and why, and where.

And what I did with the Wagaibe, basically, was that I took random elements from real-world Native American and Asian cultures, because I thought they were cool and interesting, and gave them to a culture of blond, blue-eyed, Caucasian-looking people.

Of course I didn't think of it that way at the time. Actually, it didn't really hit me until I moved back to Alaska, and realized that the people whose culture I was borrowing are now my neighbors, and (potentially) my customers: people who might come up to me at a book signing and see the cover, be happy and excited, and wish to buy the book from me -- or just ask me why I made the decisions that I did, and why I decided to portray the cultures in the book in the way that I did.

I don't have a good answer. I don't feel that I can justify it, and this is one of the reasons why RC stops at issue #13 and probably will never continue beyond that.

In some ways, the whole Raven's Children's series is like a comic-book katamari, randomly accumulating things that appealed to me at the time, which are poked in wherever I could fit them. It's not impossible for a writer to make this work, and there are places where it almost works. And then there are places where it really, really doesn't work, and I think this is one of those places.
thistleburr: unreasonably adorable Fitch, smoking his pipe and enjoing the summer twilight (cutie fitch)

[personal profile] thistleburr 2012-04-07 05:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I just wanted to let you know that I'm finding this whole series of posts extremely interesting.