August 31, 2008

Indian maiden in PISTOLFIST

What I bought--20 August 2008Pistolfist #2 (of 4) by J. S. Earls (writer), David A. Flanery, Jr. (writer), Andres Guinaldo (artist), Jason Embury (colorist), and Ken Nuttall (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Bluewater Productions.

The second issue of Pistolfist worries me. It’s still quite good--the art is very nice, and there’s some nice pre-Revolutionary intrigue, and a flashback to the Boston Massacre, and the cannon that the British use to destroy an Indian encampment near Fort Ticonderoga is the kind of thing that isn’t too weird for this time period even though it’s suitably science-fictiony. It ties into the presence of Ben Franklin in the comic, too, which is nice. As far as an entertaining alternative history yarn, the first two issues have been good. I’m looking forward to the last two issues.

Except for the worrisome part, which I have to believe will be more prominent in the next issue. I’m worried about the Native American who rescues our hero. I’m not terribly put off by the fact that a comely Indian lass rescues Salem. What am I worried about is that whenever Indians appear in popular culture these days, it seems like the writers go out of their way to make up for the horrible stereotypes of the past by doing a complete 180 and portraying them as the noblest people ever to walk the earth. This is especially prevalent, it seems, in historical fiction (which is partly why it doesn’t seem to affect Scalped and why that’s such a damned fine comic). I don’t have a problem with portraying Natives as noble, but the deification of Indian culture over the past 20-30 years is kind of annoying. I really hope Earls hasn’t succumbed to it. Dyani can be a noble character, but it has to be because of something within her, not because she’s a Native American. So I’m worried. We’ll see if I have any reason to be worried next issue.
Comment:  Yeah, it's good that SCALPED stuck with the old "horrible stereotypes" rather than updating them. Not.

In general this critic's point is valid, but SCALPED isn't the solution to the problem. Comics such as PEACE PARTY are.

I skimmed PISTOLFIST #1-2 in my comics shop. Here's the scoop:

  • Indians don't appear in issue #1 but do appear in #2 and undoubtedly in future issues, since the story is continued.

  • The Indians show up only in a couple pages. I wouldn't say that's enough space to develop a "noble savage" portrayal. Just because the Indians don't attack, kill, or scalp anyone doesn't mean they're noble.

  • These New England Indians live in tipis...wrong.

  • They look like generic Indians, which is okay.

  • Dyani is young and beautiful and dressed in a fringed buckskin mini-skirt--your classic Indian princess type. The only thing the artist omitted is big round breasts.

  • Dyani (sounds like Diana, goddess of the hunt) is an unlikely Indian name. I guess we should be thankful she isn't named after something soft and fragile like a fawn, dove, or flower.

  • For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

    9 comments:

    dmarks said...

    There are many many references in "name origins" pages to "Dyani" being a Native American name meaning "Deer".

    dmarks said...

    And, on a second look, the name "Dyani" appears in an entry for your own Pronghorn Contest

    Rob said...

    You're right, but that just leads to more problems:

    1) "Dyani" is an "Indian women are gentle and soft" kind of name. That's a cliché.

    2) Indians had hundreds of languages, as I'm sure you know. What are the odds that "Dyani" comes from a New England language, most of which have been lost? If it's from the wrong language, it's not only a cliché, it's a mistake.

    3) The websites all say "Dyani" is "Native American" without specifying a tribe. To me that suggests that someone claimed it's Native and every other site has repeated the claim without thinking. If there were a legitimate Native source for "Dyani," surely some sites would have cited it.

    Moreover, "Dyani" is still too reminiscent of Diana the hunter to me. Therefore, it stays as part of my critique.

    As for the Pronghorn contest, someone else suggested Dyani, not me. Which kind of proves my point. I'm thinking of a name that won't be stereotypical, whereas Dyani would be (vaguely) stereotypical.

    dmarks said...

    I found that Dyani meant "Deer" in a few places. But (as you mention) the lack of any language or nation, even in name lists that show the specific Native language origin of just about every name but Dyani, make it a poor choice to use.

    Jeffrey said...

    Hey -- J.s. Earls, creator/co-writer on PISTOLFIST here. Glad you're (somewhat) enjoying the book. Sorry you aren't crazy about Dyani. For sake of space and the rest of the tale, we really didn't get to develop her as much as we wanted.

    Personally, though, I think she's tougher - even more brutal - than our male lead. I actually hoped to explore the violent aspects in a separate comic. I've actually studied that quite a bit and find the "war-games", etc. to be quite entertaining.

    *Side Note: Any Native American weapons-saavy readers who check out Ted Dekker's LOST BOOKS graphic novels "Chosen" and "Infidel" (which I adapted) will notice the gunstock clubs and two-bladed war knife I slipped in.

    Regarding the name, we wanted her to be very fast - which is why I chose "Dyani". We also wanted something easy for readers to pronounce. And my mother's name is Diana.

    Regarding the appearance, the artist lives in Spain and was very confused about Native Americans and we wasted countless hours trying to enlighten him while attempting to remain on schedule. In the end, we let him stick to what he could understand.

    Some of these things, were also used to quickly communicate with the reader. Even the overall colors of the comic aren't true to the time-period, because most clothing was bright and we desaturated the colors to help things seem "older" and more raw.

    I'll stop making excuses. We're not perfect and we make plenty of mistakes. Just wanted to explain a little of the method to our (obvious) madness.

    Thanks again for giving us the benefit of the doubt!

    Rob said...

    Thanks for the info, Jeffrey. I'm sure I and my non-Native artists have made mistakes in my comics too.

    Anonymous said...

    I stumbled across your blog when I searched my name first on Facebook and then in google to double-check the meaning that my mother told me years ago ...

    She said (and I found it once about 10 years ago in a baby name book but of course, don't recollect the title) that the name "Dyani" means "running deer" in Cherokee. And what I've found thru google agrees, although you're right -- no mention of any Native American tribe. But I didn't search EVERY site ...

    I personally have yet to meet anyone that has EVER heard of my name, let alone someone that actually has it -- I live in South Dakota but have no Native American heritage that I'm aware of ...

    And I don't know how the author of the story pronounces it, but we say it "die - ohn - ee" and most call me "Dy (pronounced "die") for short, since it's hard for most to remember!

    Anyway, I think I'll have to check this story out more thoroughly since there's a name connection:-)

    Best wishes,

    Dyani from South Dakota

    Rob said...

    If "Dyani" is indeed Cherokee, that's a good reason not to use it as the name of a New England Indian woman.

    Anonymous said...

    My name is dyani and ive always been told by my father who is Cherokee that my name means runs like a deer. I also live in New England.

    -Boston Dyani