Did you know that a mainstay of American folk culture was in fact created as an advertising ploy?
Few people realize that Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack, and his blue ox are the product of corporate marketing by a highly industrialized commercial enterprise.
Cartoonist NOAH VAN SCIVER shows us the myth creation as real life marketing man extraordinaire W.B. Laughead spins ever more wondrous tall tales. Van Sciver's story is bracketed by rich contributions from contemporary Native artists and storytellers with a very different connection to the land that the Bunyan myths often conceal. Readers will see how a lumberjack hero, a quintessential American fantasy, captures the imagination but also serves to paper over the seizure of homeland from First Peoples and the laying bare of America's northern forests. It’s a tall tale with deep roots . . . in profit-making!
About the Author
Noah Van Sciver is a multiple award-winning cartoonist who first came to comic readers’ attention with his Eisner-nominated comic book series Blammo. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Wired, The Believer, the Best American Comics, as well as countless graphic anthologies. Van Sciver was a regular contributor to MAD Magazine and has written and drawn numerous bestselling graphic novels including One Dirty Tree, the Fante Bukowski: Struggling Writer series for Fantagraphics books and Joseph Smith And The Mormons for Abrams in 2022. In 2015 he was the Artist in Residence/fellow at the Center For Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. His books and comics are translated into more than 6 different languages around the world.
Marlena Myles is a self-taught Native American (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee) artist who grew up on her traditional Dakota homelands. Her work includes children’s books, murals, fabrics, and augmented reality. Her fine art has been shown in places like the Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Red Cloud Heritage Center, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art, to name a few. She enjoys using the land as a teacher to share with Minnesotans of all backgrounds the Indigenous history of this place we all call home. She runs her own Dakota publishing company, Wíyouŋkihipi (We Are Capable) Productions, to create a wider platform that educates and honors the culture, language, and history of Dakota people. She currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Lee Francis IV is the Executive Director of Native Realities, an Indigenous Imagination organization that seeks to engage and inspire Indigenous youth and communities through pop culture media and culturally dynamic programming. Dr. Francis also founded the Indigenous Comic Con (now IndigiPop Expo) and opened Red Planet Books and Comics, the first Native comic shop in the world, in 2017. He received his Ph.D. in Education from Texas State University and currently resides in North Carolina with his family.
Dr. Deondre Smiles is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria, BC, Canada. He is of Ojibwe, Black, and Swedish descent and is a proud citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Dr. Smiles's interests are many and include Indigenous geographies, human-environment interactions, and Indigenous cultural resource management and preservation. He serves as the principal investigator for the Geographic Indigenous Futures Collaboratory, one of Western Canada’s first Indigenous geographies-focused labs.
"Van Sciver is a master of subtle mockery."—The New York Times
★ "The Paul Bunyan tall tale gets felled. . . Readers will come away ready to question what other falsehoods they’ve been fed about the history of marginalized people. . . A heightened sense of scale makes Bunyan practically leap of the page in grandeur. An accessible and important reminder of how easily the truth can be coopted." -- Kirkus Reviews, STARRED
"Enlightening. . . . [A] frank and accessible depiction of the environmental and economic impact of boom-bust industries . . . and how the Bunyan fiction perpetuated these systems." —Publishers Weekly
"The combined cartoon and folk art styles work well to capture the giant lore of Paul Bunyan . . . A mighty attempt to take on a giant topic of forgotten history".--Booklist
“A fast-paced and enjoyable book that captures the cadence and evolution of tall tales in oral history. The bookend contributions by Native authors provide a nuanced and essential critical exploration of the impact of American logging on Native American land.”—SHING YIN KHOR, author of The Legend of Auntie Po, a National Book Award Finalist
"Logging culture may have produced some great stories. But it also cost America, and especially the indigenous people whose land all those trees once stood on, greatly. Both facts are important parts of our history. Van Sciver’s Paul Bunyan tells them both, and he does so in a way that is both potent and fun." – SLJ's Good Comics For Kids