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JamieBy BERNIE BELLAN
It’s always fun to be contacted by someone who’s a millennial  (anyone born between 1980 - 2000) – someone quite a bit younger than our typical readers – asking whether we would be interested in doing a story about some sort of project with which they’re involved.

Not only does it tell me that this paper is of interest to younger people (at least occasionally!), it helps to keep me in touch with what appeals to younger people.

When I was contacted by Jamie Michaels, whom I’ve known for years, with a request to provide some publicity for an upcoming project of his, I was only too glad to oblige. Jamie, for anyone who may not be aware, has led a fascinating life already, even in his relatively short 29 years. An accomplished high school wrestler (at Grant Park, where he was an integral part of three provincial champion teams), Jamie actually received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he was a Political Science major – also a very successful university wrestler.
Along the way, Jamie said, he also became a Mixed Martial Artist (MMA), first with a successful amateur career and, more recently, with a foray into professional MMA. (He had his first professional fight last October, he told me.)
When I met with Jamie recently, I remarked to him that he “looks relatively unscarred”, especially considering another of his occupations (which you’re about to read).
Jamie answered quickly: “Unscarred means you’re good at it!”
“I’m the only guy with the Star of David in the front of his trunks” (in MMA), he added. (Harvey Rosen: take note.)

In 2013 Jamie went to London, England, to attend Royal Holloway College. While there – and while he was working on his Masters degree in Creative Fiction, Jamie says his claim to fame was that he was the “only guy who did his dissertation while couch surfing – no fixed address.”
But, Jamie’s interests beyond school – and fighting, have always been diverse, to say the least. For the past two summers he’s been a firefighter in Alberta. According to Jamie, “firefighting is great because: a. You can tell girls at the bar that you’re a helicopter firefighter; b. It gives me a framework for writing. It offers me the space and the time where writing can be the focus of my life.”
“What writing?” you might wonder.
Well, in March 2016, Jamie released a graphic novel titled “Canoe Boys” – about a crazy adventure he and two other guys embarked upon when Jamie was only 21. They decided they wanted to paddle a canoe from Winnipeg to the Gulf of Mexico. I remember talking to Jamie’s parents (John Michaels and Karen Stern) quite often while Jamie was on that adventure. You have to realize: Jamie is nothing at all like his parents. When John and Karen would describe to me Jamie’s latest mishap during that zany year, they would roll their eyes and just shake their heads in disbelief, as if to say: “How could we have produced that boy?”
In any event, that canoe trip to the Gulf of Mexico inspired Jamie to combine his writing skills with the artistic skills of an illustrator by the name of Evan Collis to create the aforementioned graphic novel, “Canoe Boys”.
Now, publishing a book these days can be done any number of ways, among the most popular of which is self-publishing. But, that doesn’t come cheap. So, Jamie started a “Kickstarter campaign” to raise $10,000 toward the printing and distribution of “Canoe Boys”.
(Kickstarter is an online tool that allows individuals or groups to attempt to raise a specific amount of money. If a particular goal can be reached then the money goes toward that campaign. If the goal isn’t reached, contributors are not charged for their pledge.)
That Kickstarter campaign did very well, Jamie told me. “Our Kickstarter broke 10k in presales, we made the McNally Robinson best seller list and we were nominated for a Shuster Award.” (The Shuster Awards recognize outstanding achievement by a Canadian comic book or graphic novel.)

Christie Pits“Canoe Boys” actually ended up doing okay – well, maybe not great because, as Jamie explained: “We did $10,000 in presales and I think by the end of the year I wrote myself a cheque for $315 and I went out and bought a case of beer and hamburgers.”
It was a learning experience, however. As Jamie explained, he learned that “the writing is number one – creating a great story…If you go into the publishing world with the intention of making money, you had better open your eyes.”
Fast forward to the present time – and Jamie’s latest project: a graphic novel about the Christie Pits riot. Here’s how Jamie described the novel in his press release: “Christie Pits is a graphic novel telling the incredible true history of when young Jewish and Italian immigrants squared off against Nazi-inspired thugs in the streets of Toronto. The story behind the 10,000 person race-riot for the soul of the great nation of Canada is written by Winnipeg lowlife and Amateur-Jewish-Cage-Fighting Sensation Jamie Michaels, and illustrated by the prodigious Doug Fedrau.
“This gritty ride through Spadina’s immigrant community tells authentic Canadian history with no holds barred. Each chapter follows an individual character and the forces that brought them into the street on August 16th, 1933. These stories and characters thread together and intermingle to give readers the real feeling of a neighbourhood.”

I asked Jamie whether he had ever heard about the Christie Pits riot when he was younger?
“No,” he answered. “I heard about it in a pub.”
I suggested that it was highly unlikely that younger people would have heard about that incident – unless they had read a book by someone like historian Allan Levine, who wrote about the Christie Pits riot in his book about the history of Toronto.
“And that’s such a shame,” Jamie agreed. “This is real Canadian history. This is also thematically about how Canada dealt with immigrants. Jewish immigrants in Toronto in 1933 were on the fringe of society.”
As we talked, Jamie went into some detail as to what led to Jews and Italians – on one side, fighting with mostly Anglo Saxons on the other, in what turned out to be a six-hour slugfest.
 Once again, Jamie is attempting to raise funds for this graphic novel through a Kickstarter campaign . The project is now generating momentum through crowdsourcing at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dirtywater/dirty-water-comics-presents-christie-pits

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