April 23, 2007

SCALPED's totem pole and tomahawk

A correspondent comments on SCALPED's totem pole:What???? Isn't that like a story set in Russia with the Effiel Tower featured in it? I live in totem pole country. We understand totem poles. No totem poles outside the Pacific Northwest unless they were a sacred gift from a Pac. NW tribe or some artist really needed the money--well, there are the pathetic attempts at totem poles, but never the real thing--and we can tell at a glance from looking at them all day every day.

Linde Knighton--a Native living in Seattle.
Comment:  It's obviously a non-Indian's attempt to draw a totem pole. It looks phony.

In the comic it's lying against a barn, discarded. I wouldn't be surprised if that violates a Northwest Indian taboo or custom.

And of course there's absolutely no reason for the pole to be in South Dakota in the first place.

And I love the image below from the cover of SCALPED #5. Forget the stereotypical alcohol for a moment. A tomahawk?! If Vertigo's people are intentionally trying to annoy us, they could hardly do a better job of it.

Moreover, the cover of SCALPED #6 features a face with war paint. But we haven't seen a teepee, an arrowhead, or a peace pipe yet. Can we expect those on the covers of SCALPED #7-9?

Get a clue, Jason Aaron. The chief, the totem pole, and the tomahawk on your covers are clear evidence that your comic is stereotypical. Do something about it or continue to earn my scorn.


Jason Aaron said...

Get a clue, Jason Aaron. The chief, the totem pole, and the tomahawk on your covers are clear evidence that your comic is stereotypical. Do something about it or continue to earn my scorn.

Your arrogance is overwhelming, Rob. You've already called me a racist and insulted all of the Natives who are fans of SCALPED. I have no desire to try and justify my book to you. That would be a collossal waste of time.

However, anyone else who has questions or issues regarding SCALPED, feel free to email me at:

everywhere73 at yahoo.com

Or post on my blog at:


Rob said...

Actually, no...I haven't called you a racist or insulted any Natives. I've stuck fairly closely to critiques of your work.

With your nonresponsive answers, it's too bad you can't say the same. For the third time in a row, you're unwilling or unable to address my specific criticisms.

Again, where are all the Natives who are fans of SCALPED? Provide the links to their comments and then we'll discuss them.

Why are you bothering to write me if you have no desire to justify your book? If that's your attitude, why did you try to justify it the previous two times?

"It would be a colossal waste of time"...because you have no justification, judging by your previous comments. So it would take you a long time to come up with one. Is that what you mean?

Why are you monitoring my postings so closely if you don't care? If you're trashing me in your blog, I don't know about it. I'm all about criticizing the work, not about proving myself to people.

You'll be glad to know I skipped SCALPED #4 in my comic-book shop today, so I won't have much more to say about the series. You can go on stereotyping Indians and I probably won't even notice.

Feel free to let me know when you stop portraying Indians as criminals, thugs, and lowlifes and start portraying them as three-dimensional humans. Then I can start reading the book and praising it for something other than its style.

Finally, readers can judge for themselves who's arrogant here: the person who points out the stereotyping of Indians or the person who continues the stereotyping regardless. My website and blog have increased in popularity the last few months, so I'm not worried about the results.

Cary said...

If Jason is looking for proof that his work is being taken as a representation of the realities of reservation life by American readers, I would like him to know that I began researching his work on Scalped after being asked by one of my students if it represented an authentic American Indian experience. I teach American Indian history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and know first hand the damages that pop culture has wrought through its stereotypical depictions of American Indians. Being from the other side of the pond, Jason may not realize the extent to which most Americans are ignorant of American Indian history and culture because it is so marginalized in public school curriculum on American History. As a result, many Americans believe the stereotypes whole cloth, and certainly have no understanding of real American Indian cultural values, sovereignty, or treaty rights. While I will admit that I have not read an issue myself, the information that I have gleaned from both the positive and negative reviews of this work are disturbing. I agree with many of Rob's statements about common contemporary stereotypes of American Indians - and fear that the storyline as it stands may perpetuate them. A more positive reviewer suggested that they thought Jason's characters were more realistic because they were sad and depressed rather than stoic. While stoicism is indeed another stereotype of Indian people largely created by the famous Curtis photographs, the reality is not a community of mopey, depressed, and angry individuals but rather is characterized by joking, teasing, and humor. Smiles and laughter are far more characteristic of Indian life than the bleak picture this comic presents.

Ethnic comics can be done very well. Maus, or Persepolis for example, are excellent stories that both entertain, show a gritty reality, and present images that defy rather than reinforce stereotypes. I think that Jason Aaron would be well advised to do far more research on the culture and community he wishes to portray before continuing his series.

The reality is that regardless of his intentions which I am sure are purely to entertain, American readers are not exposed to enough realistic depictions of American Indian life to tell the difference between a stereotypical and a realistic depiction of reservation life. I am glad that my students are able to come to me for clarification, and I will be making a point of obtaining some issues of this series so that I can be a more responsible reviewer of the material. However, the very fact that my students are asking me "is this real or is this stereotype" demonstrates the fact that not only is a portion of Jason's audience accepting his work as an "authentic depiction" but also that despite Jason's confidence in them, they lack the information to be able to tell the difference.

Rob said...

Excellent comments, Cary. I hope you'll read the first SCALPED trade paperback someday and let us know what you think.

Anonymous said...

OK. you yahoos didn't even read the first six issues and you can judge the book? who the fuck do you think you are? Its a crime book. It features criminals. Its not a book about law abiding citizens. It is also a long-term serialized series, so judging it by reading the first 3 issues is inane. Do some real research Rob.

Rob said...

At this point I've read the first six issues, Anonymous. As you'd know if you'd read Critic Revisits SCALPED. Nothing about them changed my opinion of SCALPED #3's cover.

Who do I think I am? Who do I have to be to criticize Native stereotypes? Is there something that makes you or Jason Aaron more qualified than Cary or me to judge such stereotypes? If so, what is it?

And why would my criticism require reading all the books? In case you didn't understand, I was criticizing the cover of SCALPED #3. Not every book, not the interior of this book, but the cover.

A Native woman agreed with me that the cover was stereotypical. Your opinion that I need to do research suggests you don't know what the hell you're talking about. Unless you can address the cover image, don't bother wasting my time again.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rob, I LOVE Scalped and you don´t. So what? It´s a free world. I am a member of Amnesty, I am Western European, female and privileged. I still think about the elderly, homeless people and I have read Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, I have been to a rez. I also think religions and ideologies have done the human race a great deal of harm. I read Lord Byron, Philip Roth and I personally despise Quentin Tarantino for making violence look like a hip thing in his movies (which are pretty much adaptations of martial arts movies like Lady Snowblood). I still like Scalped. This deabte has become a bit too personal though. It´s kind of insulting being told that one reads a stereotypical, dumb book and Jason Aaron is pretty much a crap, biased writer. I find that it is quite pretentious to think that any comic book featuring Native Americans should depict them in a certain way. Then you´d have to pigeonhole them. From my experience neither the good personality traits nor the bad personality traits depend on the colour of your skin. That is tolerance right? I mean just because Quentin Tarantino lets a white chick gun down some men, doesn´t mean all white female persons are criminal and spiteful bitches, right? So, how come you think that Scalped could throw a bad light on Native Americans? It`s a good crime story and I like that it features Native Americans because I consider them as being quite attractive. And many of them have good intentions and are likeable. Think about Granny Poor Bear, also Carol (Red Crow´s daughter) is a nice character. And young Dino is trying his best to make things better for his daughter, right? Gina Bad Horse is a political activist and a loving mother, trying her son to teach that is is wrong to kill people and her book shelf contains Bury me heart at Wounded Knee. So neither character is just stereotypical, they are all complex and deep. If it´s not your cup of tea, all right.
Again, it´s a free world! What we learn from Scalped is that tolerating each others´ opinions and failures is a hard thing and this is also what we learn from this debate.

Unknown said...

Okay, I realize this thread has probably been long forgotten, but hving just read it, I have to comment.

I'm on Jason Aaron's side all the way here. Rob, I read your original review of Scalped #1 way back when, and saw your logic had more holes in it than a block of swiss cheese. "Oh, they're only showing the bad side of things, why are they focusing on Native American criminals instead of the upstanding, decent citizens?" Umm.... because it's a CRIME book, Rob? If anything, it would be MORE insulting if Jason had to stop his gritty crime narrative mid-issue, and devote a token number of pages to "Hey kids! Let's take a look at the nice little reservation school with happy kids and a nice teacher, because Native Americans might be offended if we only have criminals in our crime book. Oh look, they're getting good grades, aren't they? All A+ students too, because anything less than that might be percieved as insulting!"

But despite your massively flawed review, Jason Aaron took the time to give you a respectful, thoughtful reply, saying that the book would show more depths in future issues (which it did), that Red Crow would become more than just an evil thug in time (which he did) and to give the book a chance rather than just judging it on its opening.

You, in turn, responded with "No thanks, I'll just dig my heels in, ignore everything you said, and just keep on crying about there being no depth and Red Crow being one-note. Bye!" Then you saw Jason Aaron acknowledging you as being some kind of note of meagre noteriety, and used it as an excuse to start calling him out and insulting him at every turn. I don't blame him for losing patience with you, I'm surprised it took him this long. Oh, but your blog has "increased in popularity", so I guess the piggybacking worked.

If you want to keep on being so precious and defensive about how Native Americans are depicted - making them too noble's stereotypical, making them too corrupt's stereotypical, would you rather they just didn't show up in stories at all? - that's your perogative. I'm just thankful Baltimore didn't get its panties in such a bunch about a negative portrayal of its people in "The Wire", or we wouldn't have had a chance to see that grow into the classic statement on society it became.

One final note. It's not just the Native Americans who are scumbags. The very white Agent Nitz is every bit as scummy, and in a lot of ways less sympathetic than Red Crow. Aaron isn't making a statement about "those greedy Indians", but rather human nature in general. But I guess you can find racism anywhere if you look hard enough for it.