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Fort Liard teen creates comic series

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 02, 2007

FORT LIARD- Neil Kotchea has a vision. In his mind Kotchea is developing a world and creating the inhabitants that form the basis of a story he is writing. Kotchea is giving life to his characters through his artwork.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Neil Kotchea holds the cover photo for the first of his planned series of comic books about an aboriginal character named Dakoha. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

The planned final result will be a manga series that will last for 20 volumes. Manga refers to a style of comic books from Japan. Kotchea has already planned the dramatic ending for his last volume.

All of this is coming from the mind of a 17-year-old in Fort Liard.

Art has been a part of Kotchea's life for almost as long as he can remember. He started drawing at the age of seven after discovering anime, a style of animation developed in Japan. His favourite television shows included Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.

Kotchea now sees art as a way forward.

"I just want to do something with my life," he said.

Kotchea's goal is to become the creator of a manga book. He'd like to see his series published and sitting on bookstore shelves.

"I hope this will get me somewhere one day," he said.

Kotchea started developing the story for his series last December after receiving a boost of support from actor Dakota House who visited Fort Liard.

"He told me to follow my dreams," said Kotchea.

House's support earned him a reference in the story. Kotchea's main character is called Dakoha, a slight variation on House's first name. The series is named after the character.

The first volume starts with the story of Dakoha, a 16-year-old aboriginal who was raised in Edmonton. One day, a mysterious native warrior appears and takes him through a portal to a world inhabited by native people. Dakoha finds out he's been chosen by the Eagle Clan to help fight against a series of evil spirits.

The journey to fight the evil spirits will take Dakoha to a number of regions inhabited by different aboriginal groups including the Inuit, Cree, Blackfoot and Dene.

Kotchea's story and artwork have been inspired by his own aboriginal heritage.

In his drawings, Kotchea has consciously blended aspects of aboriginal art with Japanese animation.

"I'm trying to make it so people in the NWT will like my book," he said.

By blending the styles, Kotchea also hopes to get more people interested in aboriginal culture. Lots of teenagers like anime so they should be drawn to the series, he said.

Kotchea said he also hopes to show other aboriginal people, "that there's something to do in life."

Kotchea does most of his work at home where he can be found drawing for hours at a time.

At his day job Kotchea is also putting his artistic skills to good use. As a summer student for the Acho Dene Koe First Nations he's been painting designs on the band office walls including three works by David Duntra and the band logo by Ervin Berreault.

"It's really exciting to have someone who's so talented," said Anne-Marie McGuire, the band manager.

Each manga drawing Kotchea does goes through a number of stages. First it is sketched in pencil and then traced over with a pen. The pencil marks are erased before Kotchea colours it in with pencil crayons.

Even now Kotchea said he's sometimes surprised by his own drawings.

"I look at them and wonder if I drew it," he said.

Kotchea has already drawn the cover pages for the first three volumes and developed many of the main characters. Before he starts drawing the graphics for the first volume Kotchea is hoping to get public input on the level of violence that should be shown.

While wanting to entertain people, Kotchea also wants to appeal to as large of an audience as possible.

"Will they like it if there's blood in there and fighting and killing," asked Kotchea.