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Home, adventure in new graphic novels

“I know first hand as a graphic novel publisher, what we have here with that talent. Alberta punches above its weight nationally in terms of comic creators.”

CANMORE – Graphic novels and comics are a modern art form, and Alberta is helping to lead the way in Canada through its many talented artists and creators.

This month, Renegade Arts Entertainment, a publisher out of Canmore, has released two graphic novels that showcase that talent.

The first graphic novel is an anthology titled Alberta Comics: Home. This 224-page anthology of short comic stories and cartoons by Alberta comic creators has the theme of home. The stories come from all genres and different illustration styles.

“It is our first, from the ground up, anthology,” said publisher Alexander Finbow. “The idea was really borne out of trying to find a way to showcase the diversity and depth of comic and cartoon talent in Alberta.”

Finbow is part of an organization called Panel One, which was created to connect members of the cartoon and comic community in Calgary and the Bow Valley to help each other with networking and professional development. Being part of that network helped Finbow see the plethora of talent in the area.

“I know first hand as a graphic novel publisher, what we have here with that talent,” Finbow said. “Alberta punches above its weight nationally in terms of comic creators.”

To create the anthology, a theme was needed and with everyone in lockdown at the time, the theme of home was chosen.

“The anthology was conceived during the COVID lockdowns and everything,” Finbow said. “Everyone was stuck in homes or had to find a home to be based in.”

It also allowed for a variety of stories under that same theme.

“Home can be a positive thing, or negative thing, depending on your situation,” Finbow said.

The easy part of the anthology was getting submissions, which came from experienced professionals and newcomers to the industry. What was not so easy was putting all that content into the book.

“The hard part was collating it down to a manageable-sized book,” Finbow said. “I ended up with another 52 pages just to accommodate more stories to it, which made the book more sizable than originally planned.”

Through the process of putting the anthology together, Finbow says everyone learned a lot.

“The process of editing and coordinating the technical side of it, and the order it was going to go in, the extra bits,” Finbow said. “It was a lot more involved than we expected. It took a lot longer and we learned so much.”

The other book released this month is King Warrior by Jay Bulckaert, Erika Nyyssonen and Lucas Green. The graphic novel is a family adventure, mixed with fantasy, and set in Yellowknife. While an adventure and fantasy graphic novel, it touches on themes such as family, separation, and immigration.

“It is a book that works well with young readers, juvenile readers,” Finbow said. “The story is about a father who is from Somalia, and he is in Yellowknife as a taxi driver and trying to stay connected with his family in Somalia.”

In the story, the main character talks to his son and tells him a story that combines elements of Somali lore and folk traditions, while adding elements from Yellowknife and the culture of the people he drives around in his taxi.

“He tells this fantastic adventure story of a young boy in a frozen kingdom who has to dig deep to find his courage and rescue his parents,” Finbow said. “The family drama takes a turn for the dramatic when something happens to the father, and the son has to step up and become a hero to help his father in real life get through the challenges he is encountering.”

With the story and beautiful artwork, Finbow states he is proud to be able to publish the book.

“I think it is a book a lot of people will enjoy, whether with their parents or in school or on their own,” Finbow said. “It is a great family adventure that touches on the immigrant experience in Canada, and families that are split up by distance, but with a great fantasy story in there.”

Both books are available at Café Books in Canmore, as well as on Amazon, Indigo and on the Renegade Arts Entertainment website