“The Outside Circle” by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings
To tell a big story that resonates, you need to fit it within the framework of a smaller story. This is what Patti LaBoucane-Benson does in “The Outside Circle” as she addresses the Canadian government’s treatment of its own native people though the journey of one brave man. When you embark upon the process of building up a graphic novel, you make various choices along the way. One critical decision is setting the right tone and that is tied in with what kind of work it is set to be. It can be a little of A, B, or C, and ultimately it will be mostly one kind of graphic novel. “The Outer Circle” is chiefly an educational work with lots of room for artistic expression. It is a tale with many facts to bring forth. In this regard, Kelly Mellings does a great job of balancing what must be said with finding a way to say it in the most compelling way.
A tattoo that speaks volumes.
“The Outside Circle,” by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings, is a story of flawed and vulnerable characters who seem resistant to change and yet hunger for redemption. We explore what led Pete, an Aboriginal Canadian, to succumb to a life of crime and violence. One of the most compelling pages shows Pete after he’s being rewarded by the gang with a tattoo. Pete has just committed a crime worthy of acceptance by the gang members. However, the tattoo reveals the pain and sorrow of Natives under the Canadian government.
Rehabilitation and redemption through the Warrior Program.
Pete must lose everything before he can regain his own dignity and sense of purpose. After a fight that turns deadly, Pete is sent to prison and his little brother, Joey, is placed into foster care. The act of Joey entering foster care mirrors the plight of Canada’s Aboriginals. The government’s solution had always been to separate the native-born children from their families and have them placed into foster care and go to special residential schools. These residential schools turned out to be run-down and poorly kept. The children were often neglected and sexually abused. The last school of this kind closed in 1996.
But a strong spirit may rise above the worst trauma. Pete is deemed worthy of a second chance and a good candidate for the prison’s “In Search of Your Warrior” program. It is the journey that Pete embarks upon that informs the rest of our story. Pete must find ways to break the patterns of violence and self-hatred. This is a moving story told with compassion through words and pictures. And it proves to be a excellent source of information and hope, another great example of the power of comics and graphic novels.
“The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel” is a 128-page trade paperback, in full color, published by House of Anansi Press.
“Towerkind” is a mini comic series that combines both a gentle and bold vision that makes for some must-see comics. This is one really strange story with quite an assorted cast of characters. The supernatural elements bring to mind the work of M. Night Shyamalan. And the artwork is like from the ultimate Saturday morning cartoon, very jumpy at times and definitely worthy of your attention. St. James Town is a gritty neighborhood in Toronto, Canada. This is where Kat Verhoeven got her inspiration for her series. And it feels authentic in more ways than one.
The National Film Board of Canada is a treasure trove of film and animation that never fails to intrigue, entertain, and educate. The NFB’s Albert Ohayon shares today a little gem about filmmaker Flash William Shewchuck. He was a one-man film industry in his little mining town of Cadamin, Canada. With persistence and care, between working a variety of odd jobs, Flash William kept to his dreams.
This 20-minute film, which originally aired on Canadian public television in 1978, shows what one man can do if determined. Today, we take it for granted that we can create some sort of movie on a cell phone. But, starting back in the 1950s, it was unheard of for someone to undertake to make movies all by themselves with limited funds. Flash William not only made movies, he played them at his local theater. He was the director, sometimes the only actor, and even the ticket taker.
Directed by John Laing and Thom Burstyn, this documentary will inspire on many levels. There is no sign of the director as an egomaniacal control freak here. Left to do what he loves, in the seemingly blissful and innocent wilderness, Flash William is enjoying a true labor of love. That alone is something to cheer about. And Flash William wasn’t out there in the woods documenting moose. He made full-fledged dramas.
And he made all of his films in this hometown of Cadamin. At the time of the documentary, the mining town had long since dropped from a robust population of 1,000 down to 100. For the showing of one of his films, the whole town, minus two, were in attendance. The town itself is a character in the documentary and, even when Flash was directing only himself, he always had Cadamin by his side.
You can view “Flash William,” courtesy of the NFB, here.