August 27, 2006

Natives in the military...comics

As many people know, Natives have served more often in the US military than any other ethnic group, percentage-wise. This noteworthy trait is reflected in comic books.

DC Comics had at least two prominent Native characters in its war comics. In the Sgt. Rock stories, one member of Easy Company was Little Sure Shot (Louis Kiyahani), the name originally used by Annie Oakley. DC describes him as a "full-blood Apache tracker and Easy Co.'s sniper/sharpshooter. What he lacks in size he makes up for with stealth, speed, accuracy and cold-blooded efficiency."

Another DC war comic was ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR, which introduced Johnny Cloud, a lieutenant in the World War II U.S. Army Air Corps: the so-called Navajo Ace. After starring in this series for years, Cloud joined THE LOSERS, which featured "a fighter pilot, a PT boat commander from the Pacific, and a couple of Marine ground grunts operating in Europe."

The heyday of war comics, the 1960s, is long gone, but these characters reappeared recently. In the Sgt. Rock graphic novel, BETWEEN HELL AND A HARD PLACE, Little Sure Shot has the least important role and comes across as the typical stoic Indian. On the other hand, in the NEW FRONTIER mini-series, Johnny Cloud narrates the first chapter and thus gets the most characterization. Unfortunately, he has a fatalistic streak of the kind once attributed to non-Western races. When his companions are killed by dinosaurs on a lost Pacific island, he chooses to stay and seek revenge rather than escape.

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