Artist Combines Native Art, Japanese Comics

Paul Grant

CBC News Online

The Arts Report

September 25, 2003

VANCOUVER - A Haida artist in Vancouver is using comic books to tell traditional aboriginal myths.

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas calls his work "Haida Manga." Manga are the highly stylized comic books popular in Japan.

The word "manga" means "whimsical pictures." But Yahgulanaas' creation, Rock 'n' Raven is not exactly whimsical.

"Rock 'n' Raven is morally ambiguous. It's not about good versus evil. It's about things we experience as everyday people," he says. "It speaks to our common humanity."

According to Yahgulanaas, manga is a $4-billion industry in Japan. Almost half of all publications, including those from the government, are in manga form.

"It's a great way to share information," Yahgulanaas says. "It's a wonderful way to speak right past the issues of literacy, because we're all graphically literate."

Yahgulanaas is already taking the idea of "Haida manga" past the printed comic-book stage. His latest work goes back to the classic painting form - a seven-by-six foot panel which, from a distance, looks like a traditional Haida design. "But as you get closer you start to see that they're comic books. And as you get really close you get to stand there and read it like a narrative."

Yahgulanaas takes his work to the Word on the Street book fair in Vancouver this Sunday, as well as to the Tokyo Design Show next month.