There’s been a few graphic novel anthologies from Cloudscape entirely spearheaded by me – I devised the concept, selected the artists, served as an editor, and even contributed a short story or two. They’ve all been about things I’m passionate about, such as mental health and Canadian superheroes.
Over the last couple of years, more and more I have used my art to explore my own struggles with depression and anxiety. This has cumulated in Through the Labyrinths of the Mind, an anthology from Cloudscape Comics, created by myself and co-edited with Hannah Lou Myers.
Through the Labyrinths of the Mind features 11 comics about mental health by a diverse selection of comic creators from British Columbia and beyond. Their comics range from starkly honest memoirs to symbolic slice-of-life fiction and even fairy tales, but whatever the genre, all the stories speak truth to their creator’s struggles. The project seeks to honour people’s courage in confronting their inner demons, and remind all of you dealing with mental health issues that you are not alone. It features various stories (both fact and fiction) by a wide variety of creators, inspired by their own experiences with mental health – such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and ADD.
As well as being the instigator and co-editor of Through the Labyrinths of the Mind, I also wrote “The Sorrow of Sir Geraint, Son of Erbin,” a retelling of a Welsh folktale illustrated by Devin Rosychuk. Sir Geraint is forced to give up his knightly questing and leave King Arthur’s court in order to take over his father’s position as king of Devon. Denied the questing that gave his life meaning, Geraint slips into a deep depression, and finally flees Devon on his horse – seeking to escape his suffering by dying as a knight in battle against some impossible foe.
Epic Canadiana #1 (2013) and #2 (2015)
I have always loved superheroes, and been especially intrigued whenever a superhero was Canadian, guardian of my own country. As a kid, one of my favourite comics was Marvel’s Alpha Flight, Canada’s answer to the Avengers, and so I was fascinated when, as an adult, I discovered that during World War II, Canada had a robust comic industry, which sadly died out once the war ended and Canadian kids could get American superhero comics again.
I created the Epic Canadiana graphic novels out of my love of the 40s Canadian superheroes and of world-building in general, and it was so much fun to create a shared world in which everyone’s superhero could co-exist. The term “superhero” is such a wide term, including so many different genres, and it was fascinating to see the wide variety of superheroes the cartoonists wanted to explore. There are tributes to classic Canadian superheroes such as Johnny Canuck and Nelvana of the North as well as entirely new characters fighting for a diverse range of causes, such as gay and indigenous rights or the environment.
Epic Canadiana #2 won the Gene Day Award for excellence in Canadian small-press publishing at the 2016 Joe Shuster Awards.
I love seeing modern creators pay tribute to Canada’s classic wartime comics – a fascinating part of our popular culture. I also love the numerous interpretations of Canadian heroism that were submitted for our anthology: French-Canadian Nazi-hunters, immigrant adventurers, gay activists, First Nations vigilantes, autistic champions, and more. It really showcases our country’s diversity.Bevan Thomas, “Cloudscape Comics Society Wins Prestigious Gene Day Award for Best Self-Published Comic for Epic Canadiana #2,” Broken Frontier
As well as designing the world for Epic Canadiana, I also wrote several stories:
- Frame Narrative. A mysterious woman finds Johnny Canuck, Canada’s greatest hero of WWII, and convinces him to come out of retirement by telling him stories about Canada’s heroes. Tribute to the original Johnny Canuck. Art by Kamil Ginatulin.
- Beware the Slaughterer. Arctic demigoddess Ikniqpalagaq battles Nazis and the Great Beasts of the North. Tribute to Nelvana of the North. Art by Jeri Weaver.
- Hero Play. Gay activist superhero Jacques de Canada hunts a serial killer who’s hunting superheroes. Tribute to Canada Jack. Art by Ksenia Kozhevnikova.
- Frame Narrative. A mysterious branch of the Canadian government is investigating superheroes, and is in turn being investigated by the mysterious vigilante known as the Loon. Art by Craig Wilson.
- Northern Tales. Iknigpalagaq’s old partner reminisces about Iknigpalagaq’s final mission against her greatest enemy. Art by Eric Johnson.
- Back in the Saddle. Johnny Canuck, greatest Canadian hero of World War II, meets Jacques de Canada, greatest Canadian hero of the modern world. Art by Jeff Ellis and Kate Ebensteiner.
Epic Canadiana Volume 1 delightfully connects the golden age of Canadian comics (the origin of the Canadian superhero comic) with modernity, creating a link through Canadian comic book history…. The heroes in these pages are born of magic, mutation, a call to action… but more importantly, they are born of a Canadian imagining of what it means to be heroic and speculation about what a Canadian superhero would consider worthy of battle.Derek Newman-Stille, “Golden Age Superheroes in Modernity,” Speculating Canada
Other Cloudscape Comics
A lot of my work has been graphic novel anthologies from the Vancouver-based publisher Cloudscape Comics, where I’ve been a writer on nine anthologies and an editor on five.
Long after the Robot Revolution, a newly-created robot is assigned a human baby to look after. The confused robot must figure out why humans are still a part of society, and what is so important about this baby in particular. In “Steel Soul,” I ponder the measure of humanity in a robot-dominated future. If we build robots that are stronger and smarter than us, then what unique merits do we as humans have in comparison? If a robot was required to raise a human baby, take care of all of the baby’s needs, what intrinsic worth would such a robot see in its human charge? Art by Reetta Linjama.
Published in Life Finds a Way, an anthology of post-post apocalyptic stories, each one focused on “finding hope and renewal in a post-apocalyptic world…. Stories about people coming together, getting creative, forming community, and helping each other. Just because the world as we knew it is gone doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to end with it.”
An adaptation of a tale from Welsh folklore. Taliesin, Wales’ greatest bard, demonstrates the magic of his poetic voice by summoning a storm to intimidate King Maelgwn of North Wales and all his court. Art by Reetta Linjama. Published in Swan Song (which I also co-edited), an anthology of music-themed comics.
A lonely young girl finds a mysterious idol washed up on the shore. The idol becomes her only friend, it seems to talk to her, and eventually convinces the girl that she needs to perform certain ceremonies…. Art by Jeri Weaver. Published in Bones of the Coast, an anthology of horror comics set in BC.
A huntress pursues a unicorn through the savannah, believing that the money from selling its horn is her chance at freedom. When she finally confronts the wild creature, the huntress is forced to ask herself what price she would place on freedom. Art by Chenoa Gao. Published in Mega Fauna (which I also co-edited), an anthology of animal-themed children’s comics.
A memoir of my experiences at my grandfather’s funeral, explored through the symbolism of the sea. How I dealt with the crushing sense of loss, how I tried to reach out to others, and how I was able to finally say good-bye. Art by Reetta Linjama. Published in Waterlogged: Tales from the Seventh Sea (which I also co-edited), an anthology of ocean-themed comics.
“An intimate examination of loss viewed through the lens of Tennyson’s nautical-themed ‘Crossing the Bar.’”Jason Wilkins, Waterlogged: Tales from the Seventh Sea, Broken Frontier
A rip-roaring swashbuckling tale during the Golden Age of Piracy. The protagonist is a young bride who confronts a woman leading a very different life — a female pirate captain who hunts slavers and is determined to remain free. Art by Ksenia Kozhevnikova. Also from Waterlogged.
Really grabs hold of the glamorized idea of a pirate fighting both gender roles and slavery…. There’s a small twist at the end, and while I like how the story ends, it does leave me wanting more.Sheena McNeil, Waterlogged: Tales from the Seventh Sea, Sequential Tart
The story of “Theseus and the Minotaur” from the Minotaur’s point of view. The famous monster wanders his labyrinth, searching desperately for meaning in his life and a way to escape this vast prison. In the end, there is only one way he can leave. Art by Ksenia Kozhevnikova. Published in Giants of Main Street, an anthology of fantasy tales set in the city.
“A beautifully realized, haunting retelling of the Cretan Minotaur’s tragic fate.”Jason Wilkins, Broken Frontier
A homeless man keeps a magic city in a bottle. Art by Oliver McTavish-Wisden. Also from Giants of Main Street.
A tale about a young woman trapped in a repetitive, banal life who longs to fly as free as a swallow. Her struggle for personal transformation is echoed by a little bird’s quest to escape the cold of winter and return to the warmth of the south seas. Art by Reetta Linjama. Published in 21 Journeys, an anthology of travel stories.
An amazing entry from newcomers Bevan Thomas and Reetta Linjama. A tale of betraying expectations and breaking away from the flock. Veeeeerrry impressed.Angela Melick, Wasted Talent
A short story about someone obsessed with solving the occult secrets of the city of Victoria, BC. The man dreams of a mysterious sphinx who guides him an occult ritual that spiritually links the city’s buildings through blood and sacrifice. Published in Black Cat, an anthology of supernatural stories set in British Columbia.
A graphic novel tale of the mysterious BC rainforest. A hunter accidentally shoots a sasquatch, and it unleashes on him the curse of the woods. Illustrated and co-written by Eric Johnson. Published in Pulp Literature #12, a fiction magazine with a focus on genre fiction.
Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie-King binds the ghost of a Jewish-Canadian soldier into the Golem of Prague to fight Nazis in World War II. Published in Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen, an anthology of superhero short stories.
A trans heroine leads a battalion of animal-themed mech-robots against an invading host of airplane-like demons. Illustrated by Kate Ebensteiner. Published in Beyond, a graphic novel anthology of queer sci-fi and fantasy.