‘A more authentic way to do representation’: New graphic novel highlights Alaska Native culture

Channel 2 Morning Edition (6 a.m.)
Updated: Aug. 19, 2021 at 5:00 AM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - Whenever one goes to a comic book store, the shelves are filled with rows of superheroes who stand for peace, justice, and goodness. Although, for many series, there isn’t much that represents Alaska Native culture or much Indigenous culture at all.

Through their new graphic novel, “Chickaloonies,” Casey Silver and Dimi Macheras hope to add some representation to the comic book world.

Silver and Macheras met in Seattle, WA over 10 years ago. Silver was working at a comic book shop when Macheras came in shortly after moving to the city from Alaska. Macheras was looking for someone to tell stories with, and the two have been writing, drawing, and creating together ever since.

Their latest work is about a quest of two Alaska Native kids, Mr. Yelly and Sasquatch E. Moji, on a quest to end a time of darkness in their village and become the greatest storytellers the world has ever seen.

In the book, they’re guided by the wisdom of Grandma along their journey.

Macheras said he grew up in the Matanuska-Susitna area and is a tribal citizen of the Chickaloon Native Village. Silver is not of Indigenous descent.

They said the stories draw heavily on the stories that Macheras’s grandmother would tell him.

“My grandmother Katie Wade, who was the village elder of Chickaloon Village, told us the traditional Ya Ne Dah Ah stories growing up,” Macheras said. “They were different stories that would teach lessons and morals. And growing up I would illustrate those stories and draw those characters. This book is kind of a way to continue the tradition — the family tradition — of storytelling and I’m doing it in my own way.”

Macheras and Silver said working as a pair. They’re able to create something bigger and better than they would have alone. Silver said he’s enjoyed learning about and helping create the new stories based on the traditional ones in the graphic novel.

“It’s a cool thing to be able to be a part of this and to be able to really show people that two different cultures can come together and create something that is so powerful and that attempts to represent honestly,” Silver said.

Macheras said they weren’t aiming to make a “Native Superhero” while creating Chickaloonies.

“There’s a better opportunity there to pull inspiration and kind of shine a light on that culture through the medium of comic books that you would really get by just kind of by replacing a character with say a Native person and being like, ‘this is a Native character. This is representation,’” Macheras said. “I think there’s a more authentic way to do representation and I’m hoping that this is kind of our first step in that direction.”

By releasing the book, the two said they’re hoping to inspire others to create. Through collaboration, they hope that they can inspire others to pull inspiration from each other despite what differences they may have.

“We may be very different on the outside but we all have stories. We all live through that and connect through that and a lot of the time it’s the same lessons,” Silver said.

The two are currently on a book signing tour in Alaska. On Friday, Aug. 20, they’ll be at the Alaska Pacific University art show at 5 p.m.. The next day they’ll be at the Loussac Library at 3 p.m.

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