Dynamite Entertainment and Curiosity Ink Media have secured Montana Poet Laureate M.L. Smoker to write and consult for the Thunderous graphic novel series, debuting in April 2022.
Her co-writer on the project is Natalie Peeterse, also a poet and independent publisher. The graphic novel is drawn by Dale Deforest, with a cover by artist Oriol Vidal. The original, new intellectual property (IP) franchise follows the unexpected adventures of an indigenous teen’s journey into a special world where new friends and foes are discovered. In this unpredictable and sometimes perilous venture she learns to more fully appreciate, embrace, and champion her family’s proud heritage. The graphic novel will debut in tandem with Independent Book Store Day, a national celebration of independent bookstores to be held on Saturday, April 30. The announcement was made today by Dynamite CEO & Publisher Nick Barrucci and Curiosity Ink Media’s EVP & Publisher, Jon Rosenberg.
Thunderous centers on Aiyana, a South Dakota teenager who fails to see a connection between her family’s Indigenous culture and her life in the modern world, resulting in tension with her grandmother, a proud bearer of the family’s history and heritage. As the story progresses, Aiyana finds herself accidentally transported to a new and unfamiliar world where she begins to recognize how understanding her Lakota cultural teachings and stories are the very tools she needs to survive and return home. The book version of Thunderous dovetails into Dynamite’s recently announced publishing program in partnership with Curiosity to develop a slate of printed content rooted in Curiosity’s original IP, as well as cultivating print titles on behalf of other entertainment brands.
Dynamite and Curiosity’s alliance with Smoker, Peeterse, and the rest of the creative team builds on the mission of the companies’ partnership to identify and share authentic stories and voices from various milieus. Smoker, a member of the Nakoda, Dakota, and Lakota tribes is currently Poet Laureate for the state of Montana. Her free verse poems focus on personal loss and identity and engage Native American history, language, and culture. Smoker served as Montana’s Director of Indian Education for nearly a decade and, in 2015, was named the Indian Educator of the Year in addition to being appointed to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education by President Barack Obama. She currently works at Education Northwest as a practice expert in Indian Education. She received a regional Emmy award for her work as a writer/consultant on the PBS documentary Indian Relay.
“The importance of new narratives that are formed from the creativity, resilience and power of Native American communities are necessary to correct the pervasive and damaging stereotypes, misconceptions and ideas that exist in this country about us,” said Smoker. “I hope this is a story that resonates for many children, but, in particular that some Native youth will see themselves reflected in literature and believe they can be their own authors, painters, musicians, and creators in the future. Because representation matters.”
“Forming alliances with indigenous cultural leaders allows us to share stories that are routinely overlooked in popular culture and have the potential to be transformative for young readers,” said Rosenberg. “M.L. Smoker brings an unparalleled authenticity and artistry to storytelling that will bring richness, heart and soul to this new franchise.”
“Dynamite is proud to work with so many writers, artists and partners from diverse backgrounds, as our primary goal is to help facilitate and deliver unique compelling stories across all media to fans, and working with Laureate M.L. Smoker and the creative team helps bring awareness and grows the audience,” said Nick Barrucci, Dynamite CEO & Publisher. “I personally cannot wait to read more of Thunderous and what Smoker and the team have crafted, and for many others to experience this wonderful tale.”