December 23, 2009

Strong Bow the "stone-cold killer"

A blogger named Mighty God King has brought a minor character from a 1950s Western comic book to light:

Strong BowBio:
Some years before the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, an Indian brave named Strong Bow began his trek back and forth across the North American continent. His mission was one of peace; he was the last surviving member of his tribe, which had been wiped out in a massacre. Saying only that he came from "beyond the Misty Mountains", Strong Bow intervened in the troubles of many different tribes in areas as far north as parts of Canada and as far south as Mexico. His help and wisdom was welcomed by the many tribes he met and it is not certain how many times he crisscrossed the continent. His final fate is unknown.

Though a man of peace, Strong Bow was often pressed into battle. His hand-to-hand combat skills were above average and he was an expert with a bow and arrow. Perhaps most impressive was the strength of Strong Bow's legs: he walked virtually all the miles he traveled, since horses had not yet been introduced in the Americas.
Strong Bow debuted in ALL-STAR WESTERN (1951 series) #58 (April-May 1951). He appeared in most or all of the issues through ALL-STAR WESTERN #99 (February-March 1958). His first 12 story titles give a hint of his adventures:

Law of the Tomahawk
Treasure of the Cliff Dwellers
Vengeance of the Chinook
Swamp Spirit of the Seminoles
Pyramid of the Aztecs
Doom of the Lake Demon
The Tomb of the Mohawks
The Giants of Cloud Mountain
The Death Drum
Shoshone Uprising
Smoke Trails in Yellowstone
The Giant of the Badlands

Strong Bow turns vicious

For DC's WHO'S WHO compendium, an artist rendered Strong Bow as follows:

Summing it up, Strong Bow is riding some sort of hairless buffalo, stabbing a dinosaur with a knife, and posing ominously with his knife, which appears to be made of shiny metal. Never mind that the buffalo can't be domesticated and most Indians didn't have metal knives.

Why not depict Strong Bow with his trademark bow and arrow? Because firing an arrow into the distance isn't as dramatic as killing a dinosaur, I suppose. The artist has taken a man of peace and turned him into stereotypical savage warrior--a sort of Turok lite.

Mighty God King's take

Here's what Mighty God King had to say about Strong Bow based solely on these images:

Thursday WHO’S WHO:  Strong BowThis is not some happy nature warrior. Look at the face. This guy is a stone-cold killer. He’s not a psychopath or a kill-crazy fun-seeker or a berserker ninja samurai Canadian possibly descended from a race of werewolves or something. He’s not somebody who kills people for fun; there’s no pleasure in it for him. It’s just what he often ends up having to do, and he’s just really, really good at killing people. You can tell just by looking at him, and by the way he holds that giant fucking knife.

This, my friends, is a total one hundred percent badass. Look at the background art, where he is stabbing a dinosaur to death. Maybe he needs meat for a long journey. Maybe the dinosaur decided to try and kill him, and found out the error of its ways. It doesn’t really matter. Strong Bow doesn’t care either way. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that the dinosaur has to die. Somewhere in the universe’s cosmic planner, somebody wrote “today, Strong Bow kills dinosaur,” and the reasons are really besides the point; there’s need for him to kill a dinosaur, so he kills the dinosaur.
That's just great. The artist turned a peacemaker a la Hiawatha, who kills only when he has to, into a "stone-cold killer."

Actually, we don't know if Strong Bow killed the dinosaur or anything else. Maybe he just wounded it and let it go. But MGK is ready to celebrate Strong Bow's lethal nature.

When I saw this posting, I thought it was a classic case of stereotyping. The media (represented by the artist) takes a few facts about Indians and twists them out of recognition. A peaceful Indian occasionally used a knife so he must be a knife-wielding savage.

Then others interpret this media message as reality. Look at the stone-cold killer taking out a dinosaur. How do we know he's a stone-cold killer? Because the media depicted him as one. The media has told us Indians were stone-cold killers, and the media reports the facts, so it must be true.

Mighty God King has swallowed this transformation of a peaceful Indian into a soulless killing machine. Americans have done this throughout our history of contact with Indians, who were basically as peaceful as anyone else. One hopes the readers of this blog aren't as easily duped by media-manufactured stereotypes.

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

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