|||Meet the cast of 'Polyfantastica'|
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
Starting today, The Advertiser is the proud home of "Polyfantastica," a landmark new serial comic from artist Solomon Enos.
"Polyfantastica" will run weekly in the Sunday Island Life section.
For Enos, best known for his paintings (one graces the cover of Hapa's "Maui" CD), the project is an opportunity to build on the myth and scholarship of J.R.R. Tolkien, the expansive vision of Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, and the cultural values and traditions of his native Hawai'i.
Other comic and graphic-novel projects have melded sci-fi and fantasy with Hawaiian themes, notably Sam Campos' critically acclaimed '90s comic "Pineapple Man." But where others failed to develop due to lack of funds, problems with distribution and, perhaps, a local audience not quite ready for such imaginative leaps, "Polyfantasica" can ride a national wave of anime/manga popularity and an emerging indigenous sci-fi movement locally.
"This is the first literary project that I've worked on that is not a fine-art piece but still in the art realm," Enos said. "It's exciting and terrifying and wonderful at the same time."
The same might be said of Enos' ambitious story, which spans 40,000 years in the Polynesia-like realm of Moananui, home to some 68 distinct peoples.
"It's much like Middle Earth in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy in that this may be the reality we live in or it may be a parallel reality," Enos says. "It might seem obvious to some, but who knows?"
And while the sprawling epic has more than enough fantastic elements to lure hardcore sci-fi and fantasy fans — a quest for a powerful, corruptive orb; tribes waging war with whale-sized lobsters and giant octopuses; shiploads of corpses arriving from an ecologically decimated world — it is bound by an overarching message of peace.
"The underlying value is that even if we are on a slippery slope toward ongoing conflict, even if the seeds of peace that the good guys plant don't bloom for thousands of years, sustainable peace is not only attainable but inevitable," Enos says. "I don't want to preach it. I just want to present the problem. You decide if you're part of it or not."
Enos, who grew up in Wai'anae and spent much of his time at the nonprofit Ka'ala Farm run by his father, Eric Enos, says "Polyfantastica" is a personal expression of many of his childhood influences, from Japanese manga and anime ("they were so graphic and gritty and diverse that I didn't bother with Marvel and DC") to "Heavy Metal" magazine to the French artist Moebius.
A trip to Japan nearly six years ago was the creative spark that led to "Polyfantastica." Enos was fascinated by the ways in which Japan's ancient culture is expressed in contemporary social life. Questions formed.
"Why can't we use our media to translate our stories, our characters and emotions," Enos says. "How do I merge two things that I love and that are integral to me — my culture and my love of fantasy and sci-fi?"
And then, as Enos says, "Poof!"
The story begins at the end, at a point when war is such a distant memory that the young are made to "relive" the past as a sort of virtual history lesson to understand how their society has evolved.
In today's first installment an unnamed student's journey becomes our own and we are transported, through a drop of water, 40,000 years in the past.
In the coming weeks, we'll learn about an emerging dispute between the 'Iapo, who seek to effect peace through negotiation and mutual accord, and the Kuahu, who seek to attain order through conquest, as well as the quest for the 'oro'ino, a mysterious orb that threatens the balance of power in the region.
Enos writes and illustrates the comic and his fiancee, Meredith Desha, serves as his editor.
In addition, he constantly paints. His work can be found at Na Mea Hawai'i, Bishop Museum Shop Pacifica and, starting Saturday, at the new Moku Ola Hawaiian Art Gallery in Koko Marina Center.
Enos studied "Prince Valiant" comics to find the most effective means of telling his serial story. He designed the strip to include a narrative header that orients readers to each new installment, thereby allowing new readers to enter the story at any point.
Enos is also expanding "Polyfantastica" online as an ongoing storytelling project. As the series continues in this paper, Enos will upload images (he says thousands of them) and storylines from which readers may develop their own ideas for submission and possible use.
Enos, who has taught art in schools, and is also one of the principals (along with Peter Britos and Kai Bovaird) in "Black Sand," a multiplatform project that involves a film, a video game and graphic novels, hopes such interactivity will help advance his mission of inspiring Native Hawaiian and other local children to embrace their culture as they pursue modern-day interests.
"They need role models other than the latest thug rapper-slash-beauty drag queen," he says. "That's junk-food media. What they need is solid laulau-poi-and-fish media. There's something about Hawai'i that they're missing because they're overpowered by neon, lipstick and plastic hula skirts. If you wipe it all away, remove the kitsch, there's something real."
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.