Earlier depictions of Native American or Native American comic book superheroes often followed the same checklist – mystical powers, an ability to talk to animals, and a costume consisting of a headdress or loincloth.
âBad research has been done. They were just coming out of TV and movies, âsaid artist Jeffrey Veregge of the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe in Washington state. One of his biggest complaints is that “heroes everywhere else wore real costumes” while native figures were not well represented.
Growing up reading comics in his tribal lands outside of Seattle, Veregge bonded more with non-native heroes like Iron Man or Spider-Man. Now he’s “living a dream,” overseeing a Marvel comic book about native stories told by native people.
Marvel Comics announced this month that it has brought together Indigenous artists and writers for âMarvel Voices: Indigenous Voices # 1,â an anthology that will revisit some of its Indigenous characters. Its release is scheduled during Native American History Month in November.
Fans of native comics are hoping this is a fresh start to authentic portrayal in traditional superhero dishes. Marvel says the project was planned long before the country took into account racial injustice, which prompted changes, including the Washington NFL team dropping their decades-old Redskins mascot.
âThis fixes a problem that started a long time ago,â Veregge said of the comic book project.
Veregge, who has drawn over 100 covers for Marvel and other major comic book publishers, was only natural to lead the project. In February, he completed an exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York. âOf Gods and Heroesâ was his take on Marvel protagonists like Black Panther and Thor, incorporating shapes and lines inspired by tribal art styles.
âYou want to make sure people recognize the characters themselves, but I also want them to see that there’s an indigenous voice behind that,â Veregge said.
Lee Francis IV, owner of Red Planet Books & Comics in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and independent Indigenous comic book publisher, helped find promising Indigenous artists to join the Marvel Anthology. An organizer of an annual Indigenous Comic Con that descends from Laguna Pueblo, Francis said the comics are not far from the storytelling traditions of some tribes.
âI don’t want to speak for all aboriginals, but I think there is a visual acuity and a sense of storytelling that harmonizes perfectly with the medium of comics,â Francis said. “Not just the words and the writing, but this visual storytelling that links back to our own stories and petroglyphs – rock art – connects it to our ancestors.”
Racist stereotypes have crept into the media because comic book artists have often relied on what they have seen in movie and television westerns, Francis said. And before westerns, political cartoons from the 1700s demonized or ridiculed natives.
For so long in the comics, Native Americans have been either the villain or the stoic sidekick. It’s frustrating when a true ânativeâ sees âeveryone gets spandex and you get a headdress,â Francis said.
Dezbah Evans, meanwhile, has always identified with Marvel’s “X-Men”. The series about young mutants grappling with power while being persecuted by society seems to match the way America treats indigenous communities, said Evans, a 24-year-old comic book fan and cosplayer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. , who is Navajo, Chippewa and Yuchi.
She is eagerly awaiting the Marvel book as it will feature one of her favorite mutants – Danielle Moonstar, a Cheyenne heroine who conjures up illusions based on people’s fears.
âIt’s very encouraging that these are my peers, these are people that I see at conventions and have had relationships with,â Evans said of the writers and artists who created the book. âI am really proud that they are able to reach this level.
She hopes this is the start of an expansion of the comic book world, not just the Marvel Universe. Traditional pop culture still has many more Aboriginal male superheroes than female superheroes.
âWhenever I think of super native women, they’re all mothers – my mom, my grandmother. They are the first heroes of all our lives, âsaid Evans. âIt would be really interesting to have a modern Aboriginal mother who lives and is a superhero. “
Verland Coker, 27, a comic book fan from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, calls Marvel’s efforts a step in the right direction, but says the comics could go further.
It is rare, for example, to see Indigenous superheroes speaking in their own language. Incorporating a language would be an opportunity to educate non-natives and promote tribes – many of whom are struggling to preserve their language for the younger generations, said Coker, who lives in Albuquerque.
âMy concern is that we may sometimes lean on the monolith myth, and while any performance is great, we often only get a few select tribes,â Coker said via text message. âI would just like to see more Indigenous artists on mainstream products. “
It may not be far from the reception Veregge receives. When he meets kids on the reserve where he grew up or at comic book conventions, their parents like to recognize his work for Marvel. It’s an interaction he takes seriously.
âI have the opportunity to say to the children, ‘I also grew up on this reserve. You can do it too, âVeregge said. âI know who I represent. … I carry them wherever I go.