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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Reader's Diary #1230- David Alexander Robertson (Writer), Scott B. Henderson: Betty / The Helen Betty Osborne Story

Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story was not the first time that David Alexander Robertson tackled the story of Helen Betty Osborne with a comic book. In 2009 he had also collaborated with Madison Blackstone on The Life of Helen Betty Osborne: A Graphic Novel.

Disappointingly, however, I'm not entirely sure he much improved upon the first attempt as largely my issues with this book are the same as those written by reviewers Peters and Joyal regarding the 2009 book. There's no denying that this is an important story, with themes of violence and racism running deep. Helen Betty Osborne's life was ended tragically and an even larger tragedy would be forgetting her. For that Robertson should be commended.

However, I do hope that there will be a telling that better captures who she was. Initially in Betty, we get some of that as we hear her and her friend Eva discussing her fears about leaving for residential school and her dreams of becoming a teacher. Quickly, however, it starts to feel too much like a news report. There are details, but no depth. Murdered at such a young age, who Betty would have become we'll sadly never know. But I also wanted to know who she was before that. Perhaps that is, to a small degree, a success of the book: having created a longing for better understanding of her humanity, as well as the humanity of victims like her, rather than statistics.

Still, I'll reiterate that I don't think short comics are the best venue for a biography. I think that a real life needs more time and space to explore the complexities of who they are. She deserves more than 30 pages.

Earlier this year I also reviewed David Alexander Robertson's The Peacemaker Thenadelthur. In some regards, Betty is an improvement over that one. The frame story of Betty, involving a Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women protest, is far more successful than the class presentation frame of The Peacemaker, as the protest is far more immediately relevant and important.

Henderson's art is serviceable if not a tad underwhelming.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It really does seem an odd choice for a venue to tell the story of Helen Betty Osborne. A shame it doesn't really work, but perhaps not surprising.