Hecate Press, a stepping stone for northern comic artists

Hecate Press, founded a few years ago by artist Kimberly Edgar, is creating new opportunities for the Yukon’s established and emerging comic artists. The press has completed two projects, the first being a comics anthology called The Northern Gaze.

“I wanted there to be some sort of comics anthology centered around northern stories, for a couple of years, but it really started when I applied for and got a [Culture Quest] grant in 2020, in the fall,” explained Edgar.

“I had been toying around with the idea of a press called Hecate Press, for a little bit, but once I got the grant for the anthology, I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’m doing this thing.’”

The Northern Gaze features short comics written and drawn by nine artists. The 60-ish page volume shows some of the scope and breadth of comic art created in the North.

For example, veteran artist Chris Caldwell’s black-and-white drawings tell the humorous story of a couple of bored dads going ice fishing in the spring. Cole Pauls uses blue tones and an icy script to convey the frigid, snowy world that his character flies through on a Crazy Carpet. Princess J’s protagonist drives an abandoned van through a winter night, to meet a Tinder date, accompanied by a ghostly caribou.

Edgar’s intention in creating Hecate Press is to help build a community of comic artists across the three northern territories. They would eventually like to make connections in other northern places like Nunavik and Labrador.

They believe that comics are a way to connect through shared northern experiences. This includes “being remote, rural, very cold, often seen by city centers as a place of extraction, and there’s sort of an objectification in that,” Edgar pointed out. “Whereas all of these places are living places, living cultures that have been here for thousands of years.”

Part of Edgar’s interest in producing the anthology is to deny the objectification of northern places by having artists tell stories on their own terms, without catering to a southern audience.

“What happens when the North makes content for The Northern Gaze?” Edgar asked in their editor’s statement for The Northern Gaze: a comics anthology.

Edgar also wants to create paid opportunities for comic artists. They see their micro-press as a “stepping stone” for artists, a place where they can gain confidence and perhaps submit work to larger presses.

In September, 2021, Edgar received another Culture Quest grant for their second Hecate Press project. This time, the press put out a series of small comic books by six comic artists.

Each mini comic tells a unique story in an inventive way. Lia Fabre-Dimsdale uses simple drawings and shades of green and blue for a sci-fi tale called Big Sister: Moon Feet. Sally DeMerchant’s Winter Guests/Gifts celebrates the healing power of taking on two sled dogs and learning to skijor with them. In Stopping By Woods, Olivia Akeeshoo Chislett’s characters experience a tragic accident and a magical healing in the woods.

By providing opportunities for northern comic artists, Edgar hopes to get comics “more prevalent in the North.” They would like to see something similar to the comic communities in the South, which are typically inclusive and welcoming.

“If you make comics, you’re kind of already in,” Edgar said. “The comics community is notoriously very friendly.”

Edgar describes themself as a very “DIY person,” and they hope to inspire others to start similar projects in their communities; for example, small presses and galleries. They presented a workshop on small presses and self-publishing at the Print & Publishing Festival (Dawson), in June. The festival also offered other comics-related workshops for folks interested in exploring the art form.

“You, too, can create your own comics,” Edgar said. “It’s doable, it’s possible.”

Edgar encourages anyone who is making comics to share their work with them. They’re not taking submissions right now, but they love to see what people are doing.

And they emphasize the universality of comics; anyone can do it and it’s easy to self-publish. Edgar emphasizes that comics are first and foremost about storytelling; being an amazing drawer is not a prerequisite.

“It’s not an insular, closed circle [that] you need to know the password to,” Edgar said.

“It’s the ‘chillest’ art world.”
Folks can purchase The Northern Gaze and the six small comics from hecatepress.bigcartel.com or from Titan Gaming & Collectables, in Whitehorse.

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