Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas (MNY) is the creator of a new style of graphic novel, Haida Manga. Haida Manga combines First Nations’ art style and tales with the Japanese graphic novel form of manga. MNY uses his distinct style of art to bring Haida Gwaii tales to life. Haida art is very distinct and popular in Northwest art.
The Haida people live in the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia. Red: A Haida Manga, published by Douglas & McIntyre, is based on an oral Haida narrative about Red and his sister Jaada, both orphans. “When raiders attack their village, Red, still a boy, escapes dramatically. But Jaada is whisked away. The loss of Jaada breeds a seething anger, and Red sets out to find his sister and exact revenge on her captors.”
I read Red: A Haida Manga all in one sitting. As I admired the watercolour illustrations and the unconventional layout of the pages, I felt I was almost missing something in translation. Each page was such a beautiful work of art with minimal dialogue or narration. Because there wasn’t a clear cut “panel 1, panel 2, panel 3, panel 4” format, I had trouble following the story’s details. I have read another story by MNY, The Flight of the Hummingbird, a parable for the environment. This had a more conventional layout and I feel that helped me grasp the morals of the story better.
One really neat thing about Red is at the end, MNY gives you permission to rip out the pages of two books to recreate the original piece of art. (Due to copyright, I can’t show the image here, but if you visit the publisher’s website, there is a series of photos of MNY creating the original 16-panels.)