It only seemed right, says artist Jay Odjick, that he should take his artwork to a whole new level.
“I think its important that we see ourselves portrayed in a positive light and I want to bring that from TV to books into clothing now,” said Odjick.
“We need to see positive heroic Indigenous depictions on the streets and on our bodies.”
Odjick launched his WarriorUP clothing line late last week. WarriorUP includes T-shirts, hoodies, jogging pants, socks, leggings and other workout gear.
On Nov. 17, Odjick teased his newest creations on Facebook with the single word “Tomorrow.”
Because he is well-known as the creator of Kagagi, the first-ever animated Indigenous superhero television series, which first came to life in a graphic novel, his followers figured he was launching another work of graphic fiction.
But instead, Odjick surprised everyone with his clothing line, which includes, among other artwork, an Indigenous man and woman as superheroes.
“The First American, Captain Indigenous” has a medicine wheel on his shoulder, wields a Navajo shield, and sports a star on his chest. The female figure is entitled “Girlpowered” and Odjick describes the young woman, whose face is in profile, as “classy, simple, not overdone.”
Another logo is entitled “Skoden Club.”
“Skoden is a meme that’s spreading,” said Odjick. “It’s a little bit rowdy.”
He explains “Skoden” as a very quick oral version of “let’s go then.”
His fourth design is a blue thunderbird, which depicts power.
The WarriorUP line is all about doing things. Especially in this time of the coronavirus when so many people would rather be couch potatoes, Odjick says, WarriorUP gear emphasizes the need to work out and partake in a fitness regime.
But it’s also about standing up for Indigenous rights.
“WarriorUP isn’t about combat or violence. It’s about taking a stand for things you care about or believe in,” said Odjick.
There’s pride that comes in having an Indigenous superhero like Kagagi or someone like Helen, the main character in the Robert Munsch children’s picture book Blackflies, which Odjick illustrated.
“When I was growing up there were no superheroes or children in books who looked like me,” said Odjick.
And there’s not a lot of Indigenous apparel out there, either.
Odjick says that right now he is focused on reaching First Nations people. While he knows Blackflies, which was a narrative shared with Munsch by a First Nations family, found a reading audience with non-Indigenous people, Odjick says his “primary goal” is to bring “cool designs” and a sense of pride to First Nations people with their own apparel.
Odjick, who is Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec, would like to expand his WarriorUP gear to include artwork from other First Nations illustrators. It is important to him that that work be authentic. It’s not his place, he says, to re-create Coast Salish art.
He’ll be reaching out personally to artists from the West Coast to see if they may be interested in joining his brand, but that will be phase two or three of his business, once he has the time.
“I have a hard time delegating,” he said. “I like to be accessible.”
So for now, his energy will be focused on building up his line with his four designs.
Fittingly, his apparel also includes face masks, which will forever remind people that WarriorUP was launched in 2020 during COVID-19.
The WarriorUP line also includes coffee mugs, cell-phone cases, beach towels, stickers, wall tapestry, a throw pillow and tote bag.
Odjick says his venture shows that anything can be accomplished once a person puts their mind to it.
“Anyone can do something like this. You don’t have to have deep pockets. You can make it on your own,” he said.
WarriorUP gear is available online only through WarriorUp | Teespring. Once COVID-19 is under control and Odjick can attend powwows and other events, he will have stock available for sale.
“WarriorUP is for somebody who stands up, gets up, and does something,” said Odjick.