A Hawaiian comic book series.
Kipaku Kai is the brainchild of an adolescent Gabriel Peckham. While on a break from a vicious game of poker, Gabe asked Rusty Baily (an artist and graphic novel fan he had just met) if he had ever thought of doing a daily comic strip. He said he was interested in hearing about some ideas, so Gabe described an idea for a comic he had in California, circa 1982, when he was just 12 years old. hough Gabe never expected Rusty to seriously consider his childhood creation, he soon started drawing characters to fit the concept. Teaming with friend Ransom Edison, avid diver and comic book reader, they started developing the comic. Another friend, Dominic Kick, soon joined on as the colorist and web manager.
Gabriel had a wild imagination as a child. He thought it would be funny if there were a comic about a man being banished to the ocean as mutant sea monster. Now married and with a child of his own, he spends his days recreating the thoughts and images of his youth hoping that it is in some way therapeutic. In his spare time, he enjoys making biosenors for anthrax.
Rusty is a big kid, originally from Charlotte NC, he now enjoys taking his dog to the beaches of Hawaii. He loves to draw and also enjoys comics, movies, snorkeling, surfing and of course the Simpsons. If you like his pictures and think them pretty, let him know.
With a past shrouded in clichés and self-serving references, Ransom Edison wandered the Pacific Rim for decades before washing up on the sands of Oahu. He spends his hours deciphering English, hunting octopi, and crumpling paper. His son aspires to become The Master of Time and Space, but his daughter has larger plans.
Dominic loves comics almost as much as he loves computers. Now, he combines both worlds by coloring the strip and broadcasting it on the World Wide Web, providing access to the masses! This strongly resonates with his belief in freedom of speech; a right he says doesn’t apply to his beagle. “Mowgli, ssshhh!”
Kipaku (to banish, exile, kick out) Kai (sea) is Jonah Kelly, an ambitious land developer with a chip on his shoulder. Growing up in Chicago, he knew little about Hawaii, the land of his birth, until a forced vacation banished Jonah from his corporate life. Reluctantly going with his wife to her family’s home on Oahu, he immersed himself in his father-in-law’s business. Then one morning, he woke up submerged in the ocean, transformed into a sea monster! Is he now banished to the sea?
Jonah’s wife, a beautiful, strong-willed Native Hawaiian woman whose parents own a major construction firm on Oahu.
Glen (aka Humu) – A cynical, sharp-tongued Hawaiian triggerfish who pesters Kipaku about his human background and current predicament. His droll, sardonic comments aim to advise Kipaku but usually only irk him.
A playful Monk Seal admired by other sea creatures for her wisdom and nurturing demeanor.
Niho (teeth) - A large and intimidating Tiger Shark who frequently crosses paths with Kipaku and takes pleasure in making him squirm.
An expert on aquatic physiology and appearing out-of-nowhere when one least expects it.
Ray the ray (aka Rambling Ray) – An ocean “observer” with a unique perspective and colorful imagination.
Moray Eels credited with prophetic powers that live in a sunken Corsair fighter plane.
A mysterious powerful mano (shark).
A local rascal with business ties to Jonah’s in-laws.
A patient philosophical honu (sea turtle).
An overly political rabble-rousing Goat Fish with a gift for oratory.
Businessman Jonah Kelly wakes up in the ocean transformed into a sea monster, Kipaku Kai! His quest to discover the cause of his change will take him from the tide-swept coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands to the darkest depths of the ocean where strange creatures of legend lurk and the secrets of his origin hide. Along the way, adversaries emerge, unlikely alliances form, and great adventures ensue.
The seas around Hawaii where Jonah now finds himself have long been a source of myth and legend. Native Hawaiians respected the ocean and its denizens; a spiritual connection to all natural things was an intricate part of their daily lives. They believed that all creatures and objects potentially contain spirits and power (mana). Another person, an animal or tree, even a stone could be the manifestation of a god and deserving of worship.
The Hawaiian oral tradition includes great folktales of these gods and their relationships between one another, with common themes including genealogy, transformation, and humor. Hawaiian mythology highlights the interdependency of various characters while often lacking a clear contrast of good and evil.
The four major gods worshipped in Hawaii and throughout Polynesia were Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, and Lono. Kane and Kananloa acted as a pair, with Kane having dominion over the land and Kanaloa ruling in the ocean. Ku was the god of war while Lono was associated with agriculture.
Among many other gods (akua), Hawaiians probably showed the most respect for Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and her family. Most notable of her family were Hi’iaka, Pele’s favorite sister, and her brother Kamohoali’i, the Shark King, who helped guide the first Hawaiian people to the islands.
Hawaiians worshipped many other shark gods including Kuhaimoana, whose mouth was as large as a grass house, and Kauhuhu, the shark god of Maui and Molokai. Kauhuhu had a home in an underwater cave on Molokai that was guarded by two mo’o, magical shape-changing lizards or Hawaiian dragons.
Many important Hawaiian myths concerned kupua, who sat somewhere between gods and humans, and were often the offspring of a union of god and human, much like Greek demi-gods such as Hercules or Achilles. Some of these kupua became great heroes, champions of the Hawaiian people, like the trickster hero Maui. He is credited with hauling the Hawaiian Islands up from the bottom of the sea to the surface with his magical fishing hook. Others kupua were considered terrible monsters.
One of the more interesting of these stories is the tale of Nanaue, the Shark-Man of Waipio. In this story, Kamohoali’i, the Shark King, takes on human form to wed a mortal woman but leaves her and returns to the ocean when she bears their child. The boy grows up with an extra mouth on his back and an insatiable appetite for meat. Once he learns that he can turn into a shark at will, he lures the villagers into the water to devour them.
There are other stories of human transformation including Mamala the surf-rider; a chiefess of kupua character who could assume whichever form she desired but usually as a dragon (mo?o) or a beautiful woman.
Characters and stories like these helped shape the world of Kipaku Kai.
Strange creatures of the deep play an important role in most mythologies around the world, especially to sea-faring nations.
Almost everyone has heard of Poseidon or Neptune but the Greeks and Romans acknowledged many other important sea gods in their mythology. Triton was the son of Poseidon and Amphritite and had the torso of a man with the lower half of a fish. He carried a trumpet-like twisted conch shell upon which he could blow to calm or raise waves. As shepherd of Poseidon’s seals, Proteus had the ability to assume the form of any creature that lived in the sea. Multitudes of other gods, nymphs, and spawn of the titans like Calypso or Thetis inhabited the Mediterranean Sea and intruded into the lives of mortals.
The Norse sea giant Aegir ruled the ocean and all sea creatures and was renown for the parties he threw for the Asgardians. For the Chinese it was the great dragon king Ao Guang and his sons that dominated the seas. In the Vedic religion of India, Varuna was the god of the celestial ocean and rode under the water on a makara, another land-and-sea-creature hybrid that sometimes looked like a crocodile or dragon.
The kraken was first reported by the Norse as laying in wait for unwary ships voyaging to Greenland. Originally described as a fish of enormous proportions, it would rest on the surface with its jaws wide open. The protruding teeth, resembling distant islands to sailing Vikings, would bring the curious close and then spring shut to swallow ships whole. Later medieval bestiaries listed the kraken as a cephalopod, describing it as looking like a humungous octopus of aggressive disposition.
Like the Hawaiian mo’o, the Japanese mizuchi is a dragon-like magical creature that dwells underwater. They are intelligent and can shape-change. Some are deadly man-killers, while others merely mischievous.
The Thousand and One Nights tells several stories of the “sea people”, identical to humans except for the ability to breathe and live underwater. Sea people could mate with humans, resulting in offspring that could also live underwater.
Tales of fish-human hybrids, especially female, are also common throughout the world. Mermaid stories have been told since ancient times throughout Eurasia and Africa, beginning with the Assyrian legend of Atargatis. Columbus reported seeing them on his first voyage to the New World. Mermaid sightings continue to this day.
One theme common to most mythologies is conflict with the primal forces that ruled the world before the gods. In Greek and Roman tales, the Titans were primeval monsters that dominated earth and the heavens before they were deposed by the more refined and human-like Olympian gods. The Hindus spoke of the Asuras, the Celts described the Fomorians, and the Norse talked of the Vanir, ancient beings that were less human, less benevolent than the anthropomorphic gods who overthrew them. These savage elder gods, although mostly forgotten, still cast a malevolent shadow over the world of Kipaku Kai.