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 Elizabeth LaPensée Writer "Deer Woman A Vignette"
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Posted - 02/10/2016 :  07:08:08 AM  Show Profile  Visit Richv1's Homepage  Reply with Quote Bookmark and Share

Elizabeth LaPensée
Writer for Deer Woman A Vignette
Published by: Native Realities Press
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur Jazma VP
Posted: 10/02/2016

Rich: How does being Anishinaabe, Métis and Irish influence your comics?

Elizabeth: My life experiences and stories I’ve been told are connected to every comic I’ve worked on. I interweave my personal stories; Anishinaabe and Métis stories and teachings from my mother, Auntie, family, and storytellers whose paths I’ve crossed; and themes shared by my Irish family, such as the experience of being colonized and later recovering language and traditions. “The Observing” in MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection ( is a retelling of a story from storyteller and elder Woodrow Morrison Jr., whereas The West Was Lost ( is a steampunk alternate history comic with characters and situations inspired by figures in traditional stories. Each comic has varying influences yet all are intricately tied to who I am.

Rich: Why did you decide to write a comic book about Deer Woman?

Elizabeth: Deer Woman was like, “Snap to it and do this.” Ha ha! Deer Woman: A Vignette started as conversations with editor Allie Vasquez because I attempted to learn self-defense and instead ended up having flashbacks to different instances of being sexual assaulted throughout my life. Allie and I reflected on how we are part of a statistic—Native women experience the highest rates of sexual violence in North America—and how little is being done to change this fact. Deer Woman is my threat to anyone who ever has or ever would harm me. It is a direct response to systematic violence in the hopes of reaching Indigenous people with a story that shows how empowered we are from within. It is an act of survivance. It is available through Native Realities Press ( both for free digitally and as a print comic with proceeds going to Arming Sisters/Reawakening Warriors, a non-profit dedicated to self-defense workshops for Indigenous communities.

Rich: How would you describe Deer Woman?

Elizabeth: Deer Woman is the delicate strength of self-empowerment. In Deer Woman: A Vignette, she takes the form of a vigilante in a contemporary lakeside city facing off against issues like sex trafficking on boats. I encourage everyone who is inspired to express a version of Deer Woman to tell stories, whatever form they might take, whether they be art, comics, films, games, short stories, or anything else imaginable. It’s far from coincidence that Deer Woman’s most recent depictions by Red Lake artist Jonathan Thunder and other artists who had no way of knowing they were simultaneously working on representations of her share traits such as deer antlers, which call into question just what transformations Deer Woman is capable of.

Rich: Have you read many traditional stories about Deer Woman and what do you most like about her?

Elizabeth: I’ve never read any stories about Deer Woman, but I’ve been told many stories. I dig that she so easily lures men of questionable conscience to dark places in the woods and just gets to stomping them to death right away. She doesn’t need to get close or compromise herself in any way, like some non-Native writers, especially for media, have chosen to do with her image. In non-Native versions of the story, she’s so often portrayed as a temptress, which doesn’t make sense to me, because in the stories I’ve been told, every figure has a motivation and they also have a vital role. What role, then, did Deer Woman fill? To me, she came into form as a response to sexual violence, kicking and thrashing, to put an end to it all. As Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel suggest in the podcast Métis In Space, there is a Deer Woman inside us all.

Rich: Do all of your comics carry a message?

Elizabeth: Deer Woman: A Vignette has the most explicit message of all my comics since it includes genuine self-defense teachings from Arming Sisters/Reawakening Warriors. I never set out to create a comic just to share a message, but all of my work carries messages. Sometimes I’m not even aware of the message until I hear what someone else experienced and they share their story with me. Those are the moments I live for. The work is far beyond me and I’m just doing my best to keep up and bring the stories to people as best I can.

Rich: Can you tell us about a few of the other comics you have written?

Elizabeth: My work spans from historical stories to alternate realities to recognizing the alternate reality in this reality we live in. “Copper Heart” in MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection ( tells of a man's childhood experience with the memegwesiwag (water spirits) who come to the aid of his sister when she falls ill. The teaser of the forthcoming comic “They Come for Water” ( warns about what will come from the pursuit of water on Mars.

Rich: Will you be writing any more comic books in the future?

Elizabeth: I’m currently collaborating with Turtle Mountain Chippewa comic artist and writer Mitchell Bercier on “Of Ash and Snow,” a Métis comic that takes place during the rise of logging industry. The story follows a Métis woman who encounters a rougarou in the winter around the time of a sudden town-decimating fire. It is inspired partially by losing my home in a fire in the Pacific Northwest this past summer and having to start all over again as I headed to Minnesota where the winters are harsher, while calling on the history of the Baudette Fire in Lake of the Woods in 1910. The comic will hopefully be one of many in a forthcoming book collection of Indigenous comics about love and empowerment.
Rich: Any words for those who enjoy your work?

Elizabeth: Keep your eyes open for forthcoming comics as well as games and animations. I’m very grateful that you are part of this experience and I hope that you too will express yourself in whatever way is needed.

Richard Vasseur
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